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.

Das Boot

Walking boot

I went to a doc at Campbell Clinic Friday before last. They did 3 xrays of my foot and…no fracture! Nothing, nada. Not even a little.So after poking and proding my foot she decided that, “Maybe it was on its way to becoming a stress fracture” and suggested I not run for a month. Oh, and wear this giant boot all day long. WHAT?!

Needless to say I thought the boot was a little overkill. In fact, as I was being fitted for it I heard a nurse say, “When you come into this office you’re either leaving with a cast or a boot”. So I think she was just playing it safe. I showed it to Bobby and he asked me several times, “How much did you have to pay for that?!”. I had to keep telling him nothing.

So I haven’t wore the boot at all. But I HAVE wore only tennis shoes and I haven’t run at all. I’ve done some stationary biking. It was a really good workout and I think I’ll keep it up even after I start running again as cross training.

Last night was the first time I tried running in 2 weeks. Didn’t hurt it all on the top of my foot during. Was a tiny sore the next day. I’m going to keep running; gradually work back into it. I’m going to go back to my old Adidas shoes for one thing…I have a theory my newer, 2-month old ASICS pair may have been the problem all along. I’ll let you know if that theory turns out correct! *fingers crossed*

Big Trouble in a Little Foot

“I’ve had some soreness in the top of my right foot (thinking my laces might have been too tight) but hoping that goes away soon.”
Hmmmm, yeah that is what I posted last week. After that I ran the Road Race Series 10k (6 miles). Before I started the race my foot was just the tiniest bit sore from a 3 mile Hash run/jog/walk Saturday. After I started it started to ache more until mile 2 the pain finally faded away. I thought for sure my time would be terrible, but surprised myself taking 3 minutes off my last PR and running it in 1 hour and 32 seconds!
But walking around after the race was no fun – foot was swollen and hurt much more. And then Monday it still hurt. I haven’t ran since Sunday. I’ve made an appointment with a foot specialist at the Campbell Clinic…and we’ll see what she says.
Keep your fingers crossed for a quick recovery! (and knock on some wood)