Shin Splints Pain From Forefoot Strike Running? Try Increasing Your Cadence

Forefoot running has an impressive record for helping prevent common running injuries like runners knee and shin splints pain. But if you’re a forefoot runner and shin splints is still a looming problem, one mechanical importance is a higher cadence, also referred to as step-rate, or step frequency, and its something you want to aim for vs a lower cadence. 

Shin Splints From Forefoot Running? Try Increasing Your Cadence
Even though forefoot running, especially when barefoot, has the tendency to naturally increase stride-rate (cadence), if you still have shin splints pain when running, you should try enforcing a higher step-rate beyond your preferred step-rate, even if it feels like you are doing more work, you’re actually not! Taking more steps per minute (between 170-200 steps per minute) appears to be the magic range that may perfectly prevent the muscles and tendons of the lower leg from being overloaded no matter how far you run.

Relevant facts supporting the relation of increased running cadence and less shock attenuation on the shins comes from a long line of biomechanical research, specifically from a 2011 and a 2016 study in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Collectively, these studies revealed that increased running cadence and a shorter stride length actually go hand in hand as this dynamic-duo was most directly responsible for reducing peak tibial (shin) contact forces. By this measure, upping your run cadence can have a big effect in making forefoot striking more protective on your shins. 

Furthermore, the researchers detailed that a shorter stride length during running automatically allowed the rear-foot (back of the foot) to land closer to the center of mass (the upper body) and at the same time, this particular landing assembly of the foot relative to the upper body, significantly reduced peak ground reaction forces on the lower leg, making running dramatically less distressing on the shins.

When you increase your cadence in forefoot running, your stride has a natural tendency to shorten in length which makes the landing foot naturally draw in closer to your center mass at touchdown, all of which are proven mechanical components for low impact on the shins. This is how upping your run cadence may be an exceptionally effective way to bring full resolve in your shin pain.

If you need help with increasing your run cadence, running to the beep of a metronome offers great benefits in doing so. Here’s a popular metronome for running – https://amzn.to/2l876qs 

References:

Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ryan MB. Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during
running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(2):296–302.

Luedke et al. Influence of Step Rate on Shin Injury and Anterior Knee Pain in High School Runners. Med Sci Sports Exer, 2016; DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000890

BTW, if you’re curious as to why I’m running barefoot on pavement, you can find out more here on my YouTube channel where I talk, at great lengths, about the research showing a clear relation between running barefoot on harder surfaces and less impact production.

If you’d like, you can support Run Forefoot and help keep it going strong by making a donation in any amount of your choosing:

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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