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shin splints | thongs

Why Thongs Can Cause Shin Splints or Foot Pain

Written by Boroondara Osteopathy

A well-known clinic in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs founded by Dr Katie Willy (Osteopath)

Shin Splints | Plantar Fasciitis | Thongs | flip-flops

“Shin splints” is an umbrella term for pain in the shin.

This is a very common complaint we see coming into the warmer months, the flip flops come out and so does more foot and shin pain. NOT A COINCIDENCE!

There’s a few things that cause this, but the main source of pain is from overworked muscles at the front of the shin. And with summer creeping up on us and the warmer weather, thongs often become the footwear of choice!!

But thongs are notorious for lacking support and structure so they can easily be a factor in shin splints & foot pain.

You may have also heard of plantar fasciitis which refers to inflammation in the plantar fascia which is a piece of tissues that sits in the bottom of our feet.

So what happens in shin splints?

There are two main muscles that work extra hard when wearing thongs, the big muscle at the front of the shin right beside the tibia bone (shin bone) is called the “tibialis anterior”. Its partner in crime runs along the outside of the lower leg, its called the “Peroneus longus” muscle. These muscles attach to different sides underneath the foot, and they act like stirrups around the ankle and foot. The tibialis anterior pulls the foot up and turns the bottom of the foot to look inwards, it also acts like a break to slow the opposite direction. The Peroneus longus pull the foot down and turn the bottom of the foot outwards, it acts like a brake to slow the opposite directions.

It is the braking action of the muscles that is under pressure when wearing thongs. Yes, our muscles activate to SLOW our movements. Some people have arches in their foot that don’t come down evenly when that foot has weight through it so the braking action hasn’t got enough teamwork from multiple tissues and instead just stresses one. Sometimes the arch is high, and it won’t come down or sometimes its down already and cant go down any further.  Either of these results tells us there is poor foot mobility in the joints which will place muscles tissue under stress.

How do thongs impact this?

Because thongs don’t have any arch support which we might be used to in supportive shoes, the muscles are trying their best to support good mobility by either acting like a brake when the arch is flattening or trying to pull the arch back up when the foot stays too flat. And in the case of plantar fasciitis, the foot is being stretched and shortened a lot more if the foot is rolling in when wearing thongs which causes the pain on the bottom of the foot.

If you’re walking a lot when wearing thongs, the muscles will be under lots of strain trying to help the foot with mobility and this can causes tightness in the legs and feet. 

So what can we do with arches that don’t move well?

Quite a lot actually, and you wont have to give up the summer thongs! Instead of just massaging the muscles on the front of the leg and hope the pain goes away, our process is to re-train the patterns in your leg and foot to work more as a team. This takes the pressure off the muscles and there’ no need for tightness and pain. Your foot can do these things and they don’t have to stay stiff, they just need to be taught how do move the most efficient way.


Need some help with your shins or feet?

We are all ears! Call 9859 5059 or book online via the button below.