Can You Still Workout with Shin Splints?

You may be wondering if you can still workout with shin splints. The answer is yes! However, you will need to follow some specific guidelines in order to prevent further injury.

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a common injury experienced by runners and athletes. It is characterized by pain in the lower leg along the tibia, which is the large bone located in the front of the leg. This pain is usually felt at the start of exercise and can sometimes worsen as the activity continues. In this article, we’ll discuss what shin splints are, what causes them, and what you can do to prevent and treat them.

Symptoms of Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common source of lower leg pain. They are most commonly caused by repetitive activities like running, jumping, and ladder drills. Symptoms of shin splints typically include tenderness and aches along the inside of the shin bone (tibia). In some cases, there may also be swelling or heat to the touch. Shin splints can be quite painful and can limit one’s ability to exercise or run properly.

Other signs of shin splints can include muscle fatigue around the anterior portion of the leg, limiting activity due to pain, as well as changes in gait while walking or running. While many individuals may experience some soreness after running or engaging in any high-impact activity, if this pain lasts for more than a few days, it could be an indication that shin splints are present.

In order to understand and treat shin splints adequately, it is important to not only consider what types of activities might have triggered your symptoms but also look at any other factors that could make you prone to developing problems with your shins — such as poor biochemistry or incorrect training methods — and modify them accordingly.

Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints, also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common injury caused by overuse of the lower leg muscles. Pain is usually located on the outer side of the shin bone and can be aggravated by activities that require repetitive pounding on hard surfaces. Shin splints can be caused by a number of factors including high-impact activities such as running or strenuous sports like soccer, improper shoe wear and even overtraining. Anatomical factors such as flat feet or flexible ankles may also play a role.

Stress on the shin bone is especially common in beginners who increase their workout intensity too quickly or athletes who switch to different surfaces for their workouts suddenly. Many cases of shin splints can be successfully treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). In more serious cases, your physician may recommend further evaluation or an orthopedic specialist to determine if there’s an underlying problem causing your pain.

Treatment for Shin Splints

Shin splints can be a painful condition that can limit your ability to exercise. Treatment for shin splints must focus on reducing inflammation, swelling and pain. Generally, multiple methods are used to treat shin splints, including rest, ice, compression and elevation. Let’s look at a few ways you can still stay active with shin splints.

Rest and Ice

Treat shin splints with rest, ice and self-care measures — such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), massage, soleus muscle exercises and orthotics — to decrease pain and swelling. Applying ice to the inflamed area can reduce pain and swelling. Applying an elastic wrap can help with additional support and stability. If possible, it is best to completely rest the affected area to allow the injury to heal.

Participate in low impact activities like swimming or biking instead of high impact activities like running or jumping. You can also practice proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) exercises to help strengthen your shin muscles. PNF exercises involve stretching your muscles in a cyclical pattern for 15 minutes multiple times a day for 3 weeks or more. Additionally, you may benefit from taping techniques such as McConnell Method or kinesiology taping that provide additional support for your shins during exercise or physical activity.


Compression is one of the best treatments for those suffering from shin splints. Compression can be achieved by wearing a compression sock or an adjustable calf sleeve while working out. A combination of compression and various wrapping techniques can help maintain the position and shape of the leg and foot, reducing pain caused by shin splints. Many medical professionals recommend that individuals with shin splints only wear a calf sleeve during their workouts as this will provide greater support than a traditional sock but with less restriction. Additionally, it is important that athletes try to do exercises that do not excessively strain the shins, such as swimming or cycling. Compression will help provide additional support and reduce swelling in the lower legs.


Elevation is a primary treatment for shin splints, which involves raising the affected leg above the level of your heart when you are lying down. This helps decrease swelling, pain and inflammation in the area by redirecting the blood back to your heart. It will also help reduce stress on the muscles and tissue surrounding the shin bone. To practice effective elevation, lie down on your back with two pillows placed under your lower leg. An ice pack should be applied for 15-20 minutes three to four times a day followed by 10-15 minutes of elevation for best results. Applying hot or cold compresses twice daily can provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort associated with shin splints at any stage of its progression.

Exercises to Avoid

Shin splints are a common injury among athletes, and it can be very painful. The best way to deal with shin splints is to rest. However, if you want to continue working out, there are certain exercises that you should avoid. Strenuous activities that require too much impact on the shin area should be avoided in order to prevent further injury. In this article, we will discuss what exercises to avoid when dealing with shin splints.

High-Impact Activities

High-impact activities are those that involve a significant amount of impact and jolting to the muscles and bones. These cardio exercises should be avoided when suffering with shin splints as they increase the chances of further irritation. Examples of high-impact activities include running/jogging, skipping rope, jumping rope, aerobics classes, fast-paced biking/cycling, HIIT exercises (high intensity interval training), and plyometrics. It is recommended to find alternative exercises that provide an aerobic workout without putting too much strain on the already irritated musculoskeletal system; low impact activities such as swimming, walking or using an elliptical machine can still provide cardiovascular benefits without increasing shin pain.


Running with shin splints can be especially painful, so it should generally be avoided if possible while recovering. Instead of pounding the pavement or running on a treadmill, people with shin splints can take up low impact exercises that may help to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation caused by the injury.

Cross-training is a good option for individuals with shin splints as it gives their shins a much-needed break from the repetitive over-stressing of running. Alternating between different forms of exercise can also help strengthen both affected and unaffected leg muscles, allowing for faster recovery and lessening the risk of reinjury in the future. Examples of low-impact activities that may benefit those suffering from shin splints include:

-Water aerobics
-Strength training using light weights

It is important to remember that any returning to physical activity should follow your doctor’s advice — if something feels painful, uncomfortable or causes sharp, shooting pain in either your lower legs or feet during exercise, stop immediately.


