No More Running Shin Pain with Forefoot Striking

Landing with a forefoot strike prevents running shin pain, mostly because the ankle is not dorsiflexed at touchdown like it is in heel strike running.

Another way forefoot running reduces shin pain is by reducing the duration of the stance phase, thereby reducing traction that causes shin splints.

No More Running Shoe Pain with Forefoot Striking

No More Running Shin Pain with Forefoot Striking

In all, forefoot running prevents shin splints by allowing the feet to interact more passively with the ground compared to heel strike running.

The best way to relieve tension in the shins is to keep both knees soft and bent. The keyword = soft. The knee-joint needs to be perceived as soft -this helps reduce impact on the body.

Let Your Feet Fall

Relax the foot-ankle complex upon and at foot strike (shown below, right).

forefoot striking prevents shin splints
In forefoot running, shin splints are prevented by relaxing the foot at foot strike. Don’t point the toes up, or down upon foot strike. No muscular efforts on foot control should be used. Just let the forefoot strike happen naturally.Galen Rupp and Mo Farah are forefoot strikers (shown right) and as you can see, their knees are slightly bent upon foot strike, their landing foot appears relaxed, their toes are in neutral position, not dorsiflexed (toes not pointed up) and you really get the impression of how the foot ‘falls’ to the ground via gravity.

In forefoot running, foot strike is not forced which is a big payoff for muscular relief.  No forceful movements in the foot means no pulling of the muscular tissue surrounding the tibia, the shins are relaxed, free of strain.

Need more convincing?

A 2006 study investigated the influence of foot strike pattern on shin splints in 400 runners, and found:

  • runners with shin splints were heel strikers
  • heel strikers had higher loading underneath the medial forefoot during push-off

After heel strike, the foot rolls over the heel and the forefoot where the forefoot, toes included, is used to launch the body forward.

  • propulsion in heel striking exerts enormous strain on the lower leg because, think about it, the itty-bitty toes carry the load of the body’s mass and launches it forward at each step and through some physiological/mechanical mechanism, influencing shin splints.

Forefoot Running Relieves Shin Strain

Forefoot striking reduces forefoot loading that is high in heel striking.  In forefoot running, the toes are not used to propel the body forward as aggressively as in heel striking.

  • pushing off at the toes strains the metatarsal heads and the connective tissue surrounding the tibia, causing micro-tears and pre-mature muscular fatigue

Forefoot running reduces tibia strain because the entire body falls forward and the feet are removed quickly from the ground and are pulled up behind the body.

The continuous fall for forward momentum is easier on the shins than using the legs for propulsion to drive forward momentum.

The body-fall coupled with pulling of the foot (recommended by Pose Running) is a sure way to relieve mechanical stress from the shins splints and may also lower traction.

How does traction cause shin splints?

Past research supports that shin splints in running is also due to high traction.

Heel strikers generate more traction than forefoot strikers because of the braking effect as well as longer ground-contact time;  the longer the foot is on the ground, the greater the chance for more force production such as traction.

In contrast, forefoot striking increases step frequency compared to heel striking and shortens stride length thereby diminishing traction.

Tips for Shin Splints
More time is in the flight phase than the stance phase of running with forefoot running.

More From Run Forefoot:

Run Forefoot, Because You’re Faster Than you Think!


References:

Willems et al. (2006). A prospective study of gait related risk factors for exercise-related lower leg pain. Gait and Posture 23, 91-8.

Bretta Riches

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

1 Comment

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