Sports Medicine: Shin Splint
Part II: Selecting the Proper Footwear
Now that the kinesiology is out of the way, we will review footwear. If you are flat footed, you want a shoe that controls the motion of your foot.
Remember that a flat foot undergoes excessive motion. To combat this problem, you look for a shoe sole that is rigid from the base of the toes (usually the widest part of the sole) to the heel. You also want a good, solid heel cup. This is the region of the shoe the cups and stabilizes the heel above the sole.
This combination acts as a brace for the foot, holding it in the neutral position and preventing pronation. How do you check a shoe for these characteristics? You have to get your hands on it!
Squeeze the heel cup area above the sole. Is it firm or spongy? With one hand, hold the rear of the sole and place the other on the widest part of the sole near the base of the toes. Give it a good twist, bend it! Did it feel solid or spongy?
Now compare it to other shoes in the store. Asics shoes with the motion control bar typically are the best in this category.
If yoy have flat feet, you want the shoe to be firm in these key areas, but still flexible in the toes. This will maintain the integrity of the arch of the foot, thus reducing the forces on the tibialis posterior muscle during exercise. This will relieve the tendency for the tibialis posterior to begin tearing away from its tibial attachment, saving a lot of pain and lost physical activity.
What if you have a high arch? You already have a rigid foot, so you have no need for motion control . What you need is shock absorption. If your tendency is for hairline fractures of the tibia because of excessive force transferred through the foot, then you need to absorb some of that impact force with your shoe.
Try on some shoes, jump around a little. You are looking for a shoe that cushions your impact with the ground. Saucony athletic shoes are usually the best in this category. You may further benefit from an added athletic insert designed for shock absorsion. What if you have a neutral or middle of the road foot? In your case, you are not specifically prone to either type of shin splint discussed in this article, although symptoms of either may still occur. Shoe selection is not as crucial for you. You want to look for a shoe that is a trade off between the two technologies discussed above. Look for a fair shock absorber, with descent stability in the sole (from the base of the toes back ), and heel cup.
The one characteristic that all athletic shoes should possess is a flexible toe region. This prevents overworking the calf during activity and opening yourself up to a whole different category of athletic injury.
So how can you find out what type of foot you have?
Here is one of the easiest ways to find out. With no shoes or socks on, get your feet wet. Now take a few steps, and take a look at your footprints. Compare your footprint to the diagram below. Understand that most people are somewhere in between the two extremes. Use your best judgement to gauge where you fall on the bell curve.
It is important to keep in mind that this information is useful for all active people, and not just those who commonly experience shin splints.
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