Cure Skier’s Shin Pain

A common problem I treat in skiers is shin pain (and I have suffered with it myself when skiing).

Often called “shin bang” this can be an excruciating condition that ruins a ski day. This article will give you all the information you need to prevent and treat even the most chronic cases of shin bang.

If you still don’t have relief and are in the Seattle area contact us for an appointment for more advanced therapies.

What Causes Shin Bang?

There are several causes of shin pain in ski boots but these are the most common:

Wearing boots that are too large

When your ski boots are too large your shins will move away from the boot each time you relax your forward flex and then bang into the front of the boot each time you flex forward. Do this again and again over the course of several runs and you will have an irritated and painful shin.

Poor Form

If you sit too far back in your boot your shin will pull away from the front of the boot and then bang forward into the tongue as you shift your weight downhill and flex forward.

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How to Prevent Shin Bang

  • The number one way to prevent shin pain in ski boots is to wear properly fitted ski boots.
  • If you already own boots and are having shin pain, then see a boot fitter to ensure your boots fit correctly. ­­­shin guard for skiing
  • If you are in the process of buying new boots and have history of shin pain be sure to tell your boot fitter about the problem.
  • If you are renting boots, try to find ones that fit comfortably but tightly around the shin.
  • Supplement the boot padding with gel and Poron inserts like Ski Shin Guards. These pads absorb impact and can help tremendously in reducing sock with shin padding
  • Wear ski socks with shin padding. Our favorite ones are the Merino Padded Ski Socks. They have an excellent built-in shin pad.
  • Wear a prefabricated or custom ski orthotic to stabilize your foot (and thus your leg) inside the boot. A superfeet-skiprefabricated ski orthotic I regularly recommend is the SuperFeet Red Ski Insole. You can find information on custom ski orthotics here.
  • Strengthen the muscles of your shin by doing calf and toe raises.
  • Some skiers report that wearing the power straps on their boots on the inside of the shell rather than the outside can help prevent shin bang.
  • If your boots do not have a power strap, or you cannot get the power strap to go on the inside of the shell,use an aftermarket power strap like this one.  If you don’t have a power strap this is an absolutely critical step to prevent shin bang. The power strap keeps the tongue of the boot next to your shin to stop them from banging together.
  • An on-the-fly fix can be to make temporary shin pads out of a couple of beer koozies.
  • Take some lessons! Poor form is a common cause of shin bang and a lesson or two can often eliminate the problem. I have found small tweaks in technique to help a lot of my patients. Be sure to tell your ski instructor about your shin pain at the beginning of your lesson.

How to Treat Shin Bang in the Middle of a Ski Vacation

Shin bang can absolutely ruin a ski vacation. Although only time and rest will completely heal the shin inflammation and pain, if you have shin bang and have more days to ski there are a few things you can do to lessen the pain.

  • First, follow all the tips above on lessening the impact of your shin against the boot. If you are already in pain the most important thing is to find a way to cushion your shins. See if a local ski shop has any ski socks with gel shin pads or separate gel shin guards. If not, use the beer koozies as noted above.
  • Ice your shins at ski breaks and several times after skiing. Ice 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off as many times as you can.
  • If you do not have health reasons that prevent you from using anti-inflammatory medications, the use of ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce the inflammation and pain of shin bang. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist as to how much to take.

What if you STILL have Shin Pain When Skiing? 

If after trying all the suggestions above, you are still having shin pain when you ski then make an appointment to see us in our Seattle clinic.

If you are not in the Seattle area try to find a podiatrist who specializes in sports medicine and treats skiers regularly. A skilled boot fitter can also help.

Shin pain that continues when all the previous tips have been followed is often due to abnormal foot mechanics inside the ski boot and can often be treated with the use of sophisticated custom ski footbeds.

Custom Insoles (orthotics) for Skiers Shin Pain

In particular, the “over-pronated” or flat foot can lead to shin pain by allowing excessive motion of the foot (and secondarily the leg) inside the ski boot.

To eliminate shin pain in this type of foot often requires a very specialized ski orthotic designed specifically to support the very pronated foot.  If made correctly in a manner that adequately supports the foot this type of orthotic is very successful at reducing or eliminating shin pain.

Learn more here about custom orthotics for ski boots.

Bring Your Ski Boots to your Appointment

If you are experiencing shin pain or foot pain when skiing, make an appointment to see us in our Seattle clinic. Be sure to bring your ski boots and any ski orthotics you are currently using.

If you are in the market for new ski boots see us to get your orthotics first if possible.

Dr. Larry Huppin
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