In many cases they disappear once the athlete takes a break from training, which suggests that the running workload was probably too high, however in some cases they are persistent and significantly limit the amount and type of training an athlete can do.
If you have had trouble staying pain free here are some tips that can help you treat shin splints and get on top of them for good:
Improve ankle mobility
Most people suggest stretching the calves to shin splints sufferers - whilst this isn't a bad thing and can definitely help, it is more important is to improve the range of motion of the ankle joint. Poor dorsiflexion is common in shin splints sufferers and static stretching won't do much to improve it, as opposed to mobility drills like the one below.
Strengthen the anterior tibialis
Many practitioners believe one of the primary causes of shin splints is the imbalance of strength between plantarflexion and dorsiflexion, and shin splints sufferers tend to have relatively weak dorsiflexion strength.
The DARD is a great home training device to add extra resistance to dorsiflexion exercises, along with reverse calf raises and heel walks.
Correct your pelvic tilt
Because many of us spend most day in a chair most of us end up with significant anterior pevlic tilt, unless we actively do something about it.
Loose glutes and tight quads (anterior pelvic tilt) leads to overpronation and more stress on the lower leg musculature, which can lead to shin splints and other lower extremity injuries.
In correcting anterior pevlic tilt it is important to activate the glutes, lengthen the hip flexors, strengthen the hip extensors and improve abdominal strength to obtain a more neutral alignment.
The main area where most people are too tight/bunched up tends to be the quads/hip flexor, IT band, calves and adductors. Loosening up those areas will help a great deal to promote more efficient muscle contractions and movement. For deeper myofascial release, try a tennis ball.
A heel striking running technique is a big problem for many shin splints sufferers. Thick soled, highly cushioned running shoes with a heel lift promote this type of running, whilst barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes encourage forefoot landing which is kinder on the supporting structures of the body and more efficient too.
Too much too soon is never a good idea, but starting by including barefoot warm-ups and progressively adding running volume slowly is a smart approach.
Train on grass
Grass is a much kinder surface on the body that concrete.
Whilst it may be necessary to do some practice on hard surfaces i.e. if you play basketball or tennis, you can still benefit by doing all your running workouts on grass and only specific skill training on hard courts.
If you play a sport that is on a grass field, there should be no reason to do any running workouts on hard surfaces.