Shin Splints: Could It Be My Shoes?

by: Tracy Hartley, DPT of

Could your shoes be causing your shin splints?

Yes, no, maybe? Although replacing your shoes to treat shin splints is a good place to start, why does your health buddy run in worn out shoes and not only run you into the ground, but never gets shin splints? There are as many reasons why your workout partner can run circles around you as there are underlying causes of your shin splints.

Shin splints are a symptom of your condition rather than the actual diagnosis. Shin splints are essentially pain in the lower leg as a result of an inflammatory process on the inside surface or outside surface of your shin bone that can be brought on by many factors.

The following is a list of the most common findings and causes of developing shin splints that I have seen in practice:

  1. Flat feet (fallen arch)
  2. Short, inflexible upper calf muscles
  3. Weak muscles on the front of your lower leg
  4. Weak muscles on the inner part of your lower leg
  5. Weak muscles on the outer part of your lower leg
  6. And short, inflexible hamstrings.

The above findings can occur in any and all combinations causing abnormal running biomechanics resulting in shin splints. The most common combination of findings is short calf muscles in conjunction with the weak muscles on the front of the lower leg. Just because a runner has some of these findings and abnormal biomechanics does not guarantee that shin splints will develop. Nearly every case of shin splints has more to the story.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story always plays out like an old, favorite movie that you’ve seen so many times you can say the lines before the actor. As I ask questions so I can dig deeper into the reason why the shin splints have appeared, I feel like I can fill in the lines and the blanks as each person’s gives answers. The following is a list of the most common scenarios that I hear time and time again from people suffering with shin splints:

  • I recently increased my mileage (duration) to train for an upcoming race
  • I recently increased intensity
  • I recently increased frequency
  • I should replace my shoes more often
  • I run on mostly sidewalks (concrete)
  • I run on hilly terrain
  • I don’t do any stretching
  • I stretch, but not enough
  • And I stretch before I run, but not after.

As you can see, there are numerous causes and scenarios that can result in the development of shin splints. That’s why you may want to see a physical therapist to help you through your condition.

Once the specific cause of the condition is diagnosed, then the treatment is fairly straight forward with a combination of specific stretching, strengthening, and adjusting the exercise level (specific rest).

The treatment may also include ice, anti-inflammatory medication, orthotics, and specific shoe selection.

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But, there is one thing I never hear. I never hear, “I just replaced my shoes and here I am with shin splints.”

So, MAYBE it is the shoes since new shoes and shin splints don’t seem to be related? But, as my grandpa used to say, “Do you know what maybe means? It means the same thing as maybe not.”


My name is Jana and I have been a nurse for 18 years. I am married to Doc who is a physical therapist. We have a passion for healthcare, medicine and medical technology and living healthy lifestyles. We have 2 kids and enjoy a life filled with adventure, healthy cooking, and love. We try to share all of those things on our blog and encourage your questions, comments, and concerns.

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