Tag Archives: barefoot running

Q and A: Do I Have Shin Splints?

11 Sep


I’ve been a runner for about 30 years.  I average about 20 miles each week. I compete in about 3 marathons each year, usually two halfs and one full. I guess you could say I’m lucky because I’ve had no real injuries. Just the basic sore toes and stuff.  About four weeks ago, I started developing pain in my right shin, and I think it may be shin splints, because the pain goes halfway up the bone, but is not over the bone. I tried backing off during my workouts, but the pain eventually got so bad that I had to stop completely. I’m on day 15 now without running, and I can still feel pain when I walk. How long will the pain last and when can I start running again?

– Rob, Macungie, PA


shin splints runningRob: Shin splints are one of the worst nightmares for a runner, and it sure sounds like that’s the problem. The pain from shin splints is due to overuse and occurs because the muscle and tissues around your tibia bone are working too hard. And we know from personal experience how excruciating it can be – there’s no pain quite like it.

But if you’ve been running for most of your life, it’s unusual that shin splints would suddenly appear unless you’ve changed your workout in some way, or started wearing athletic shoes which don’t fit or have no padding (we’re sure the latter isn’t the case). The real cause of the pain is overworked leg muscles, which can be caused by a stress fracture, collapsing arches, or something else which is causing you to unconsciously change the way you run. Or perhaps you’ve recently intensified your workout or started running on a hard surface?

You’re going to have to sit on the sidelines until the pain completely (and we men completely) subsides. Use ice for 20-30 minutes when needed, and mange the pain with over the counter pain meds like advil or aleve. Light stretching exercises will help to work the muscles in your legs which will speed healing.

When you get back on the road, make sure you’re doing proper warmups before training and increase your training very slowly to re-introduce your leg muscles to the routine. It’s helpful to run or walk on soft surfaces during this time. And by all means, make sure you’re wearing running shoes which fit properly and have plenty of padding where it counts. If the pain starts up again, make an appointment with our office for an exam, because you might need custom orthotics to properly align your foot, ankle, and leg. Good luck, Rob.

Does Barefoot Running Cause More Foot injuries?

28 Jun

barefoot runningThirty to seventy percent of runners suffer from repetitive stress injuries every year and experts can’t agree on how to prevent them. Barefoot running is seen bysome as an antidote.

On the surface, barefoot running makes a lot of sense: Humans went shoeless for thousands of years, the modern running shoe wasn’t invented until the 1970’s, and athletic shoes have actually been shown to cause more ankle sprains than when barefoot. And every runner has run barefoot on the beach, haven’t we? After all, we weren’t born with shoes on.

But a recent study conducted at Brigham Young University and published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, has turned up some interesting data. Experienced runners who averaged 15-30 miles a week in running shoes were recruited for the study. Half of the group acted as a control and continued to run in their normal fashion in shoes. The other runners went shoeless-style in Vibram Five Fingers barefoot style shoes and were instructed to wear them for one mile during the first week, two miles the second, three the third, and then as much as they liked.

After ten weeks, each runner took an MRI (one was also done prior to the study). The results showed that the majority of the barefoot-style runners were showing significant bone edema, indicating early injury (a small amount of edema is normal, the bone’s response to training). One runner had a stress fracture in the heel bone, and another had a metatarsal fracture(the long foot bones). Almost all of the runners in the barefoot style group were running fewer miles at the end of the study than they were at the start. Most likely because their feet hurt.

Interestingly, our style of running changes when we go shoeless. When we run in shoes, we tend to hit the ground heel-first. But when we go shoeless, we land mid-foot or forefoot, because it minimizes the impact to our feet. In fact, when we hit the ground heel-first, it’s with three times the force. Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard University professor who specializes in research on barefoot running, has found that forefoot-striking runners have lower risks of repetitive stress injuries. On the other hand, the Associated Press reported that doctors have noticed an uptick in the number of injuries associated with barefoot running, including tendinitis in the achilles and metatarsal stress fractures.

It appears that most foot injuries incurred by barefoot runners are a too much, too fast problem. They whip their shoes off and pack on the miles. Unfortunately, their feet have been in shoes since they were infants and the bones can’t handle the stress. The key to safely running barefoot appears to be a slow conditioning process to allow your foot structure plenty of time to adjust to the new demands.

We neither suggest nor endorse barefoot running. Just letting you know the latest.

If you’re interested in finding out more on barefoot running, the foremost expert is Daniel Leiberman at Harvard. His website is here.

Shin Splints: Not Just For Runners

30 Apr

shin splintsEvery athlete gets shin splints eventually, not just runners. Dancers also get shin splints, as do people just running to catch a bus.

