The Athlete

Shin Splints

A shin splint is a catchall term used by coaches, trainers, and some physicians to describe an aching pain on the front of the lower leg. Shin splints occur most frequently to runners and running backs, but almost any running athlete is a candidate for this painful condition.

Shin Splints are an early season phenomena. They happen mainly when your legs are out of shape. There are a couple of reasons why you could develop shin splints. One cause is overuse of the muscle that holds up your arch. About 75% of shin splints are due to this overuse. The other common cause is due to an irritation of the covering of the lower leg bone (periosteum). In certain people, the force of the foot hitting a hard surface transmits irritation to the front of the shin bone. This, in turn, irritates the covering of the bone and produces pain. Both of these conditions show increased pain with activity and go away with rest.

Feel your shin bone the bone in the front of your lower leg. As you move your hand to the inner part of your leg, you can feel where the muscle that holds your arch originates. The meat of this muscle forms a strong tendon that goes down behind the inner ankle bone and attaches to the top of the arch. This tendon holds up the top of the foot.

The pain results from overuse of this muscle the stress of exercise. Every time you put your foot down, the muscle strains to hold up the arch. In running a mile, you are stressing the muscle 50 to 75 per minute for each foot. This is how many times your foot strikes the ground.

One Other Thing:

An additional area of importance is to examine your arch. Remember, shin splints usually result from overuse of the muscle that flexes the foot up and supports the arch. 95% of people suffering from shin splints also have fallen arches.

Involves the use of some type of orthotic device. This can range from a sport insert to replace the one that came with the shoes, to a custom arch support that is made to fit your foot. Most likely, unless you have need for a corrective custom arch support, the insert will do the job. Compared to the insert that comes with a shoe, a sport insert has a rigid but flexible arch, a full length shock absorbing foot bed, a cupped and cushioned heel and an overall non-slip covering. The factory insert does not provide the features that are found in sports orthotics.

Even with the shoe correction, it takes time to heal the injury. You can start running at half-speed and half-distance and then increase as you feel comfortable with it. With the proper arch support and strengthening exercises, you should not suffer this disorder again.