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Causes of Shin and Ankle Pain While Running

By Kristi Croddy ; Updated August 14, 2017

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, runners are more susceptible to injuries than the average person. Some of these injuries can cause pain to the muscles surrounding the ankle and shin. While many of the injuries can be alleviated with rest, some create more serious complications. If you are having ankle or shin muscle pain while running, you should stop and have your pain evaluated by a doctor.

Ankle Muscle Pain

A common cause of ankle muscle pain caused by running is a strain, or tears along the muscles or joints of the ankle. They can be from an acute injury or trauma, or they can be chronic from overuse. The repetitive movements of running, without proper rest, can easily cause an ankle strain. Another cause is a sprain, which is a tear of ligament fibers rather than muscles. Because it may be difficult to differentiate between a strain and a sprain, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor.

Shin Muscle Pain

Shin splints, a common cause of shin pain among runners, is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons and outer covering of the front of the shin bone, or tibia. It is caused by the repetitive pressure along the shin, and occurs more often in runners with flat feet.. A rare but serious condition causing pain to the muscles surrounding the shin is called chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which occurs when blood cannot flow properly because of pressure within the muscle compartment. The pain is usually intense, occurs after exertion and is relieved with rest. The only permanent treatment for this condition is surgery.


There are steps you can take to prevent muscle pain in the ankles and shins, including wearing properly fitting shoes and having a professional check your running gait to help you find the best shoes to run in. Another option is taking a day off and resting at least every three days between runs. Stretching before and after running will stretch out the muscles surrounding the ankles and shins.


RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Resting for a period of time, depending on the injury, can help heal the cause of your pain. Decreasing swelling by icing the painful area for 20 minutes several times daily, using a compression bandage and elevating the affected extremity above the heart will also help. Taking anti-inflammatory medication will provide relief by decreasing inflammation, but check with your doctor first.

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