Ankle Pain: Shin Splints or Stress Fracture?

If you are dealing with a lingering pain in your ankle, it’s possible that those shin splints you initially thought you were suffering from could actually be a more serious stress fracture.

Shin Splints vs. Stress Fractures

Shin splints and stress fractures can become chronic or severe if not treated properly and it is important to immediately discontinue whatever activity is being performed and seek medical guidance if you believe you are suffering from either.The issue, however, is identifying which particular injury you are dealing with in order to correctly treat the problem as the nature of the pain for both shin splints and stress fractures can sometimes be virtually identical.

A common exercise-related injury, shin splints are the result of inflammation due to an injury of the soft tissues in the front of the outer leg (tibia). It has been known to occur most commonly in runners, but in reality any rigorous activity in which repetitive stress is placed on the shinbone can bring about this condition.

One of the main symptoms of shin splints is a shooting, aching pain in the front of your lower leg(s) when that is often felt while running, but later subsides when the intensity of your workout is lowered. If you have shin splints, it’s more than likely that you don’t feel this pain when you’re inactive.

It is also more likely for a person to incur shin splints when their leg muscles and tendons are tired or if the intensity of their workout is rapidly increased. Women, people with flat feet or rigid arches, athletes, military recruits, and dancers all have an increased likelihood of developing shin splints.

Stress fractures, on the other hand, are caused by actual cracks or breaks in either of the bones in the lower leg, the tibia or fibula. If you suffer from this injury, you’ll experience pain that’s usually in the lower third part of the shin, tenderness or swelling in the specific injured area, and pain when you press on your shin.

Unlike shin splints, however, the pain caused by a stress fracture doesn’t subside when you stop running and can often be felt during even the most minimal physical activity.

Shin Splints vs. Ankle Fractures

So how can you distinguish between the two injuries? Well, in order to receive a proper diagnosis, it’s always best to consult your doctor.

At Delray Beach Podiatry, Dr. Ian S. Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, likes to perform several tests in order to properly identify what is ailing his patients.

“First of all, we’ll take an x-ray,” said Dr. Goldbaum, who has offices in Delray Beach, Boca Raton and Boynton Beach. “Then, we’ll go through range of motion to check the ligaments and see if we can pinpoint the pain.”

In addition to these initial treatments, Dr. Goldbaum also notes that he has the ability to utilize more advanced technology such as gait analysis, and in more serious cases an MRI, in order to get to the root of his patient’s problems.

Once the problem has been properly identified, a proper treatment plan can be created.

“If the problem isn’t showing up on the x-ray and it’s soft tissue then we’ll treat it one way, and if there is clearly a problem with the bone then we’ll treat it another,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “There’s soft tissue and bone — those are the two things are you looking for in addition to the focal point of the patient’s pain.”

Follow Dr. Goldbaum on Twitter @Delray_Podiatry

The content on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely or act upon information from without seeking professional medical advice. If you live in South Florida and would like a consultation with Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, please see our contact information below:


16244 S. Military Trail #290, Delray Beach, FL 33484



2900 N. Military Trail #210, Boca Raton, FL 33431 (SOUTH BLDG)



8198 Jog Road #100, Boynton Beach, FL 33472