Today’s question is about how you could get shin splints from cycling rather than the more common culprit, running…

I’m a bit confused over my recent development of shin splints from the road bike. I normally rode mountain bikes, now trying to tackle some miles on the road.

I did 30 miles on Wednesday and 20 miles on Thursday – got some shin splints going on in both legs now. Before the 2 day road bike ordeal, I had been riding about 12 miles a day on the mtb, decent pace, and not a single issue with shin splints.

Wondering what the deal is. Improper bike setup? Cadence too high? Bad pedal stroke?

Thanks,
Huck Shin

Hi Mr. Shin,

Shin splints are common during running, but they can occur during cycling, too.

The culprit is usually the same – poor form.

When running, you generally want to land on your mid-foot. Poor form usually involves landing on your heel, and at the same time, bringing your toes up towards your shin. (I think it’s called dorsiflexion.) Doing that once per stride makes for an intense shin workout, hence the pain!

If you have poor cycling form (usually stemming from an improper bike fit,) I would bet you are dropping your heel on the downward part of the pedal stroke. That flexion problem is similar to what causes shin splints in runners, so I bet that is your problem.

Work on your bike fit (with professional help if necessary,) and try to keep your feet and ankles in the same position at all parts of the pedal stroke. That should make a big difference!

A follow-up:

Rode pain free today. i think my problem was the lowered heel on the downstroke. when i was doing that, i was thinking about what a cycling buddy told me once and that was to pretend you are scraping your foot on the floor on the downstroke. i guess i interpreted that to mean lower your heel. kept the foot flat tonight and did about 30 miles pain free with decent pace!

Glad to hear your shin splints are gone!

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6 Comments
  1. I am using a crappy bicycle but didnt care, the pedal was a bit bent, but it didnt worry me as I wasnt doing long distance, it was city cycling. As I swerved on a bicycle as it slid on something, with brakes applied, I sought to gain control and slowed the bike and fell, but and my foot was caught on the pedal in a weird position as I fell on my butt, i felt enormous pain in one shin and my mid-calf muscle tightened and swelled, much like a pulled calf muscle, but with a twist. I couldnt walk after. Its getting better but I can still feel a sharp shooting pain when I put my leg in certain positions. Is it bone, tendon, or muscle that is torn? Is it a shin splint or worse? Do these things heal completely?

  2. @Jack

    That’s definitely a question for a medical professional. Hope you feel better!

  3. Shin splints or Tibialis Anterior syndrome is caused by lots of repetition especially by bad repetition. I recently had them again in one leg from a long cycling tour (3 days and 230 Kilometers). I changed to some new clip in pedals and didn’t necessarily break them in long enough before I went. It will probably persist for a couple of weeks before I can really cycle again. Poor form isn’t always a factor, but overuse is. For me I simply rode way more than usual and went from 15-20k a day to 80k a day for 3 days and have to pay the price.

  4. My doctor recommended a muscle roller for my shin splints, worked very well and reduced the soreness.

  5. @Paige

    Yeah, I could see something like the Moji 360 Mini working well to reduce pain and soreness on your shins.

  6. Hi I suffered with compartment syndrome in the past whilst serving in HM Forces. Have been using the wattbike now for three years. All of a sudden I’m now experiencing the terrible pain I used to experience. Any ideas?

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