By Fran Golden
What it feels like: A dull aching pain in the front of your lower leg between the knee and ankle.
Is it serious? No, but the injury can progress into a stress fracture if you keep exercising.
What causes it: Shin splints occur when tissue between leg muscles and the shinbone (tibia) become inflamed. When it comes to walking, the repeated motion of your legs hitting a hard surface can provoke this stress injury. "Shin splints especially tend to happen if you start to walk aggressively and haven't been walking for a long time." says Jessica Flynn, MD, a sports and dance medicine expert at Lahey Clinic in Boston.
How to prevent it: If you're new to exercising, aim to walk just 15 to 20 minutes a day and gradually build to longer periods of time. And, says Dr. Flynn, make sure you have properly fitting, supportive footwear. Your sneakers should be roomy enough so your toes don't touch the front, but not so large that your heel slips out when you walk. Running and walking stores usually have knowledgeable staffers who can fit you with a good pair.
How to treat it: Rest from fitness activity, advises Brian Donley, MD, director of the Center for Foot and Ankle Surgery at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Icing right after a workout may also help. Shin splints take anywhere from one to six weeks to heal.