If you want to get technical, shin splints refers to medial tibial stress syndrome. It’s a pain caused by tears in the muscles around the shin and accounts for 15 per cent of running injuries; 10 per cent of Runner's World survey respondents have suffered in the past year.
Are you at risk?
Shin splints are common among new runners and those returning after extended layoffs. They’re a sign you’ve done too much, too quickly, says Price. High arches or flat feet put you at extra risk, as does wearing the wrong shoes, or a pair with too many miles on the soles.
Can you run through it?
At the very first twinge, cut back to a comfortable level for a few days to a week, then slowly up your mileage using the 10 per cent rule (a maximum 10 per cent mileage increase each week). You can also bike, aqua run and swim.
Rest, ice and take ibuprofen to ease the pain. Conventional wisdom has preached that calf stretching is the key to recovering from shin splints, but Price says there’s little evidence it helps.
Taping your shin with Kinesio Tex tape can relieve pain and speed healing. Wearing an Aircast ankle brace (Aircast A60, £49.99, physioroom.com) throughout the day, even while running, can also speed recovery. These braces stabilise the ankle so the shin muscles don’t have to work so hard, Saxena says.
Prevent a relapse
The easiest and best way to dodge shin splints is to increase mileage gradually. Saxena also recommends ensuring you’re in the right shoe. Beginners, especially, can benefit from professional help at a specialist running shop. If you have high arches, you may need a cushioned shoe. If you have flat feet, a rigid shoe might be the solution.
Once or twice a month, miler David Torrence cross-trains by playing football. “The lateral movement uses your muscles in a different way than when you’re running forwards,” he says. “It’s helped me manage my shin splints.”
How to proceed
Stop running: Tenderness down your leg, especially if you hop on it. If walking hurts, it could be a fracture.
Run with caution: Tight, aching pain when running, but eases when you stop. Hopping isn’t painful.
Go run: Completely pain-free running, even long after you stop icing and taping your shins.