Tips for Trail Runners near Princeton: Reducing the Risk of a Tibial Stress Fracture

Faith A. Schick, DPM February 19th, 2019

Know Exactly What a Tibia Stress Fracture Is and How to Prevent It

Particularly in the summer, many runners ditch the tracks, treadmills, or concrete sidewalks they normally frequent and take a more scenic route. Not only is trail running easier on your joints and feet due to its softer surfaces, it also enables you to breathe in fresh air and, for the duration of your exercise, escape into a more natural environment. If you are a healthy runner eager to take on the trails, implementing prevention techniques can protect the areas of the body that are under the most pressure during trail runs. Specifically, the risk of a tibial stress fracture is worth discussing before heading out on the trail.

At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, our Foot & Ankle specialists have diagnosed and treated many runners’ injuries, including tibial stress fractures. Our team consists of orthopaedic experts working on one of the most trusted Foot & Ankle teams in the world. Each physician and surgeon has numerous years of experience in the field, keeps up with the latest advancements in diagnostic and treatment techniques, and strives to provide exceptional care to all patients.

For healthy, athletic patients, we understand that this exceptional care sometimes comes in the form of providing accurate information on injury prevention. Below, we explain what a tibial stress fracture is, how it differs from a shin splint, and how you can prevent this injury from occurring while on a trail run.

Shin Splints vs. Stress Fractures

The tibia, commonly known as the shinbone, is located in the front of the leg and below the knee. When shin splints occur, the tissue running along the bone of the shin becomes inflamed, along with surrounding muscles and tendons. This inflammation results from the tearing of muscles and tissues during repetitive exercise, such as running. In contrast, a tibial stress fracture is categorized as one or multiple cracks on the tibia itself.

Aside from imaging tests, the way a doctor can determine a shin splint from a stress fracture is through “point tenderness.” If a patient has a shin splint, the entire bone will hurt to touch. With a stress fracture, there is typically one or a few spots that are very painful, while the rest of the bone is less tender.

Generally, stress fractures result from either a sudden increase of intense activity or the impact of an unfamiliar surface. A tibial stress fracture from running occurs when there is excessive stress on the bone, which increase with repeated activity until a break occurs. Aside from tenderness at the site of the crack, symptoms include shin pain and the manifestation of edema, or excess watery fluid in the surrounding tissue.

Lower Your Risk of Developing a Tibial Stress Fracture

Preventing injuries is a necessary part of playing a sport or staying active. Although the act of running significantly impacts your knees, shins, and feet, there are a several ways to lower your risk of getting hurt on the trail.

  • Cross train. Exercising in various ways can help to reduce the pressure you put on your tibia while running by creating more balanced muscle development. Incorporate lower impact activities into your routine, such as swimming or using an elliptical machine, to give your shins a break.

  • Build your routine gradually. Do not attempt to run more miles than you ever have before on your first trail run; set incremental goals to allow your body to adapt to the activity.

  • Warm up properly. Prepare your body for the trail by stretching your legs and perhaps walking for a few minutes beforehand. Also, fuel up with healthy food and enough water ahead of time.

  • Wear comfortable, sturdy athletic shoes. Old, worn-out running shoes will not be sufficient, especially if they no longer absorb shock. Your shoewear has an immense effect on the quality of your run and the likelihood of preventing an injury, so make sure your sneakers are comfortable, supportive, and secure.

  • Cease running at the first sign of pain or swelling. While you may feel determined to meet a certain time or mileage for your run on a given day, it is important to reconsider and rest as needed if you experience pain or swelling. Contact a medical specialist if these symptoms persist.

To learn more about how to prevent a tibial stress fracture, or to schedule an appointment with a Foot & Ankle physician at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Princeton, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

Related Physicians

Filter Physicians



Please select your region to view available physicians.

Select Your Region

Related Programs

  • Cartilage Restoration Institute

    This is a center where patients can go to have their disabled joint biological resurfaced, realigned, and stabilized without having the joint replaced by artificial materials such as metal and plastic. It is well known that the outcomes of patients under the age of 50 undergoing artificial joint replacement are not as good as we would like. Therefore we feel the future of Orthopaedics is to try to restore a joint back to its original anatomy by realignment, ligament reconstruction, and cartilage restoration.
    Read More
  • Women’s Sports Medicine Program

    The Women’s Sports Medicine Program at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is the first of its kind in the Philadelphia metro area and one of only several such programs specializing in the comprehensive care of the female athlete in the country.
    Read More
1 of 1
You are using an unsupported version of Internet Explorer. To ensure security, performance, and full functionality, please upgrade to an up-to-date browser.