The best advice on how to fix shin splints from running is by running forefoot at a faster pace. Forefoot running reduces shin splints simply by reducing tibialis anterior activity via less dorsiflexion (high plantar flexion) at touchdown. This can also save energy in the leg because less muscle activity means less muscle metabolism, therefore better running economy.
How to Fix Shin Splints
Past studies have found that natural forefoot runners had significantly less muscle activity in the tibialis anterior during the late swing phase of gait as compared with heel strike runners. And, in addition to running forefoot, running faster may also reduce the risk of shin injury, too.
Moore et al., (2014) found that as running speed increased, muscle activity of the tibialis anterior decreased. They also discovered that the shorter activations of the tibialis anterior were proportionate with shorter ground contact time and less dorsiflexion at touchdown, suggesting that running faster might be better for the shins than running slow, or jogging.
What Does the Tibialis Anterior Do?
In running, the tibialis anterior muscle controls the movement of the forefoot whereby forefoot runners naturally have significantly less dorsiflexion at touchdown than heel strikers, regardless of speed.
- Less dorsiflexion at touchdown means the tibialis anterior is more relaxed, or passive, which in turn reduces muscle activity in the tibialis anterior as well as energy demands.
Past correlational analysis revealed a positive correlation between muscle activity and oxygen consumption, meaning that as muscle activity increases, muscle metabolism increases (higher energy demands). This is why you want to avoid overworking your shin muscles by NOT dorsiflexing your ankle at touchdown during running.
Why Heel Strikers Are Prone to Shin Splints
Heel strike runners are most likely to have a higher risk of shin injury than forefoot runners because muscle activity in the tibialis anterior is greater as a consequence of high dorsiflexion upon and at touchdown.
- High dorsiflexion at touchdown reflects greater muscle force generation to produce this movement.
- The opposite of dorsiflexion at touchdown is plantar flexion. Since plantar flexion is greater at touchdown in forefoot running, less muscular effort is used to contact the ground.
High plantar flexion is also seen in habitual barefoot runners who forefoot strike, suggesting that plantar flexion at touchdown is an evolutionary adaptation of humans to reduce energy expenditure in the shins when running barefoot over long distances.
More From Run Forefoot:
Ankle Dorsiflexion at Touchdown – What it is and why it leads to injury.
High Arches – If you have high archers, find out the proper way to run without injury.
Why Run Faster – Discover how you actually save more energy when you run faster than your comfort pace.
Maintaining Good Form – Tips on how to prevent your form from breaking down.
Moore, IS., Jones, AM and Dixon, SJ. Relationship between metabolic cost and muscular coactivation across running speeds. J Sci Med Sport, 2014;17, 671-76.
Yong, JR., Silder, A and Delp, SL. Differences in muscle activity between natural forefoot and rearfoot strikers during running. J Biomech, 2014; 47, 3593-97.
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.