Causes of shin splints
Shin splints are caused by repetitive strain and load on the shin muscles, resulting in muscle fatigue, pain and inflammation at the muscle’s bony attachment site on the tibia. Risk factors that can increase load on the shin muscles and tibia include:
- An increase in the duration, frequency or intensity of training
- Running on uneven or hard surfaces
- Tight or weak lower leg muscles
- Poor foot mechanics including flat feet and high arched feet
- Poor footwear
Foot biomechanics can play a significant role in shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome. When you walk or run your feet should ideally pronate (roll in) a little to help adapt to surfaces whilst absorbing shock and forces especially during heel strike. Flat feet or feet that excessively pronate (roll in too much) can cause overuse of the medial shin muscles as they try and slow down this foot movement, resulting in shin splints. High arched feet on the other hand are poor at shock absorption because they don’t pronate or roll in enough. Poor foot shock absorption will transfer the load and forces onto the tibia (shin bone), resulting in shin splints.
Repetitive shin splints can also progress to lower leg stress fractures, as weak shin muscles will transfer the stress onto the bone, which then may result in bone fatigue and a small micro fracture.
Sports that involve repetitive loading like running are often associated with shin splints and they account for approximately 17% of running injuries.
Shin splints diagnosis
Shin splints are easily diagnosed clinically by our Melbourne sports podiatrists, who are experts in identifying sports injuries of the foot and ankle. If our podiatrists suspect an associated lower leg stress fracture then referral for an MRI or bone scan may be required to confirm diagnosis.
Podiatry treatment for shin splints
The sports podiatrists at Melbourne Podiatrists & Orthotics are highly experienced in treating shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome for both amateur and professional athletes. Our podiatrists can use computer gait analysis to help identify biomechanical faults in your running which may be a cause of shin splints.
Treatment options at our Melbourne foot clinic may include:
Orthotics can help shin splints by improving foot function and reducing excess foot pronation. In severe cases of shin splints along with some foot types, modification of running technique may be required to successfully reduce forces on the shin bone and resolve symptoms.
A podiatrist is the best health professional to identify and address underlying biomechanical causes of shin splints.