How to Cure Shin Splints

Shin splints hurt! When I started running I was making great progress, and then all of a sudden shin splints hit, and I wasn’t able to train as much...

Shin splints hurt! When I started running I was making great progress, and then all of a sudden shin splints hit, and I wasn’t able to train as much as I wanted or as long as I wanted. The feeling at first just feels like muscle ache, but in the shin bone, and when running with shin splints I’m not sure if I am in pain or not. Its very strange, but this is something other people have said to me too! It doesn’t hurt as much as really ache. If this sounds like you, or if you have started running then hopefully this post will help you cure your shin splints.


Deep muscle massage

By far the most effective, but also the most painful. It is probably better to get someone else to do this on your calves using their fingers, but you can do it yourself with your thumbs.

On the inside of your leg massage (hard) the calf muscle close to the shin, slowly working your way down the its length. You should be able to feel little ‘bubbles’ or lumps in your leg, gently press them (it hurts) and increase the pressure on them. You should spend about 10mins on each leg. It will feel like your calves are bruised at the end of it.

I have been told that these bubbles are formed by lactic acid which hasn’t been removed properly, and they cause the muscle to pull on the shin which causes the pain.



 Applying ice to your calves after a run has really helped me. Ice packs are an easy option and you can wrap them around your legs, but filling a deep container with water and ice it works just as well. I have found that this stops the bubbles forming in most of my calf muscle, and helps to reduce chronic inflammation, which can cause further problems. From doing this, the ache seems to move to behind the shin bone lower down. I think the ice temperature doesn’t quite penetrate that deep, and so the bubble form there. Focusing the deep muscle massage there has helped no end.



This is the most boring part of a run, but it has helped stop my shin splints coming back. Any calf muscle stretches after a run are a must. A good one is where you stand on the end of a step on one foot, and drop the heel down – you should really feel the calf stretching! Do this for 3-4 mins a leg, alternating every min or so. I’ve covered proper stretching in this video which you might find useful to watch.


Blood pooling

During your run, your calf muscles are in a high demand for blood, so a lot of blood is sent to the calf muscles.  This large volume of blood isn’t a problem, because as the calf muscles contract and relax, they help pump the back round the body. However, when you stop running, your body keeps pumping blood to the calf and there is nothing pumping it away. This causes blood pooling, which s where blood effectively sits in the calf muscle. Here it is unable to wash away the lactic acid (allowing those bubbles to form) and causes shin splints.

To avoid this, have a 10min walk after your run, do your after run stretches, and maybe apply some ice too. This slowly reduces the demand of blood to the calf muscles, but keeps the blood in the calf muscles circulating. All these things make ‘going for a quick run’ a bit more drawn out, but it is definitely worth doing, even if you haven’t got shin splits.


Cod liver oil/ Fish oil

We had some people asking if cod liver oil, fish oil, or even coconut oil helped shin splints. This isn’t something I am aware of or had any experience with, but the omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, and so there is a good chance that they will help to reduce the swelling to some extent. Alone, I can’t see them having a significant benefit, to in combination with stretching, massaging and ice, they are a good idea (besides, most people could do with increasing their omega-3s).  I’ve done a comparison of a number of fish oils/ cod liver oils which you may find useful if you are considering getting a fish oil or cod liver oil supplement.

Hope this helps, and if you have other tips to removing shin splints please let me know, and I’ll add them to the list.

Image courtesy of ks_marks

I hope you enjoy the site, and like what we have worked hard to create, any feedback is very much welcome, after all this site is for you! Graduate of Nutrition & Food Science (Bsc) at Reading Uni.
    • I do believe if you work at it, you can cure shin splints. It took me several years to get to grips with shin splints but very happy I have things finally under control. Slowing my training down and running shorter distances than my fitness would allow felt very counter intuitive but I am happily running up to 10k and even half marathons now.
      I posted up my recovery here, but what worked for me followed advice from several health professionals.

    • Iain

      Craig hi, thanks for the post. I am a Podiatrist and virtually eat this condition for breakfast.
      It is a complex one with many forms and many causes. There is no single quick fix but the most common denominator in terms of cause is a foot that functions at its end range of motion.
      In order to reduce the forces incolved, one has to identify the structural and functional reasons why the foot is forced to reach its maximum range. Everyone’s limit is unique and everyone’s cause is individualised.

      Is live to chat to you sometime about how I treat this condition.
      Iain Johnston

      • Hi Iain,

        Yeah, I remember when I developed shin splints there was no definative guide to how to deal with it. My friend had also developed shin splints around a similar time, and we got through it differently. The biggest thing for me was resting and the massages, but I think what really stopped it coming back was changing my running trainers to the barefeet Vibram trainers. I assume this may have changed the how my feet land and where the pressure went.

        Great to have someone with more experience here! Always good to have others insights into this condition.

        • Iain

          Rest and Massages are certainly part of a protocol, but like I say everyone needs their own scrip to deal with it.
          I use soft tissue massage and ankle mobilisation techniques a lot and they are awesome in helping ankle range of motion an reducing muscle tension , as well as breaking down lumps and bumps .
          Like you say better let someone else do it, as it can be bloody sore.
          Vibrams are not a solution for everyone and I would be cautious recommending them. Knowing the foot type and function helps .
          I often see people coming in with this condition after changing to minimalist shoes.
          But there is something to be said for having the toes feel the ground more naturally .

    The Health Cloud was created in December 2011 by Craig and Morg who have been friends since high school. Our focus is to educate our readers with unbiased health articles and on the side we run our own online health shop. This website is for you, so drop us a comment or send us a tweet, we always take the time to reply!