Does Flat Feet Cause Shin Splints?

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Does Flat Feet Cause Shin Splints? Are you a flatfooted person who regularly goes for long walks or engages in strenuous physical activities like running or leaping? Or you could be an athlete with fallen arches (flat feet) routinely participating in high-intensity and physically demanding sporting events. Do you often experience pain and soreness along the interior of your lower leg (around the area surrounding the tibia)?

The swelling of the tibia’s periosteum (i.e. the muscle mass enclosing the larger bone in the lower leg) is the chief cause of a shin splint.  Ill-fitting footwear, suddenly increasing physical training intensity, under pronation (high arch), and overpronation (flatfeet) are some other factors causing shin splints. Individuals having flat feet are especially prone to shin splints because of biomechanical issues that have been discussed below.

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Though shin splints may occur owing to a host of problems, the remedies are by and large similar.     

What Is a Shin Splint?

Shin Splint

Shin splint is a terminology commonly used to explain a variety of ailments and conditions associated with the lower extremity. Specifically speaking, a shin splint refers to the pain, soreness, and throbbing you experience all along the shinbone’s inner edge. In medical parlance, a shin splint is known as ‘Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome’ referring to the strain caused on the shinbone.

Shin splints occur when the bony tissue, tendons, and muscles surrounding the tibia bone in the lower leg become swollen. The fibula attached to the tibia together with the muscles that bind both bones are affected as well, causing pain. The most conspicuous effect of a shin splint is a dull pain in the lower leg’s front.

More often the pain is steady and concentrated on both sides of the tibia as well as the surrounding muscles.  

Shin Splint Causes (Does Flat Feet Cause Shin Splints)

Shin splints usually happen when you run, leap, walk, or fall accident. A shin splint can also develop when the bony tissue and muscles around the tibia become overstrained due to repetitive activities. More often abrupt changes in workout sessions like suddenly boosting or reducing the physical activity level can also cause shin splints.

You know that you have a shin splint if you experience a sharp, shooting pain in the front of your lower leg after a vigorous workout session. Leaping or striding with forceful steps on an excessively hard surface which your skeletal or muscular framework cannot sustain usually causes shin splints. You’ll wince or shriek out in pain when the affected area is palpated because of the shinbone’s soreness and tenderness. 

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And What Is a Flatfoot?

For most people when they’re standing, walking, or sitting down, their feet form a distinct arch. Normally the different sections of the foot’s underside or sole, including the edge, ball, and heel don’t evenly rest on the surface. This is because the plantar fascia (a thick band of tissue) that extends from the base of the toe to the heel bone forms a bow.

Owing to the plantar fascia’s forming a bowlike structure, your feet never sit on the ground in a perfectly flat position. However, the plantar fascia is missing in people with fallen arches or flat feet or is stretched very slackly. If this tendon in your feet extends too loosely then your feet will be touching the ground, almost level with the surface.

Now how do you check whether you’ve flat feet? Simply place your bare feet on a perfectly flat surface, and press firmly downwards. If you find that the arch of your feet that should be contacting the surface, and the ankle turn inward effortlessly, then you’re flatfooted. Flatfooted people find it difficult to maintain appropriate bearing while walking or standing putting them at risk of hurting their feet.

Why Flatfooted Persons Are Particularly Vulnerable to Shin Splints?

Individuals, whose feet have a natural arch, whenever they jump, walk or stride, their plantar fascia extends like an elastic band. The stretching of this tendon helps in absorbing and cushioning the shock, thereby preventing the impact from affecting the shinbone. Since the plantar fascia is absent in flatfooted people they don’t get the benefit of the shock-absorbing effect, making them vulnerable to shin splints.

Treatment

If you suffer from a shin splint, you should rest your feet and body sufficiently to allow the inflammation to heal. Additionally, you can try out the following conservative treatment methods:-

  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen to get relief from pain and soreness
  • Rubbing icepack on the affected area for half an hour every 4-5 hours for 3-4 days till the pain subsides
  • Generic or customized orthotic shoe inserts for providing extra support to the arch of your feet
  •  Exercises like toe raise, calf stretches, ankle pumping, and toe- and heel walks for strengthening and flexing the lower leg muscles
  • Wearing specially designed orthopedic shoes with extra arch support

Prevention

As usual, prevention is always better than cure. You should keep the following tips in mind to allay and prevent the chances of a shin splint:-

  • Capture footage while you walk or run to observe the posture and movement patterns of your feet. Consult with your physical therapist on how to change or improve your gait or bearing.
  • Make sure you always put on padded shoes that offer constant support
  • Avoid exercising or performing physical activities on concrete- and hard surfaces
  • Stop playing, running, exercising, or working the moment you sense pain and discomfort in your shins
  • Walking or swimming along with your regular workouts (cross-training) will alleviate the stress on your shinbone area
  • Ensure to warm up before exercising to flex the muscles in your feet

Related: What Happens If You Leave Toenail Fungus Untreated?

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