You’ve probably felt shin splint pain before, when you did too much, too soon – and developed pain along the front of your lower leg. It is also referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). But what exactly is a shin splint?
Shin splints pain comes from the swelling of the muscles, tendons and bone tissues surrounding the shin. Shin pain is common to runners, tennis players, dancers, gymnasts and military recruits. They occur as a result of overuse due to increased activity and training. These activities are high impact and repetitive exercises of the lower legs, and they generally fall into two categories:
- Sudden change in running activities. For example, a sudden increase in mileage; or changing from running on flat surfaces to running on hills .
- Engaging in exercises with frequent stops and starts such as basketball and dancing.
You are at risk for developing shin splints if you:
- Have flat feet
- lack flexibility
- Work out on hard surfaces
- Run on hills or on uneven terrain
- Play basketball or tennis on a hard court
- Wear inappropriate or worn out shoes during activities
Flat Foot as a Factor
People who have flat feet are more prone to getting shin splints. A flat foot, also known as over-pronation, is when a person’s arch collapses upon weight bearing. It occurs in up to 20% of adults.
The tibialis muscles connect the lower leg to the foot. the collapsed arches of a person with flat feet will cause excessive force in the tibialis posterior, potentially causing the muscle fibers to pull away from the tibia bone.
This causes inflammation in the tibialis posterior and it produces pain that moves from your foot up your lower leg along the tendon. You can also feel the pain behind the ankle bone or up on your leg. This can affect the way you walk as your foot rolls inward (pronates) as you walk.
Shin Splint Treatments:
- Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, etc to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Wearing supportive shoes with good cushioning during activities to lessen stress in the shins.
- Using orthotics to prevent reoccurrence of shin splints. It helps to align and stabilize the foot and ankle, removing stress from your lower leg.
- Apply ice packs for 20 minutes, several times per day.
You can also prevent shin splints by wearing properly fitting shoes. You have to get the shoes that fit the shape of your foot. One way to know the shape of your foot is by using the “wet test”. Pour water on your feet and step on a flat surface (like a brown paper) that can show your footprint. You will see the shape of your foot on the paper. This will enable you to buy proper shoes that match the foot pattern, thereby preventing shin splints. Or, if you have a local running specialty store where the salespeople are experienced in analyzing your foot and gait, they may be able to recommend an effective shoe and/or insert.
Other ways to prevent shin splints include running barefoot, cross-training, and by gradually increasing the duration and frequency of your exercise program.
If you feel that your flat feet are causing any type of pain or discomfort, including shin splints, arch pain, or heel pain, schedule an appointment with Houston podiatrist, Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- shin splints – pain in the lower leg after change in activity levels or dynamic movement
- pain in the ball or arch of the foot
- stabbing heel pain