There are several painful conditions that result from physical activity or overuse of the feet, joints, and muscles of the lower leg. These ailments, including shin splints, turf toe, and foot imbalances, are physically uncomfortable and are disruptive to a person’s regular activities. Each of these conditions can lead to greater pain throughout the body and can have long-lasting consequences on a person's health and physical wellbeing. These ailments will be examined in further detail, as well as the risk factors and greater complications that can arise from these lower body injuries, and how foot orthotics can effectively prevent these conditions from occurring, allowing individuals to take part in the activities they enjoy without lower body pain.
What are shin splints?
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, also more commonly known as shin splints, is a common exercise-related injury. Shin splints are characterized by acute pain along the tibia (shin bone), typically along the inner edge where the muscle attaches to the bone. Shin splints occur when the tendons and muscles around the shin bone become inflamed.
What causes shin splints?
Shin splints are common in athletes and people who are involved in moderate to intense physical activities. Shin splints often occur in runners and dancers, military recruits, as well as individuals who participate in activities like basketball, soccer, or tennis. Any activity that is characterized by a repeated pounding motion of the legs and feet creates a strain on the bones and muscles of the lower body. Sudden changes in intensity, frequency, or duration of physical activity is often the cause of shin splints. When the body is not familiar with the stress of a high impact activity, inflammation can occur and become extremely painful.
Shin splints are known as a cumulative stress disorder, where the muscles, bones, and connective tissues become overworked over time. Excessive force of high-impact activities leads the muscles to swell, which exerts more pressure on the shin bone. The increased pressure is what causes the pain and inflammation associated with shin splints.
What are the symptoms of shin splints?
The pain of shin splints is localized in the front of the leg, between the knee and ankle. The main symptoms of shin splints include:
- Pain along the inner and outer shin area
- Either stabbing, shooting pains, or a dull aching
- Muscle pain
- Pain that increases during exercise
- Mild swelling in the lower leg
- Weak, tender feet
- Shin pain that is sore to the touch
- Tenderness that lasts after ceasing physical activity
What is turf toe?
Turf toe is a sprain of the joint at the base of the big toe. When the toe is repeatedly bent upwards, it can cause jamming of the joint around the big toe and may cause damage to the surrounding tendons and ligaments.
What causes turf toe?
Turf toe is named for sports like football, which are played on artificial turf and are often the cause of the injury. Other sports that are commonly associated with turf toe include basketball, soccer, dance, martial arts, and wrestling. Activities that involve repeatedly pushing off of the ground, running or jumping are typically the cause of turf toe. The combination of upward bending and pressure from pushing off come together to cause a turf toe injury.
What are the symptoms of turf toe?
Turf toe is typically caused by a sudden trauma as opposed to an ongoing strain. Athletes who suffer from turf toe are often aware of exactly when they became injured. Symptoms begin suddenly and will typically become worse over time. Some of the common symptoms of turf toe include:
- Pain around the ball of the foot
- Reduced range of motion in the foot
- Difficulty walking
- Trouble balancing
- Pain present when moving the big toe towards the body
- Tenderness in the big toe and surrounding area
- Swelling of the toe
What are foot imbalances?
A foot imbalance is a biomechanical error in the way we stand or walk. Foot imbalances are common and increase with age as years of walking and standing weaken the feet. There are several main types of foot imbalances, including overpronation and supination.
What is overpronation?
The term pronation refers to the inward rolling of the foot that occurs when walking. Pronation is a normal movement and is part of the natural gait. Overpronation occurs when the foot excessively rolls inwards, caused by fallen arches or flat feet. When overpronators walk or run, the heel hits the ground and the foot rolls inwards and places the weight on the inner edge of the foot rather than the ball of the foot as it should. When overpronation is present, the foot begins to flatten, and the tendons, muscles, and ligaments on the underside of the foot become stretched out.
What is supination?
Supination results when the foot excessively rolls onto its outer edge when walking or running. Supination, also called underpronation, is the opposite of overpronation. Supination occurs when the shock of the gait is absorbed by the outside edge of the foot and the lower leg. Excessive strain is placed on the ankle and can lead to an ankle injury.
What causes foot imbalances?
While some people have feet that are naturally inclined to overpronation or supination, foot imbalances are most commonly caused as feet change with use over time. The majority of individuals will have some type of foot imbalance by the time they reach their 40’s. Two common biomechanical causes of foot imbalances are high arches and flat feet. People with very high arches are inclined to supination while individuals with fallen arches or flat feet are predisposed to overpronation.
What are the symptoms of foot imbalances?
Foot imbalances can present in a number of ways, depending on the severity and on a person’s activity level. An athlete will display different symptoms than an average pedestrian. However, there are some common symptoms of overpronation and supination which include:
- Heel pain
- Arch pain or tenderness on the bottom of the foot
- Corns and calluses
- Knee, hip, and back pain
- Soreness in the ball of the foot
- Increasing pain with use of the foot
- Pain that does not subside with rest
- Regularly recurring pain when completing the same motions (walking, standing, playing sports)