Shin Splint or Stress Fracture?

Severe shin fractures

Someone dear to me who shall remain nameless (Bobby G) has been struggling with what he called a “shin splint” for 3 weeks now. After some research, I think we have both come to the conclusion he has a stress fracture. He is obviously pretty bummed, but knows he needs to get better as soon as possible.

Shin Splint or Stress Fracture?

  • Is the pain in a large area down the outside/inside of your shin? Yes = Shin splint.
  • Is the pain just in a little area smaller than a quarter? Yes = Stress fracture.
  • Does the area have just a dull ache and does NOT hurt when pressed on? Yes = Shin splint.
  • Does the area hurt when you press on it, with a sharp pain? Yes = Stress fracture.
  • Stand on the affected foot and hop on it; does this hurt? Yes = Stress fracture.

Having my own experience with a possible stress fracture on the top of my foot (See “Das Boot“), there are several things I have learned:

  • A specialist (Orthopedist) will probably cost a little bit more co-pay if you have insurance.
  • If you decide to go to a doctor, realize that when in doubt, they will tell you not to run. This is good advice anyway.
  • X-rays are usually cheap/free if you have insurance.
  • Often, even if you have a stress fracture, the X-ray will not show it. This could be because by nature stress fractures are very small or because it hasn’t started healing yet (once healing began it would show a callus on the bone).
  • If they suggest an MRI, bone scan, fancy-pants ultrasound, etc, slap them in the face and hobble away! Even with insurance these can be $2,000+! Bobby got an MRI for his shoulder in 2009 we just finally paid it off a month ago.
  • You can get a boot (usually free with insurance) and wear if you want, but if walking doesn’t hurt I wouldn’t bother. Just wear comfy and supportive shoes.

Things you can do while recovering:

  • Don’t run.
  • Apply a baggie of ice water to the area daily.
  • Ride your bike as a pace bike or along side friends in races/group runs.
  • Don’t run.
  • Practice your swimming.
  • Go shopping at your favorite local running store and buy a perfect new pair of supportive running shoes; old shoes or non-supportive shoes (racing flats, Vibrams, etc) could have been the cause.
  • Don’t run.
  • Walk any races you had already signed up for. Sure, you may be almost DFL, but at least you won’t be a DNF.
  • When you are ready to gradually start running again, run with your slower friends in races/group runs.
  • Think about some triathlons you’d like to sign up for now that you have improved your biking and swimming.

Navy Nautical 10 Miler

I had not trained past 6 miles for the Navy Nautical 10 miler (over 11 civilian miles), and I’d heard more than enough tales of the vicious heat from last year by friends.

So imagine my joy when Keshia said she would be running the race too at a nice and easy pace – Yay! I had such a fun time. The race started at 7:00 (an hour earlier) which cooled things down from last year, I bet.  We went at a 10-11 minute pace then first half. When we realized we were having fun and weren’t going to die of heatstroke, we stepped it up to a 9-10 minute pace for the rest.

Race Favorites:

  • Great goody bag, tech shirt and “10 NM” decal
  • Herd of horses that ran with us at NM 3
  • Themed water stations (pirates, Hawaiian, etc)!
  • Spooky military bunkers at NM 4
  • Enthusiastic volunteers with water guns and water balloons
  • Shower at NM 6
  • Beer provided by MH3 friends at NM 9
  • Ice cold towels at the finish
  • Post race party with a wide variety of food
  • Bobby winning 3rd in his age group