Jumping exercises should be avoided when dealing with shin splints. When you jump, a tremendous amount of force is loaded onto the shins, making them even more vulnerable to injury. Tasks that involve repetitive jumping such as box jumps, jump rope and plyometrics can heavily strain your shins and lead to further injury or delayed recovery.

Although jumping exercises should generally be avoided when dealing with shin splints, there are some modifications available that may be suitable for some individuals. Low intensity and short duration jumps done with proper form may help in the long-term management of shin splints and provide an appropriate circuit training exercise for your workout plan. Exercise professionals can provide further guidance and assistance to those dealing with these injuries.

Exercises to Do

Shin splints can be incredibly painful and can limit the activities you can do. Fortunately, there are still exercises you can do to keep fit and help alleviate your shin splints. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the best exercises for you. But here are some common exercises people with shin splints can do.

Low-Impact Cardio

Low-impact cardio is an excellent form of exercise for individuals with shin splints, as it reduces the amount of weight and force placed on the shins and ankles. Running in a pool or shallow body of water is particularly beneficial due to the greater amount of buoyancy provided. Other good low-impact options include walking, cycling and using a rowing machine. If a patient has access to a stationary bike, low-impact aerobics such as step aerobics can be done with relative ease by varying resistance and speed levels. As always when working out with an injury, it’s important to listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.


Swimming is a great way to relieve the pressures that running and other strenuous exercises put on your lower legs. The buoyancy of the water supports your weight and takes the stress off of tender shins. When swimming, use slow, smooth motions to minimize any jarring impacts. Make sure to warm up your muscles with some light cardio before diving in and cool down afterward with gentle stretching. Here are some recommended swimming exercises:

– Freestyle/Front Crawl: This basic stroke will help loosen tight leg muscles while strengthening core muscles.
– Breaststroke: Done properly, this stroke can exercise both large and small leg muscles with gliding movements, stretching and short kicks.
– Butterfly Stroke: A difficult stroke to master, it is among the best all-body workouts you can get in the pool with each stroke bringing together arm, shoulder and leg movements.
– Touch Swims: Hitting the wall at regular intervals helps break up a workout into manageable chunks of time while providing more tactile feedback than other strokes when making adjusting turns or body positions in the water.
– Aqua Jogging (Kicking): As one of low impact alternatives for running, this form of aqua jogging involves kicking through the water as if you were running on land without any vertical jumping or hopping involved.
– Kickboard swims: These drills focus solely on lower body training – specifically legs and hips – by removing all arm motion from your swimming routine; keeping your arms tucked tightly at your sides while using a kickboard for support so that you are forced to balance yourself solely on strength in your legs as you glide along in the pool.


Cycling is a popular exercise choice for those who suffer from shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome. This is because it allows you to target the specific muscles in your legs without putting too much pressure on your injured shin. Bike riding can be done indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors on a regular bike.

When using either type of bike, it is important to make sure that you select an appropriate level of resistance and work at a comfortable intensity level. Make sure to adjust the seat if necessary so that your knees are in line with the ball of your foot when pedaling and that you have proper posture throughout the workout. It’s also important to remember to alternate between cycling with each leg in order to balance out the load and avoid placing too much strain on one side of your body.

By taking the time to warm up and cool down properly before and after working out, you can help reduce any resulting pain due to shin splints while still getting in some quality exercise!


Stretching and strengthening exercises can play an important role in helping to prevent shin splints from occurring. It is important to warm up and stretch the muscles and tendons in the lower leg before any physical activity. Additionally, strengthening exercises for the muscles and tendons in the lower leg can help to reduce the risk of developing shin splints.

Wear Proper Shoes

When walking, running or engaging in other physical activity, it is important to wear shoes that provide cushion and support. As a general rule, look for shoes designed for running or everyday workout activities that have comfortable arch support and appropriate cushioning on the inner and outer sides of your feet. If you are wearing your running shoes often, consider buying at least two pairs and alternating usage so they don’t completely breakdown over time. Other than making sure to wear proper shoes when exercising, replace them when they begin to show signs of wear (for instance if they no longer provide the same level of cushion). Additionally, making sure your laces are tied properly can also help keep your feet from shifting around within the shoe as you’re moving. Lastly, avoid becoming locked in a single type of exercise motion like running on a treadmill day after day or always poerforming cross-training circuits—variety is good for blocking shin splints.

Warm Up and Stretch

It is important to warm up prior to working out in order to prepare your body for the demanded physical activity. Doing a few minutes of light cardio—such as brisk walking or jogging—is ideal for getting the heart rate up and ensuring that your body and muscles are properly prepped for exercise. Additionally, stretching is an essential step in injury prevention as it can help to alleviate pain caused by shin splints and reduce muscle soreness.

Dynamic stretching—which involves active movements of the muscle group being stretched, such as shoulder circles and torso twists—is beneficial in preparing your body for an intense workout, while static stretches—where you gently hold each stretch after reaching levels of tension for a period of time—are great for contributing to injury prevention by elongating tight areas such as the calves and hamstrings. Make sure you hold each position for 15-30 seconds per stretch, twice per set on each leg. It is also important to take rest periods between stretches so that muscles have time to recover before they are called upon again during exercise.

Increase Intensity Gradually

One of the best ways to prevent shin splints is to increase your training intensity and/or duration gradually. Increasing your distance or pace too quickly can put added strain on your legs, especially if you’re not used to running on hard surfaces like pavement or concrete. If you’re running long distances, always take a day of rest in between days of running. Run shorter distances more frequently to give your legs time to recover and adjust their tone and strength in response to the added workload. Make sure to incorporate warm-up exercises into your routine; for example, walking or slow jogging for 5-10 minutes before starting your run can help ensure that both muscles and joints are better able to perform at peak levels during exercise.

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