It’s hard to enjoy running when your shins hurt. Shin splints is a topic that I have written extensively about because I think it’s important since it is one of, if not, the most common running injury that can be easily avoided.
In running, we know that landing with a forefoot strike is a great way to prevent shin splints as opposed to landing with a heel strike which causes shin splints, but there is another form of shin splints help in addition to forefoot running, and that is running faster.
Shin Splints Help for Runners
Best of all when running fast is that it increases your step rate (cadence), which is defined as the number of steps per minute when running. But isn’t running faster more impactful on the body? Not if you land with a forefoot strike, and what is more is that research shows that increasing your step rate reduces the peak ground reaction force, lowers the jumping height of flight (i.e. a lower vertical displacement of the center of mass), and most importantly, it reduces loads on the ankle and knee (1, 2, 4, 5, 6).
A higher step rate when running faster also protects the shins by allowing for a shorter step length and allows the leg to land in a more vertical position under the body, which in turn, reduces the need for the tibia to attenuate shock (5).
Therefore, increasing your running speed seems to be a key player in reducing shin splints via increasing step rate. And, running faster may also help you avoid heel strike (2), which is another key factor in protecting the shins for impact.
Since there is strong evidence that increased running velocity in forefoot running profoundly reduces shock loads on the leg, your best bet is to avoid running too defensively or guarded (i.e. running too slow).
More From Run Forefoot:
(1). Clarke at el. The affect of varied stride rate upon shank deceleration in running. J Sports Sci, 1985;3(1):41-9.
(2). Hobara et al. Step frequency and lower extremity loading during running. Int J Sports Med, 2012;33(4):310-313.
(3). Lenhart et al. Increasing running step rate reduces patellofemoral joint forces. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2014; 46(3):557-64.
(4). Schubert et al. Influence of stride frequency and length on running mechanics: a systematic review. Sports Health, 2013; 1941738113508544.
(5). Mercer et al. Individual effects of stride length and frequency on shock attenuation during running. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 2003; 35(2):307-13.
(6). Heiderschiet et al. Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 2011; 43(2):296-302.
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.