Shin Splints: Does Footwear Really Matter?
As promised - this blog I am so excited to have teamed up with Ryan Boles from Shoe Solutions to really dive into footwear and it's potential impact on shin splints! Lets dive in - here we go!
Efficient Footwear Equals Efficient Mechanics!
Footwear is the interface between your biomechanics and the terrain. Given this, footwear should be a top priority, along with GAIT and running mechanics when an athlete of any level has a diagnosis such as Shin Splints.
Not all footwear is created equally. It is SUPER important to have the right “tool for the job.” We are often asked which brand is the best? Which type of running shoe is best for me? or how long should a shoe last? There is no easy answer here because it is specific to YOUR biomechanics. You also need to take into account that the world of athletic footwear design changes almost quarterly, so it is important to utilize a trained professional when choosing your ideal footwear.
At Shoe Solutions, we typically consider 3 main types of “shin-splint” injuries:
1) Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
2) Compartment Syndrome
3) Peroneal Muscle Strain
Once we have a diagnosis and have given our own assessment, we can recommend an ideal level of intervention for you. Shin splints tend to be triggered when the midsole of a shoe is compromised (see point #4 below). The midsole empowers the shoe to effectively shock absorb and aids in the stabilization of the foot during GAIT. The goal of the midsole-foot interface is to slow down and manage the motion of your foot from heel contact to toe-off. Once the midsole of the shoe has lost its ability to dampen or absorb vibration, it is less likely able to managing torque (pronation/supination) or vibration effectively, and as such, you are less likely to experience recovery from any “shin-splint” related injury.
I find it helpful to view things this way, your biomechanics and specific mechanical issues should dictate which shoe is most appropriate for you. Not the other way around. This should go without saying, but do NOT let the look of the shoe sell the shoe. Also, just because the shoe worked for your friend, does not mean that it will work for you. Embrace your uniqueness!
Here are a few things to consider when making a purchase or when deciding if it is time to invest in a new pair. (These are good principle not only for shin-splints but also in general):
Have your dynamic GAIT and foot (plantar surface) assessed. This should be assessed/observed by an accredited professional or an experienced trained professional. Modern technology affords us the ability to video document your GAIT cycle, accurately pressure scan your foot to make ideal recommendations, and to monitor your progress over time. Find a place that will do this for you!
Measure your foot. Your foot should be accurately measured each time you invest in a pair of high-quality running shoes. Your size will change depending on the amount of load that your foot is required to transfer, so it stands to reason that different activities, terrain, and load potential will change the recommended shoe and shoe size.
Do I need insoles when I run? This is a difficult question as well because in many cases, they are not necessary. There is no doubt that they can enhance the comfort and control that the shoe offers and how the foot feels, by assisting in load management and total contact. This can significantly reduce peak pressure points. Insoles can be complementary to the shoe and the specific activity you are using them for. The trick here is to consider devices that will NOT develop a dependence. We rarely recommend supporting the foot to the point that it develops a need for that structure in order to function efficiently. We want the body to work, strengthen, and develop to its maximum potential.
How do I know when my shoes need to be replaced? Footwear manufacturers do not have an answer to this. It depends on too many factors to predict (activity level, duration, terrain, body weight, GAIT pattern, etc.) This is up to you to decide. My main recommendations are to listen to your body and assess your footwear often. Look for indicators such as:
Compression lines in the midsole of the shoe (severe compression line pictured above as an example of “should have been replaced kilometers ago”). These lines are indicators that the microscopic air bubbles in the foam have popped and will no longer dampen vibration or allow the foam to recover to its original form.
Uneven wear patterns on the outsole of the shoe. This is an easy one for anybody to assess. Look at your striking path from the heel to the toe. Compare “lug depth” as an indicator to gauge the way that your shoe will now guide you through your GAIT. The more deviation from the outsoles original design, the more your foot will be out of neutral alignment when you run.
Next, set the shoe on a level surface (like a table), observe the general angles of alignment from the back, the front, and the side profiles. I find viewing the shoe from the back to be the most helpful as it is easy to see if your shoe is neutral from this angle.
Lastly, test the structural integrity of the shoe by torsionally twisting it from the heel to the toe. The easier it is to “twist” the shoe, the more likely the foam density has been compromised. It is a good idea to flex test (torsion twist and forefoot flex) any new shoe and make notes as to what you notice so that you have something to compare it with.
Ryan Boles C.Ped
If you guys have any other questions about footwear be sure to check out their website (link above) as well as give them a follow on Instagram and Facebook (@shoesolutions)! I can definitely tell you I've never had an athlete I've sent his way come back disappointed. He and his team do amazing work!
Thanks so much Ryan for taking the time to be our footwear guru! ;)