Shin Splints and You: What you need to know

Rucking is a great workout targeting a lot of different muscle groups. A great way to lose weight, you can burn an awesome number of calories. However, there are some difficulties that come with rucking, once which is the risk of injury. An injury you need to be aware of is shin splints.

A common injury from overworking, shin splints don’t need to be the end of your rucking journey.

They are an easily treatable injury and one you can learn to better avoid over time.

Let’s take a look at what exactly shin splints are and how you can work around them.

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints is a pain akin to a smoldering, burning or throbbing, a tender kind of soreness along the shin area of your leg.

When you’re starting rucking, you’re starting a new kind of movement, even if seems like it’s just walking.

People new to rucking are the most susceptible. This makes sense because a new rucker is still learning the ropes.

Shin splints are really a sort of early warning system. A serious injury could occur if you don’t take care of yourself.

That being said, they can still affect more seasoned ruckers, often the case if you’re breaking in new shoes or boots.

So what does the pain feel like really?

The pain is usually along the inside edge of the shin, from the middle to lower leg. Usually ending right above the ankle, the pain can move outward.

Sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, the pain can and will increase during exercise.

You may also experience swelling.

Earlier, shin splints were described as part of an early warning system. Well, they can turn into stress fractures, so they’re something to be dealt with properly and promptly, not ignored.

You shouldn’t feel freaked out though, especially if you’re currently dealing with a shin splint. Let’s look at why they’re happening, now that we know what they are.

Why do Shin Splints happen?

What is happening, is that you are not strong enough to manage the ground force you are creating and putting upon your tibia.

When you think about it, while rucking is essentially walking, you’re increasing the amount of weight you’re walking with.

With each step, that extra weight comes down on the tibia, aggravating the insertion point, where your muscle connects to bone via tendons.

As a result, the area can become swollen and painful.

This can be common when you’re starting out rucking, as said above. It takes time to adjust to this new experience, particularly if you’re trying to make it a common workout you do.

Additionally, if you’re someone who has excessive pronation, meaning your feet tend to point outwards while standing or walking, you are also more susceptible to shin splints.

Other risk factors for shin splints include:

  • Flat feet, low or rigid arches
  • Being overweight (usually part of the reason you’re starting to ruck in the first place)
  • Prior experience with shin splints

Shoes: Why are they such a factor?

While you can’t ruck without a ruck sack and weights, having improper shoes can be incredibly detrimental to your ability to ruck.

This is true if you’re new to rucking or a seasoned rucker.

There are couple things you need to make sure of.

First, ensure the shoes are properly sized and fitted for you. This can be difficult, particularly if you’re buying your gear online. When they get delivered, make sure you check the fit.

This may seem like common sense, but walking around your living room in the shoes may not be enough. After all, you’re intending to put a number of miles on the shoes each go around.

Rucking without support or proper cushioning, can easily and quickly lead to problems with your feet and shins.

How to treat Shin Splints

Okay, so let’s say you’ve already got shin splints. Or you want to know what to do in case you get them. Let’s take a look at some of the treatment options and see what can be done.

Rest and stretching: This one may seem like a no brainer, but it’s at the top of the list for a reason.

Especially if you’re a new rucker, you need to make sure you’re taking good breaks in between rucks. This gives your bones and muscles a break and lets your body fix problems before they get out of hand.

Proper rest can take from a few days to a few weeks.

This doesn’t mean you have to stop all physical activity. There are other physical activities you can do that will help you be a better rucker!

Swimming and cycling are two big ones. When it comes to stretching, yoga is always a good choice.

When you pick your ruck back up, make sure to roll your calves both before and after a ruck to keep your muscles loose.

Ice Icing your shins for 10 – 20 minutes up to four times a day is a good way to reduce pain and swelling associated with shin splints

Pain relievers Over-the-counter pain relivers, or NSAIDS, can relieve your pain and swelling.

Take it slow As your shins recover, slowly start increasing your activity level again. You may want to decrease your ruck weight as you start and use a slower pace and shorter distance. Increase by 10% each week (both weight and distance) for the best result.

Check your shoes Consider maybe that you need to get different shoes or at the very least, look into a shoe insert.

Try different rucking paths Training on trails and in the grass until you’ve healed are going to be more comfortable and better overall than rucking on concrete and asphalt.

The continual act of your feet hitting flat pavement is going to worsen the situation unless you let yourself fully recover.

Avoid going uphill if you can as well.


Shin splints will go away. You will heal and recover. That being said, they are painful to deal with and in that in mind, it’s best to try to avoid them in the first place.

The guidelines above will go aways in helping you do just that.

Trying to avoid shin splints should be only one part of your overall rucking recovery process and things to keep in mind.

Remember, the pain will be temporary, and you can always pick up your progress where you left it.

Good luck!