The symptom of Shin Splints is pain with every step that worsens when walking quickly or running.
Dr. Sam Dubé discusses shin splints
Learn about the symptoms, causes, and benefits of different treatment options.
Shin splints develop as a result of poor foot mechanics cause by footwear use. The muscles involved are those that are primarily responsible for stabilizing the foot and ankle.
The tibialis anterior is the main muscle that lifts (dorsiflexes) the foot. It connects to the front of the tibia or shin bone.
The posterior tibialis is the muscle that pulls the foot down and inward. It connects along the back and inside edge of the tibia.
Both muscles attach to the inside of the bones that form the foot’s medial arch and are involved in stabilizing the foot’s arch system.
Optimally, the muscles that stabilize the foot’s arch system should fire prior to that foot’s ground contact in anticipation of expected ground contact weight bearing and propulsion related forces. This muscle firing optimizes the efficiency of the arch system with the least degree of damaging stress.
Shin splints are usually caused by overuse, because of the following:
The tibialis muscles are doing too much too quickly
The tibialis muscles are firing insufficiently or too late
There is maladapted neuromuscular function
This creates an unstable arch system that easily collapses during weight bearing. As the arch collapses, there is a corresponding sudden increase in tension on the tibialis muscles. This sudden increased tension puts excessive stress on the tibialis muscles that leads to damage where the muscles attach to the tibia.
Over time, the edges of the muscles begin to microtear and pull away from the bone, which causes inflammation and pain.
Modern science has identified that the nervous system plays a critical role in stabilizing the feet and ankles when walking or running. It is now understood that poor foot mechanics is a symptom of inefficient neuromuscular function caused by conventional footwear use. In fact, conventional footwear use causes poor neuromuscular function throughout the feet, legs, hips, and back, when:
the soles of the feet don’t receive the subtle, varied stimulus that the nervous system requires for healthy function, and
snug toe boxes, stiff midsoles/outsoles/uppers and tight lacing restrict healthy foot movement.
To learn more about the latest science, click HERE.
The best way to prevent and treat shin splints is to retrain optimal neuromuscular function and to use footwear that is soft, flexible, and roomier in the forefoot.
Conventional treatment methods for shin splints
Since the late 1890s, the standard treatment for shin splint related poor foot mechanics has been to artificially support the arches with an orthotic. Other conventional treatment options include:
Therapy to heal the damaged tissues
Modern science has transitioned away from using long-term support and cushioning on any body part because it causes a progressive weakening of the body part being supported or cushioned.
The modern approach to treating shin splints
Science has shown that merely challenging the body to “do its job” is the best way to restore and enhance function.
The modern approach to address poor neuromuscular function is to employ a “Proper Technique” rehabilitative therapy to regain healthy function. This approach is extensively used pre- and post-surgery and is also the foundation of virtually all sports training/rehabilitation programs. By employing a therapeutic approach, the feet become stronger and more stable, thereby addressing the cause of shin splints. Proper Technique therapies employ exercise that focuses on safely training healthy neuromuscular function, i.e., optimal mobility, muscle strength, stability, and alignment.
Proper Technique therapies require both Right Stimulus and Right Movement.
Right Stimulus occurs when the information that the brain receives from the senses triggers an efficient protective reflex function or Right Movement. The nerve endings in the soles of the feet play a critical role in providing the brain with the information required for optimal Right Movement throughout the feet, legs, hips, and back. When the brain receives insufficient or inaccurate information from the soles of the feet, the protective reflex function Right Movement will be ineffective or absent altogether. This is what happens when conventional footwear is worn. For more information on Right Stimulus and Right Movement, click HERE.
To therapeutically address the cause of shin splints and to prevent them from reoccurring, do the following:
- Walk barefoot on natural terrain as much as possible. This provides the optimal Right Stimulus and allows for the Right Movement required for healthy neuromuscular function.
- Use Biopods® Stimsoles® Footwear or Insoles. Biopods Footwear provides the ultimate Proper Technique shoe environment. Biopods Insoles improve the stimulus in your conventional footwear. Use in loosely laced, soft, flexible footwear with ample toe room that allows your arches and toes to rise easily for best results.
- Consult with your healthcare practitioner to ask about employing soft tissue mobilization therapies to address the fibrotic scar tissue that may have formed prior to using Biopods.