Shin Splints generally refers to pain in one of three different tendons or tendon groups in the leg:anterior shin splints, posterior shin splints and lateral shin splints.

Anterior Shin Splints

Tendinitis of tibialis anterior (anterior muscle group); the muscles and tendons that lift the foot upwards.  The anterior muscles lift the foot up during swing phase, that is, lifting the foot off the ground during each step.  The anterior muscles contract and shorten to lift the foot up, also known as concentric contraction. When the heel hits the ground or contact phase, the anterior muslces must lower the foot down gradually to the ground and are contracting while lengthening, also known as eccentric contraction. Running on hills make the anterior muscle group work harder is the foot need be picked up higher to clear the ground going uphill and be controlled better on descent going downhill to prevent foot slap. Excessive hill running can be a cause of anterior shin splints.  A  more common cause of anterior shin splints is a tight posterior muscle group (Achilles tendon – Soleus – Gasrocnemius), a condition also known as functional equinus.

Posterior shin splints

Tendinitis of the deep posterior compartment, specifically the tibialis posterior muscle and tendon.  Tibialis posterior runs down the deep portion of the inside of the leg and attaches to the arch of the foot at the navicular bone. The navicular bone is the high point of the arch and tibialis posterior lifts up on the navicular, raising the arch and supinating the foot (rolling in outward).  Runner who pronate too much overuse the tibialis posterior which may lead to posterior shin splints.  Use of motion control running shoes or orthotics is often a quick fix for this condition. Physical therapy often helps speed relief.

Lateral shin splints

Tendinitis of the muscles in the lateral compartment of the leg,peroneus brevis or peroneus longus. The muscles of the lateral compartment of the leg evert or pronate the foot. They assist with the ability to push off the big toe, specifically,peroneus longus. Peroneus brevis plays a major role in preventing the ankle from spraining. Runners who supinate (feet roll out) tend to be prone to lateral shin splints. Running position can be a factor.  For example, if one runs clockwise on a track then the right foot will supinate more than the left and may be prone to lateral shin splints. Reversing direction periodically on a track is a good practice. Another example would be running along the beach in which the foot facing the water would supinate more and be at risk.  Attention to running position, lateral shoe wedges and orthotics designed forsupinators may be treatment options.

For more information on Shin Splints in the San Antonio, TX area, call Ed Davis, DPM, FACFAS. at (210) 490-3668 today!