Treating shin splints from running is simple, and the secret is forefoot running. Forefoot running is associated with less overload on the shin muscles, partly because the knee is more flexed, not stiff and unbent, during the initial phases of running gait.
Treating Shin Splints from Running
During running, knee flexion, or knee bending, is a key component for shock absorption throughout the lower leg and is typically greater in forefoot runners than heel strike runners. Many Heel strike runners have less knee flexion which amplifies shock to the shins at touchdown (shown below).
Heel strike running involves less knee flexion at touchdown and is directly correlated to medial shin pain .
Louden & Reiman (2012) discovered that heel strike runners who had the least amount of knee flexion had the greatest occurrence of medial shin pain, suggesting that landing with a straightened leg, like most heel strikers do, increases the risk of shin splints.
In forefoot running, in order to make initial contact on the forefoot, the knee slightly bends naturally thereby increasing knee flexion (shown below) which improves shock dissipation of the ground reaction force, especially during stance.
Less Shoe Means More Natural Knee Flexion
In habitual barefoot runners, who mostly utilize a forefoot strike, knee flexion is greater as compared with shod runners, suggesting that running barefoot or in barefoot-like running shoes optimizes knee flexion. And not to mention, based on anecdotal reports, shin pain is virtually lower in habitual barefoot runners.
Overall, the findings demonstrates that the geometry of the knee as well as footfall pattern during running are absolutely integral to the prevention and treatment of shin splints.
More From Run Forefoot:
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome – Many runners suffer this dreaded injury, but many runners don’t know why. This article covers the main cause of knee injury in runners.
Achilles Heel – Found out why heel strike running is such a daunting task for the Achilles tendon, resulting in injury to the tendon.
Eccentric Exercises – We often hear about eccentric exercises, but you can achieve them just by running barefoot; find out how.
Forefoot Shoe Review – Read my review on the FeelMax Osma 2, an under-appreciated forefoot running shoes that is a great tool to help you mechanically run your best.
Arendse et al. Reduced eccentric loading on the knee with the Pose Method of Running. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2004; 36(2):272-7.
Loudon, JK and Reiman, MP. Lower extremity kinematics in running athletes with and without a history of medial shin pain. Int J Sports Phys Ther, 2012, 7(4):356-64.
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.
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