How to Take Care of Shin Splints When You’re a Runner

Here’s how to take care of shin splints if you’re a runner! Keep on running!

Running with lower leg shin splints may be a blessing in disguise. Why? Doing so may improve your biomechanics, particularly at the foot strike level.

Researchers have revealed a robust association between forefoot running and low intramuscular pressure of the lower leg. Forefoot running essentially reduces  intramuscular leg pressure thereby relieving symptoms of lower leg shin splints.

And, forefoot running has been used as a successful treatment strategy to eliminate compartment pressures in heel strike runners.

How to Take of Shin Splints if You're a Runner

How to Take Care of Shin Splints When You’re a Runner

But what if a forefoot runner gets lower leg shin splint? What are they doing wrong?

They either lift their forefoot upon foot strike, or over stride, or both.

Stop Lifting Your Forefoot to Forefoot Strike

A common way a forefoot runner experiences lower leg shin splints is by lifting the forefoot (dorsiflexion) upon foot strike.

Likewise, heel strike runners lift their forefoot to strike the ground on the heel first.  Most joggers are heel strikers and shin splints is among the top 3 running injuries in joggers.  Connection?

Since forefoot runners make initial contact with the ground on the forefoot, there’s no need to lift the forefoot!

  • forefoot lifting at each step when running increases tension in the connective tissue compartments of the tibia (shin) which may increase tibial loading and cause micro-tearing and swelling
Lifting the toes during running strains the tibia causing shin splints
Left, a heel striker with an aggressive toe-lift to accommodate a heel strike landing. Right, a forefoot striker shows no toe-lift because the heel is not making initial contact with the ground. Therefore, toe-lifting is not needed in a forefoot strike.
  • don’t lift your forefoot at foot strike. There’s no need for it since you are not heel striking

For the forefoot runners with lower leg shin splints, learn to relax your forefoot and do nothing. Let your forefoot fall softly to the ground. It may feel odd at first, but the human body may actually be hardwired to instinctively land in this nature on the forefoot when running.

Stop Taking Larger Steps

To eliminate shin splints avoid taking large steps in runningBy nature, forefoot runners have a shorter stride length than heel strikers, as heel strikers tend to take lunge-like strides and over-stride.

Pretend there is a glass wall only a few inches in front of you and moves with you as you run. This mental cue restrains the urge to over-stride by allowing your feet to fall closer to the body and stop you from swinging your leg out way a head of you.

Why is over-striding a bad thing?

  • over-striding may increase the magnitude of peak compressive forces, posterior shearing forces, vertical ground reaction forces, and braking forces
  • these forces are strongly associated with stress fractures of the tibia, another common injury in heel strikers

The Take Home Message

Running with lower leg shin splints is okay because the pain can be used as feedback to prevent you from lifting the toes and over-striding.

Relaxing the forefoot will relieve tension and pain in the shin. Working on maintaining a soft landing and relaxing the body is on going learning process in forefoot running.

More From Run Forefoot:

Be sure to check me out on Facebook, it’s a great place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I’m always happy to help!


References:

Burr, D.B., Forwood, M.R., Fyhrie, D.P., Martin, R.B., Schaffler, M.B., Turner, C.H., 1997. Perspective: bone microdamage and skeletal fragility in osteoporotic and stress fractures. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 12, 6–15.

Mori, S., Burr, D.B., 1993. Increased intracortical remodeling following fatigue damage. Bone 14, 103–109.

Sasimontonkul, S., Bay, B.K., Pavol, M.L., 2007. Bone contact forces on the distal tibia during the stance phase of running. Journal of Biomechanics 4, 3503- 3509.

Schaffler, M.B., Jepsen, K.J., 2000. Fatigue and repair in bone. International Journal of Fatigue 22, 839–846.

Run Forefoot Because You Are Faster Than You Think!

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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