Three Rules for Avoiding Shin Splints When Running Outside

Best Warrior competition 2022 running
From left to right, Staff Sgt. Joshua Mubarak, a fire support specialist assigned to 25th Infantry Division and a native from Houston, Texas, and Spc. Keith Dotson, a signal support system specialist assigned to 94th Army Air Missile Defense Command and a native from Poplarville, Mississippi, run 5k through the jungle June 8 at 25th Infantry Division's Lighting Academy, Schofield Barracks East Range, Hawaii, during the 2022 USARPAC’s Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Monik Phan)

If running is your go-to workout or you are thinking about starting for the first time, watch out for typical running injuries. Whether you are new to running or just adding more running to your training, you might experience shin splints, knee pain and foot pain about 3-4 weeks in as the weather warms and we urgently prepare for summer when we'll be wearing less clothing.

Are you looking to get into more running this spring and summer? When you start something new or increase the total volume, weight or mileage of current activities, it's important to take the proper precautions to ensure that you stay healthy and free of injury during your training routine. This is especially true when it comes to running.

Here are some issues that running can cause, as well as some of the rules that will help you avoid them.

1. Logical Progressions

You should try to limit any increases in activity to 10% -- and not more than 15% -- each week, since progressing more than that could cause injury. Many runners do not adhere to this rule and start off where they left off months or even years ago and start the overuse injury process right away.

Consider not running every day at first; maybe every other day is wiser. Mix in some non-impact cardio options (bike, rowing, elliptical, etc.) on the days between to help you keep a moderate volume at first.

2. Don't Forget Stretching

Too many runners ignore flexibility and mobility. Adding stretching exercises can help you alleviate muscle pain and make the joints more mobile. This will help you reduce potential traumatic injuries from falls or sprains, as well as help you have a more natural stride and foot strike.

Mobile ankles, knees and hips can help you reduce foot injuries, shin or calf pain, runner's knee and IT band syndrome. When in doubt, add a mobility day full of stretching, exercising the legs, massaging and non-impact cardio.

3. Get Good Shoes

Consider speaking to a runner who also sells shoes. There are many specialized running stores both online and locally that observe the way you run and fit you for a shoe that's best for you and your stride. Getting advice on your running form is critical to how you make adjustments, if needed, to avoid such injuries.

Check out the Shoe Professional article to learn about some of the brands and methods of buying running shoes.

Look Out for These Types of Injuries

Runner's Knee

Runner's knee, or PFPS (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) is one of the most common running injuries. PFPS is an overuse injury that affects the patellofemoral joint and can be caused by poor running form, weak hip muscles or tight leg muscles.

Runner's knee can cause pain and swelling in the knee, as well as difficulty walking or running. Leg extensions, lunges and split squats will help build knee stability. Add these 2-3 times a week.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are definitely the most common running injury, especially with new and younger runners. This is an overuse injury that affects the lower legs and is caused by overstretching or overworking the shin muscles.

Symptoms of shin splints include pain, swelling and tenderness in the lower legs. To reduce the risk of developing shin splints, it's important to wear supportive shoes, stretch and flex regularly, and avoid running on hard surfaces. See related articles Recurring Shin Splints.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common injury for runners. Non-runners can also experience this if work requires standing or walking all day. This overuse injury affects the bottom of the foot and is caused by repetitive stress.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain, swelling and tenderness in the heel or arch of the foot. To reduce the risk of developing plantar fasciitis, it's important to wear supportive shoes, massage your feet regularly and avoid running on hard surfaces.

One of the things we do is to start every stretching or mobility session with massaging and rolling the bottoms of the feet. If you wear dress shoes at work, use good insoles to help you heal or avoid this injury.

IT Band

Injury to the iliotibial band is known at SEAL training as ITB (I Tried BUD/S). For most runners, it is a combination of overuse and a mix of underdeveloped hip and gluteus medius muscles and a poor running stride and surface.

The ITB is on the outside of the knee and runs up to the hip bone on the side of the leg. Add flexibility and strengthening exercises of the outer hip and butt muscles and soft foam rolling to get relief.

While you may need to reduce your running volume, adding the above exercises and stretches will help you get back to your progression quickly and help you avoid the injury if you're doing them from the start.

If you are doing a lot of swimming with big scuba fins, consider limiting those workouts to leg day only (twice a week) as the combination of running and swimming with big fins can irritate the hips and knees.

By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of running-related injuries and enjoy running for years to come. It's important to be aware of the potential risks associated with running and take the proper precautions to ensure that you stay healthy and injury free.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, up to 79% of runners will experience some type of injury each year, so it pays to be aware of the potential risks and take the necessary steps to prevent them.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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