Fact or Fiction, Article 5

Welcome to the fifth article of the “Fact or Fiction” series. In conjunction with SportsMEDiscussion, we are going to be bringing you weekly Sports Medicine related information, but with a twist. Our goal is to give you quality scientific information that interests you, but in an informal, laid-back way. We hope that you use this information to finish your week of right, or start your next week off strong!

Shin Splints... Fix your calves or feet?

By Austin Martinez, MS, ATC, CSCS

 Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) also known as “Shin splints” are an overuse type injury that cause pain in your shin. Commonly acquired when there is an increase in training load (i.e. increased running, jumping or high-intensity activity) and insufficient recovery time. Common treatment recommendations are rest/decrease training load, soft tissue work on calves/feet and activate foot musculature. Today we will talk about what each does and how they help.


There are many layers to the foot, 4 to be exact. On top of all this, is the plantar fascia, made of connective tissue and its primary job is arch support. Muscles in the foot are “intrinsic”, meaning they originate in the same area they act upon. When these muscles of the feet get weak, the plantar fascia has to pick up the slack and overtime it wears down. Arch support is lost, your feet drop inwards. In order to compensate, another structure has to help to make sure there is no collapse. The tibialis posterior (mentioned below) has to overcompensate, but just as you guessed, with no intervention it fatigues, leaving no line of defense. Unless it is broken it will continue to become worse


Two things here: calves and the tiny muscles beneath the calves (Tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum profundus and Flexor Hallicus Longus). A common symptom of shin splints is calf tightness, this can be treated by stretching, foam rolling and manual therapy. The bigger issue lies within, small muscles attached to the shin bone that work to support the arch alongside the plantar fascia of the foot. These types of muscles are called “extrinsic”, they originate outside of the area that they act upon. When you increase training these tiny muscles and your plantar fascia fatigue, your arch drops and both of these things puts stress on your shins. What to do?... ACTIVATE THESE MUSCLES. You need to specifically target these muscles to build them up. Exercises like towel scrunches, marble pick-ups, Toe pushes are a great start, and check out Todd’s IG (toddsportsmed) for more. In summation, your calves and feet play significant roles in the onset of shin splints activating the muscles within these compartments will help restore function and get you back in the game.

Todd SabolComment