Original article published on the Love Fit Fem blog. Last updated: March 2022
I’ve always been pretty active… I started running track when I was in middle school and continued playing sports in high school. Running, attending practice, lifting weights…
All this was part of my everyday life. This, and the pain that these activities caused.
A Painful Misconception: Reoccurring shin splints and joint pain are just a part of being an athlete.
At a fairly young age, I began to experience discomfort in my hips after I walked or ran great distances. It made sense that I did, because it’s something my mother always complains of, too!
Shin splints, as well, were something that reappeared every fall, when I started conditioning for field hockey. My junior year of high school I actually suffered from a stress fracture that put me out for the season!
What are shin splints and stress fractures?
Shin splints are when your calf muscle is tightened over time so that it is slowly pulled away from your shin bone. This causes a sharp pain on the inner edge of your shin. It’s caused by repetitive stress on the shin bone, such as running , and is most often experienced by runners and dancers.
Stress fractures are similar and can be the result of shin splints if they go untreated and the person’s exercise habits do not change. This is when the repetitive force that your body experiences (mostly from running or repetitive jumping) causes tiny cracks in a bone, most often in your lower leg or foot.
I know that this story, this history of reoccurring pain due to physical activity, is not just unique to just me. In fact, almost every athlete I’ve every known has had a similar experience.
At practice, I even remember swapping ideas on how to alleviate the sharp pain (from shin splints) that we felt. I often ran ice cubes up and down my legs, where my shin and calf muscle met. I also would spend my evenings rolling out my calf muscles in hopes that the next day the pain wouldn’t be as bad.
Over the course of my athletic career, I tried many different insoles and tactics to prevent shin splints and hip/knee discomfort.
After seeing a sports medicine doctor, I spent hundreds of dollars on insoles specifically designed for my body (based on how I carried my weight and how my feet struck the floor when I ran or walked). I also tried running insoles that were recommended to me at Fleet Feet (a running store) and the Doctor Scholl’s insoles at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
In addition to trying various insoles, I of course stretched and conditioned my muscles to hopefully prevent the pain and the reoccurring injuries. However, all this was to no avail.
My shin splints were back every time I required my body to engage in heavy, daily physical activity and the discomfort I felt at my hips just seemed to be a part of me.
Finally, I discovered a product that changed my story–BarefootScience insoles.
My mother also has a lot of discomfort in her hips, knees, and back. She was a college athlete and played sports throughout high school. So when I tried different things to help treat the pain I felt, usually she did too.
BarefootScience was recommended to her by a doctor. When we looked into them, we were pretty impressed with the company.
How do BarefootScience insoles work?
We found that the goal of BarefootScience is to help retrain the muscles in your feet to work as they are meant to. Their insoles exercise the muscles in your feet as you wear them and progress through the 4-7 separate “plug-ins” or steps that they come with (some models come with 7, some come with 4).
The idea is that you wear each step in your insole for about a week, to strengthen the muscles in your foot before switching to another larger step, that raises the arch of your foot a bit more. As seen on their website, this “progressive exercise of the feet” is meant to replicate the positive effect that walking barefoot in sand has on your body.
Are these insoles a longterm solution?
BarefootScience insoles work to realign your body and strengthen key muscles in your back, legs, and glutes.
When this happens, there are a ton of positive effects. By simply wearing these insoles you can:
- Reduce your pain and the fatigue of muscles (which causes more pain)
- Prevent injuries (if your foot is hitting the ground correctly and the muscles in your feet are working like they should, there is less of a chance you’ll experience injuries like shin splints)
- Treat and cure plantar fasciitis (Although I’ve never dealt with this issue, this is something that my mom has had to deal with in her later life. She names BarefootScience insoles as one of the main products that has helped her with her plantar fasciitis)
- Improve your posture
…And if all of this is taking place, naturally you will enhance your athletic performance.
My Personal Experience:
These insoles have become a necessity in my life. Whether I’m heading to the gym, going on a long walk, traveling to another country in the summer… BarefootScience insoles are a must.
If I happened to forget them, it would be the same feeling as if I had forgotten my glasses. I could still enjoy the trip, but my experience would be quite different and not nearly as enjoyable.
I’ve been using these inserts for about a year and a half. Despite all the obvious wear and tear, they are still super supportive as the first day I slipped them in my shoes!
Since I began using these insoles I have never experienced the sharp pain of shin splints. The discomfort I experience in my hips and knees from walking long distances is just about nonexistent when I’m wearing them.
When I do forget my insoles, I still notice the discomfort, but I can attest to what the website claims… These insoles have changed the alignment of my body and have strengthened my muscles.
I will absolutely continuing using these insoles for the rest of my life! By simply inserting an insole into my shoe my reoccurring shin splints and hip discomfort can be just about cured. That’s an amazing thing!
There are four different kinds and two different lengths. Which should you get?
The sizes are either full-length or 3/4 length.
There are not an overwhelming amount of choices you have to make when going to buy BarefootScience insoles. For me, that’s a huge plus. You can also rest assured that there’s really no “wrong answer”–whichever kind you pick is going to make a world of difference if you haven’t used BarefootScience in the past.
Over about four years, I have tried both the Multi-Purpose and Therapeutic insoles. From both of these insoles, I experienced a great reduction of pain. I also have never developed shin splints since using these insoles.
I currently use the Therapeutic insoles. Last summer when I went to London, these insoles let me walk as many as 9 miles a day with virtually NO pain!
When I buy insoles again (when my current insoles are too worn out), I will opt for the Active insoles. My main priority is preventing injuries caused by running and other physical activity. These seem to be new, so I’d love to give them a try!
As far as length, I have always used the 3/4 length and I’ve been very happy with it. This length allows me to use it in almost all of my close-toed shoes. I use these insoles in my tennis shoes, boots, sneakers, moccasins, and any other shoes that are fully closed!
So, do I recommend them? Wholeheartedly.
Surprisingly, the insoles that helped me most are not the insoles that were created for my body and cost hundreds of dollars. Considering the fact that you can use the same pair of insoles for 2 or more years, I’ve always thought these insoles to be reasonably priced.
They also allow for personalization. The different steps help you to build up the muscles in your feet, so that they work the way they are meant to. However, if something were to change or you needed to go back a step, you have the full ability to do that and can progress through the steps at your own pace.
I experience a significant and immediate reduction in joint discomfort when I slip in my BarefootScience insoles. Although I run 1-3 miles multiple times a week, I’ve never seen any reoccurrence of shin splints since I started wearing these insoles.
In sum, I’m completely sold. I will be using these insoles for the rest of my days!
I really hope you give these a try and have the opportunity to experience all the benefits I have!