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I've recently started walking on the treadmill (usually 3.2 - 3.5mph) and I've been having awful shin pain. I noticed today that if I let my arms hang by my sides when I walk the shin pain goes away but if I bring my arms up to swing by my waist the shin pain immediately comes back. I've tried shin compression sleeves and new shoes but aside from leaving my arms hanging nothing works. I want to be able to use my arms more so what's going on?

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  • What shoes have you tried?
    – wdika
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 20:56
  • Do you run/walk outside, too? Do you feel the same pain? Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 7:48

3 Answers 3

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Shin splints most commonly occur when there is a disparity between the velocity of the driving leg and the velocity of the ground. Put more simply, they are caused when the leg contacting the ground is not moving backwards at ground speed, thereby repeatedly jarring the shin as the forward inertia of the lower leg is overcome by the momentum of the body. This is exacerbated by the length of the stride, as the shin structures (see tibialis anterior) are forced to control rapid plantar flexion at heel strike. The phenomenon applies equally to both walking and running.

Treadmill walking and running can be particularly problematic because our velocity is dictated by the machine.

The reason that your arm position is affecting the shins is probably that their counterbalancing effect is encouraging you to stride slightly further forward, thereby amplifying the effects described above.

Since walking speed is equal to stride length × stride rate, your speed can be maintained if stride length is decreased with a corresponding increase in stride rate. Count the number of steps you take in a minute, and try to increase that slightly. Often even small changes will make a significant and noticeable difference to your mechanics and comfort. You may find that these modified mechanics feel odd to begin with, but with practice it will become more natural and comfortable.

For treadmill walking, particularly, it is important to ensure that the speed is dictated by your legs rather than by the treadmill.

I hope that helps.

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Shin splint is an overuse injury, usually caused by going too much, too soon. I noted that you recently started walking. Some things to ascertain:

  • What is your physical activity like before you started this workout?
  • What is your frequency?
  • How often do you do this workout of walking?
  • What is the distance you clock during each walk?

You can try easing off on your mileage. Give your body some time to recover. See if your shin splint gets better. Start on the safe side, go for lesser distance, and slowly work your way up. Give your body time to adapt.

Most often than not, the issue starts at your hip. If the hips are not stable, the stress will have to be translated somewhere else. Usually your knees and ankles. Your hips are like the steering wheels of the car. It is very important. Common muscles you can work on for hip stability are your glutes. Also, work on your calf muscles, especially the eccentric portion (where you lower your heels to the ground), to improve your shock absorption.

Don’t slam your feet down when you are taking a stride. Land on your heels gently, and roll your feet forward to your toes, before you push off again.

Arm swing is important. Try not to hold onto the handles of the treadmill if possible. Slow down the speed to accommodate that. Arm swing is an integral part of our walking movement pattern.

The main issue here is not whether you swing your arms or not, it’s about your hip stability and landing mechanics.

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This is a tibial strain because you lift your foot up at every step, is like doing bicep curl at every step, but with your ankles.

Good for strength but if the walk takes too long it can result in pain, injuries are uncommon and hard to come back, but the pain can be discouraging.

Simply walk by letting your foot loose instead of flexing it up.

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