The pain we refer to as shin splints occurs when the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia (the long bone that runs from your knee to your foot, aka your shinbone) become overworked and inflamed. Felt along the inside front of the shinbone, pain can appear on a wide spectrum, from a dull ache to excruciating, can’t-walk-two-feet-without crying pain. Medically, shin splints are known by various terms, such as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), soleus syndrome, tibial stress syndrome, periostitis, exercise induced leg pain or chronic exertional compartment syndrome.

Shin splints aren’t a specific medical problem, they’re a symptom of a larger problem, usually irritated and overworked leg muscles, stress fractures in the shinbone, or overpronation  – when the impact of a step causes the arch of your foot to collapse, placing stress on the muscles and tendons. They aren’t a serious problem, but they can definitely ruin your game, putting you on the sidelines for anywhere from three weeks to six months, depending on severity.

Shin splints usually appear right after you’ve intensified a training schedule or switched from exercising on a soft surface to hard surface. Therefore, you need to condition your legs with proper warm ups and cool downs when making these changes.

Shin splints can be avoided if you follow these guidelines:

  • Always wear properly fitted athletic shoes which have been designed for your sport or activity
  • Always warm up before exercising to get the blood flowing to your legs and muscles
  • If you can avoid hard surfaces, do so. Training on grass or an outdoor track is much easier on your legs
  • Increase training intensity gradually
  • Custom desiged orthotics worn in your shoes balance your feet and provide support

Read: How to choose the right running shoe

How to treat shin splints

  • Rest until the shin splints have completely healed
  • Ice your shins for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for two to three days until the pain subsides
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medicine like ibuprofen (advil), naproxen (aleve) or aspirin
  • Light stretching exercises to work the muscles in your leg and speed healing

It’s very important that you don’t resume training before the shin splints have completely healed, because they’ll return with a vengeance. To test the injured leg, do some walking or light jogging for a few blocks to determine if the injured leg feels as strong and is as flexible as the healthy leg. If there’s even a shadow of doubt, hold off on resuming training and take up some low impact exercise like swimming to stay in shape.

Barefoot Running – Fad or Friction

5 Mar

English: Friction Blisters on Human foot due t...Image via WikipediaAre you a runner? Does your day lack something if you can’t start the morning with that outing that really gets your blood pumping?  Well, how do you feel about this barefoot running trend?  Of course barefoot means without shoes. Then there is minimalist running which is running with “barely there” shoes. Barefoot running might be great in some instances, but here in the real world, seldom can you hand pick your surfaces each day to include soft grassy fields. More often, you see runners pounding the concrete. Without shoes, you would be increasing, immeasurably, the chance of puncture wounds, lacerations and infections. It’s sad to think about a runner being sidelined by an injury that could have so easily been prevented by wearing shoes.  But this just scratches the surface, so to speak.  What does barefoot running mean as far as support and impact to your tissues, muscles, joints and bones?

Barefoot running has become a hot debate, and there are probably arguments that can be made for running both with and without shoes, but in order for an argument to have validity, it needs to be backed by research.  Although there are people who have been running barefoot for years, have the studies really been performed and the results carefully analyzed in scientifically controlled experiments, or are people just exercising their right to preference? It will certainly be interesting to find out what the next ten years holds for this trend.  It seems that if it were truly beneficial, everyone would be running without shoes on.  Some people say that they just like the way it feels free, allowing the air to move across their feet. Similar arguments are used by motorcycle riders who refuse to wear helmets.  But there can be no denying that the use of helmets undoubtedly prevents injuries and probably saves lives.

One other point for consideration here, although it may be growing in popularity, it might not be right for you. Talk to your podiatrist and get their expert opinion on the matter, especially if you already have a foot problem that you are dealing with. You would not want to contribute to an existing problem.  If you are in need of a podiatrist, check out Dr. Teichman at PA Foot & Ankle Associates.

Do you have an experience or a story that you would like to share with us that involves barefoot running?  Please feel free to comment below, we would love to hear from you!

Barefoot Running

2 Aug barefoot running
barefoot running
Is barefoot running really better than running with shoes?  Pro barefooters say that running without shoes increases strength and balance, but are the dangers worth the risks?

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world full of soft fields of cushy grass.  If you run on a street or sidewalk, that’s a very hard surface to be impacting with your feet over and over and over again. If you’re not quite built for it, your feet could become seriously injured.

Secondly, without shoes on, your feet are open to any attack the world has to offer.  Nails, rocks, twigs, pebbles, stray toothpicks, dirt, crazed dogs, you name it, it’s out there.  While calluses will be built up, they aren’t going to stop most of what your feet might happen to step on.  Cuts or other injuries to your feet could put a damper on your training, especially if an infection follows.

Barefoot running may slightly increase your strength and balance, but I don’t believe it’s worth the risks.  Nothing cuts your training off faster than an injury, particularly a foot injury.

East Penn Foot and Ankle Associates are expert in treating runners’ sports injuries.

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