Shin splints are a common injury that can happen with any activity including running, playing sports, walking, dancing and taking aerobics classes. Shin splints that are not properly treated can turn into a more serious condition or they can become chronic. If you have developed shin splints while walking, first talk to your doctor who can recommend the right treatment approach.
Shin splints are diagnosed when the muscles, tendons and layer of tissue that covers the shin bone become irritated or inflamed. Shin splints can cause pain on the inside edge of your shin bone, which may occur only during activity or the pain may be constant. Overtraining and improper training are the most common causes of shin splints, however there can be an underlying medical condition as well. Your physician can run tests and perform a physical examination to determine the exact cause and best treatment approach.
Shin Splints and Walking
While shin splints are often associated with high-impact activities such as running, any type of activity can cause them. If you have been sedentary and suddenly start walking every day, or for long distances or at a very brisk intensity, your risk for shin splints is higher. Walking uphill, downhill or on uneven surfaces can also place excessive stress on the shin area. Having flat feet raises your risk of developing this condition as well.
The exact treatment required depends on the severity and cause of your shin splints. If your injury is severe you may require a period of rest, ice and medication to reduce the pain and swelling. You may need to use crutches and avoid putting weight on the area for a short period. In milder cases you may only need to avoid activities that make your symptoms worse. If there is a structural problem with your feet, orthotics, arch supports or inserts may be prescribed. Once your symptoms subside, you will need to return to your preinjury walking routine very slowly.
Your best bet is to take steps to avoid shin splits while walking. Visit a sporting goods store and try on several shoes to find the right fit and support for your feet. There are athletic shoes specifically designed for walking.
Use good workout habits such as warming up and stretching lightly before your walk and cooling down after. Participating in a strength-training program for the lower legs will help to take pressure off of the soft tissues so they are less prone to injury. If you are at risk for shin splints, a physical therapist can design a proper program based on your overall health and walking routine.
Using proper walking form can help prevent shin splints. Avoid striding too far forward and leading with the heel and avoid walking at a pace that's too fast. Each stride, no matter how fast you're moving, should involve hip rotation.
You may also find that you need to vary your workout by walking every other day and then biking, swimming or taking water aerobics on the other days to cut down on the impact.