Below are common symptoms associated with shin splints. Although mild swelling sometimes occurs, notable swelling of the lower leg, numbness, and weakness are not associated with shin splints and should prompt evaluation for other disorders.

Dull pain
Athletes report a dull pain that affects most of the inside shin (medial tibia), particularly in the middle or lower part of the shin.

Pain occurs during activity
Shin pain typically develops while running or doing other athletic activities, such as dancing, or shortly after these activities. As the condition progresses, pain may be noticeable even when walking.



The inside of the shin may be tender and painful if pressed or squeezed.

Tight calf muscles
Athletes may notice their calf muscles are tight.

Decreased ankle flexibility
Just as the calf muscles may become tight, the ankle may become less flexible.


The symptoms of shin splints and tibial stress fractures can be similar. Shin splints differ from stress fractures on two ways:

  • Shin splints tend cause dull or diffuse pain, in contrast to stress fractures, which tend to cause sharp pain that is concentrated to one area.
  • Shin splints cause pain on the inside of the shin, not the front of the shin. Pain on the front of the shin, or tibia, may represent a stress fracture.

A person should contract his or her doctor if he or she is experiencing severe pain or suspects a stress fracture.

Dr. Robert Wilder is a sports medicine physician serving as Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and as Medical Director of The Runner’s Clinic and the UVA SPEED Clinic Motion Analysis Lab. He also directs the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Program.