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Shin Splint Q&A: the Answers You Can't Find on Google

Have you had enough of Dr. Google?

Surfing the web and running forums for hours trying to find answers to YOUR EXACT shin splint questions?


I know.

Because I've searched for you.

I've asked Google YOUR questions and…

I kept seeing the same information over and over and over again…

And it isn't exactly good information either.

So let's save you the hassle (and the time) of searching the wild, wild web and get you some answers.

(and if you don't see your answers here, don't worry. I have SO MANY more shin splint blogs. The answer is probably in one of those)

Let's jump in!


Below are different questions submitted by runners JUST LIKE YOU!


My running question: 3-4/10 pain front ankle and sometimes in the shin.
Could it be Shin splints? Do I rest?
[I've ] Not had them before; been running since I was 16 (now 34). Training for [my] 1st ultra.
I've taken 1 week off but I'm still having dull pain. [I felt like I] was doing all the right things training wise prior

Short Answer:

This runner has the potential for shin splints, especially with the area she has described, the level of intensity, and how long they're lingering.

Runners typically describe shin splints as:

  • a dull ache

  • a pulling

  • occasionally a weird stabbing

  • usually a really deep dull soreness.

But what gives?

It sounds like she's been diligent with her strength training and she's even taken some time off.

What can she possibly do next?


Long Answer:

  • Educate herself: I have lots of shin splint blogs on my website. Start with learning because knowledge is power and understanding your body helps take away the fear factor of potential injury.

  • Do upper body and core exercises in tall kneeling: (I have specific blog posts and youtube videos with specific shin splint exercises, like halos in tall kneeling or half kneeling)

    • Why bother even doing this?

      • I've found that placing runners on their knees and doing different upper body exercises in this position, turns the upper body exercise into a core exercise.

      • Don't believe me?

      • Try halos standing up. What are you using to stabilize yourself? Most likely, your feet. A lot of times runners default with standing exercises, to using their feet as their primary stabilizer.

IS THIS YOU?

A quick way to find out if you do this:

  • Try standing halo with a medium to heavy weight.

  • Do it again in both your knees (tall kneeling), keeping the tops of your feet flat on the floor so your toes aren't gripping underneath.

RESULTS

Did you fall forward?

That could be an indication that you're potentially relying too much on your feet.

I find that runners who are more predisposed to shin splints tend to fall within that category.

What else can she do?

Besides incorporate these exercises from my blog. ...


Since she's training for an ultra, already taken a week off, and she's still struggling, it might be time for some one-on-one work where we:
  • TEST AND ASSESS using a running-specific balancing position

  • CREATE A RUNNING PERFORMANCE PLAN, addressing compensations, weaknesses, answering questions, and picking exercises to help correct different asymmetries.

  • DEVELOPE INDIVDUAL TESTS to see, feel, and track your own progress.

  • Curious? Learn more HERE!

0 drop shoes for shin splints? Yay or nay?

SHORT ANSWER:

I haven't seen a whole lot of research out there saying you really need one shoe or the other to really succeed when it comes to shin splints.


I can't say for certain, "Yes, you need zero drop shoes to prevent shin splints".

What I can say: if you find that you feel better in that shoe, you need to gradually ease into them!

Here is why I can see someone wanting to try zero drop shoes:

  • Zero drop shoes mean you're heel and your toes are relatively on the same plane.

  • With a traditional heel stack, your foot is angled downward, lifting your heel higher than your toes.

  • Pre-positioning your foot in this (traditional) way tends to make running easier, placing less overall stress on your achilles tendon.

If you've been running in a normal running shoe that has any sort of heel stack: It's going to take a while to TRANSITION to a zero drop.

Maybe even miles, for your body to adapt to your heel being on the same level plane as your toes.

WHY some might like for preventing shin splints

Technically over time you are:

  • teaching your calf muscle and your Achilles to function in a lengthened, elongated position.

  • Strengthening your feet.

    • Typically in zero drop shoe, most manufacturers also provide you with more room in the toe box

    • The idea: your toes are allowed to expand, mold to the surface your running on, respond accordingly and in the process, get stronger as your foot rolls through supination into pronation,

RUNNER BE WARNED:

It is very runner dependent!

I have never in the clinic told a runner, "you need to have zero drop shoes so you never-ever get shin splints again!"


The best shoe for you?

The one that will motivate you to also do cross training ;)

Is the stair climber a good way to recover from shin splints?

SHORT ANSWER:

not so much


LONG ANSWER:

Whenever I work with a runner in the clinic or one-on-one, one of the questions I ask them is what tends to make their shin splints worse?

Inevitably, one of the answers that comes up is going up or down stairs.

Let’s break this down

I can understand the method to the madness of wanting to try the StairMaster.

  • It can be good for quad strength

  • glute strength

  • cardio at the same time

However…

you run the risk of potentially worsening your symptoms and irritating those anterior shin muscles (muscles in the front of your shin).

HOWEVER…even this is a misnomer.

Quick anatomy lesson:

  • You don't have muscles on the very, very front of your shin.

  • The musculature is located medially (inside surface) and laterally (outside surface) of your tibia (the shin bone).

  • That's why with shin splints, you tend to experience deep, dull soreness or pulling on the medial (inside) side, or even wrapping around the posterior medial side (inner and then inner back)

With the StairMaster, you end up inflaming (or at least overworking) these muscles in an area that is already irritated, resulting in not giving your body the chance to heal that is needs.

Starting to see how if the normal activity of going up and down your stairs is causing shin symptoms, why I don't suggest toughing it out on the stair climber.?

But…we can use going up and down the stairs a different way.

Often, runners will find THIS exact activity is where they begin to feel the most improvement.

In fact, they begin to climb up/down stairs without pain…so they don't even think about or remember that it was a problem!

WRAPPING UP

Better than spending HOURS on Dr. Google trying to find answer?

I thought so. ;)

You deserve high quality information about YOUR OWN BODY so you can understand it, appreciate it, and know when it's time to finally go in and see the pro's.

Didn't see your question here?

Leave it in the comments below! I'd love to answer it :)

Until next time…

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit

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