The shins are not supposed to be a common site of injury, but they are in runners –runners who heel strike that is. Previous studies have demonstrated a strong relationship between heel strike running and shin splints, suggesting that runners can avoid shin splints by not heel striking.
Avoid Shin Splints By Not Heel Striking When Running
Why does heel strike running cause shin pain as compared with forefoot running?
Landing with a heel strike increases bone contact forces, peak compressive forces and posterior shear forces than in forefoot running.
Interestingly enough, most runners heel strike unintentionally because of the cushioned heeled running shoes. Therefore, more realistically, running shoes is the direct cause of shin splints because they induce an incorrect, unnatural landing.
- The conventional running shoe includes a built-up, cushioned heel to allow heel strike to feel comfortable when running. Yet, the elevated cushioned heel is part of the problem contributing to shin splints.
- the heel height of a shoe has been found to alter the body center of mass (COM) whereby during walking gait (similar to heel strike running mechanics) the vertical position of the COM is higher thereby compromising gait stability
The findings question the protective role of a cushioned heel in running as the related postural disturbances may create conditions for high-impact running. And, the magnitude of impact at heel strike often exceeds the absorption capacity of the cushioned material under the heel.
Thick Heeled Running Shoes Cause Heel Strike
Numerous reports have demonstrated that the postural modifications caused by thick heeled running shoes encourages a heel strike landing when running, and may contribute to shin splints.
- a cushioned heel may alter leg swing mechanics thereby increasing stride length and heel strike potential
- upon heel strike,the connective muscular tissue surrounding the tibia (shin bone) hyper-contracts as the leg fully extends in front of the body.
Heel Striking Increases Over Striding
At heel strike, the ankle and initial foot strike position is in front of the COM, resulting in a greater vertical displacement as well as rapid deceleration.
The temporary, yet rapid braking force generated at heel strike has been strongly implicated in increasing intracompartmental pressure of the lower leg, allowing the development of shin splints.
Forefoot Running Reduces Over-Striding
Clinical studies on the protective effects of forefoot running have yielded promising results, making it an ideal form of treatment for heel strikers with compartment syndrome.
Diebal et al. demonstrated that switching from heel strike to forefoot running (with proper instruction) eliminated intramuscular pressure and shin splints.
If you want to learn more about forefoot running, here’s what a forefoot strike looks like.
More From Run Forefoot:
- 13 Dangers of Heel Strike Running
- Heel Strike vs Forefoot Strike
- Shoes to Run in for Forefoot Runners
- Who is Tirunesh Dibaba and Why We Need to Run Like Her
- Why Racing Flats are Better
- How to Use Your Hips More Effectively When Running
Barkema, DD., Derrick, TR, and Martin, PE. (2102). Heel height affects lower extremity frontal plane joint moments during walking. Gait Posture 35, 483–488.
Diebal et al. (2011). Effects of forefoot running on chronic excertional compartment syndrome: a case series. IJSPT 6, 312-321.
Kirby, RL and McDermott, P. (1983). Anterior compartment pressures during running with rearfoot and forefoot landing styles. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 64, 296 – 9.
Mika, A., Oleksy, L., Mika P., Marchewka, A. and Clark, BC. (2012). The effect of walking in high- and low-heeled shoes on erector spinae activity and pelvis kinematics during gait. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 91, 425–434.
Mika A, Oleksy Ł, Mika P, Marchewka A, Clark BC. (2012). The inﬂuence of heel height on lower extremity kinematics and leg
muscle activity during gait in young and middle-aged women. Gait Posture 35, 677–680.
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.