Racewalking May Cause Shin Splints!

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Grace Walker, Physical and Occupational Therapist & Nutritionist agrees with Erik Dalton, Ph.D.:

Racewalking May Set Stage for Shin Splints

Specific techniques help tackle and prevent pain

A less-demanding alternative to running is now on the rise. It is called racewalking (RW). This is a difficult skill to master, requiring good technique and fitness to be competitive. Two survey studies found that race walkers sustained low leg injuries similar to running such as shin splints and ankle sprains.  According to competitive RW clients, the rules of the game are to blame.

The Knees Rule

This rule dictates that the knee of the supporting leg must straighten from the point of ground contact and remain extended until the body passes directly over it. Some believe the athlete’s shin must absorb a force of two to three times his or her body weight during a straight-legged heel strike. This may not necessarily be a problem for well-conditioned professionals, but amateur athletes need to BEWARE.

Sometimes, the jolting heel strike is followed by an uncoordinated and energy-wasting slap down of the foot, which must be resisted  contractions of the dorsiflexor shin muscles. Cumulative repetitive dorsiflexor stress and length-strength musculofascial compartment imbalances likely are the two primary causes of shin splints.

Over time, repeated concentric and eccentric loading during heel strike and toe-off strains the attachment sites, creating periosteal micro tearing (periostitis). In an attempt to resist painful pulling at the injury site, the body reinforces with adhesive scar tissue. Greater muscle tightness develops as the athlete tries to train through the injury, resulting in a vicious cycle of pain and tightness that continues until the area is properly treated and retrained.

Loss of Contact Rule

Regulation requires competitive race walkers to keep the back toe on the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. This rule also sets the stage for shin splint injuries as the athlete strains to keep the back foot in the push-off position until heel strike. The gastroc, soleus, and tibialis posterior muscles must forcefully contract during this maneuver, which, in time, creates reciprocal weakness in the peroneals and tibialis anterior muscles. It is good to schedule bimonthly preventative maintenance appointments to help retain lower leg muscle balance.Physical therapy has effective techniques for stretching tight posterior calves and restoring ankle mobility.

Additionally, a variety of balancing, band-work, single-leg squat, and mobility exercises can help maintain length-strength balance and ward off shin splints, compartment syndromes, stress fractures, and other common walking and running injuries.


Call Walker Physical Therapy & Pain Center to schedule an appointment with an expert therapist!

 1111 W. Town & Country Rd. Ste. 1

Orange, CA 92868

Phone: 714-997-5518


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