How I Kicked the Shin Splints

May 1, 2012 · 25 comments

Remember when I went to Running Etc. and geeked out with the owner over running chat for over an hour? I told you all about his lessons in the Jack Daniels running method.

He also analyzed my stride using the video camera stationed behind the treadmill. Luckily, I have a healthy, neutral stride, so I don’t need to alter anything there. But the first thing he said to me when he saw me run across the hallway took me by surprise.

“You’re a trained sprinter, aren’t you?”

Since he caught me a little off-guard, I had the whole Porky Pig thing going on. “Bah…buduhuhh…?” How did he know?

He could tell I was a sprinter by the way I took off on my tippy toes. You see, my (official, discounting field hockey) running career began with high school track, which I truly only joined to stay in shape for field hockey. Back in those days, I laughed when the coach told us to do a mile cool-down. And then I realized he was serious and choked back tears.

Anyway, since in those days I equated long distance running to having needles stuck in my eyeballs, I was a part of the sprinting team. That was after negging on hurdles and the resulting shin splints.

As a sprinter, I was taught to run on my toes. Obviously, this is the most efficient way to run when you’re sprinting a 100 and 200 meter distance.

The strange thing is, I never considered it may be different when running 26.2 miles (and other long distances). It just never occurred to me that running form would change depending on the distance I’m traveling and the speed at which I’m running.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’ve never claimed to be a rocket scientist.

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Mike told me the reasoning behind my shin splints may not just be my training “too hard/too fast” problem. It may also be the pressure I’m putting on myself to stay up on my toes when I run.

According to him, during one of the Olympic trials, runners were videotaped and their strides were examined. Of the top three contenders, one was a heel (rearfoot) striker, one was a midfoot striker, and one was a forefoot striker. Those analyzing predicted that although the forefoot-striker (the one on his tippy toes) was in the lead, he would probably run out of energy first. The heel-striker was putting too much pressure on his hamstrings as he struck the ground. The midfoot runner prevailed and won the race.

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Striking on the balls of your feet (or “midfoot”) is the best for your body by far. Landing on your midfoot puts the pressure on the strongest part of your foot, ankle, and shin

I was intrigued. Maybe if I stopped focusing on staying on my toes while running, my shin pain would go away! NO SHIN PAIN!

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It made sense — I know shin splints can come from tight calves. So I tried it.

And guess what? I have zero shin pain. It’s not only reduced, it’s GONE. Zero. Zip. I haven’t been without some sort of shin pain for years.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, I’m sure; strange strides can work for some people. But for me, midfoot striking is the way to go, and according to studies, it’s the most efficient, injury-reducing stride.

Go try’er out. Let me know how it goes for you. And then we’ll have a pain-free shin party.


(source)

Like that.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Molly May 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

Important to note – only 10% of shin splints are due to tight calves. The rest (90%) are due to pronation problems.

Congrats on kicking yours though! I’m dealing with some myself and they are the worst!

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2 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss May 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

good to include — I left that out since I talked about pronation (and the fact that I have a neutral stride) before and didn’t want to make this even wordier. :)

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3 Katie @ Katie Moves May 1, 2012 at 11:46 am

I’ve also been working on midfoot striking, and it’s definitely helped me with some shin and foot pain!! Also ps, did you play field hockey for Catawba in college?? (I may have done some creeping, i’m not weird I swear) I played hockey at East Stroudsburg so we most likely have crossed paths before! Small world!! Love your blog!
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4 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss May 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

haaha yes I deeeid, you creeper. ;)

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5 Katie @ Katie Moves May 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm

lol, I do what I can..;)
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6 Meg May 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

I, too, am a trained sprinter. While so many of my distance running friends complain about their terrible heel strikes, I can never sympathize. Running on the toes too frequently? Now that I understand.

I’ve been trying to focus on a midfoot strike and so far it’s really helping! I switched from a heavily-cushioned shoe to the Saucony Kinvara, which makes it almost impossible to land anywhere else but the midfoot.

Also, I love how you wrote about your reaction to longer warm-ups/cool-downs in track practice. That was definitely me, too! Now, I’m a long distance runner and I can’t believe I used to groan about anything over 6 miles. Funny how times change.
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7 Yellow Haired Girl May 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

This is great! I’m glad you’ve been able to figure out what the issue is and FIX it!

The .gifs made this post incredible, by the way.
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8 Janine @ThePurpleGiraffe May 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I’m definitely a forefoot striker – I’ve tried so hard to get to the mid-foot strike, but it really takes a lot of thought on my part – and I don’t like thinking while I run – or at least thinking about my stride for the whole run! If only it’d just come naturally!
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9 Caitlin @ This Bride's Joyride May 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I am trying this during my run tonight! I have had ridiculous shin splints the past few weeks and I kept blaming the treadmill only it was happening after outdoor runs too. If it helps I will owe you a thousand thank you sprints! :)
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10 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss May 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

make sure your calves are nice and stretched, too! :)

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11 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat May 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I always think about the tweaks I need to make but it’s hard to concentrate on changing the way you run – especially when you’re not good at running (me).
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12 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss May 2, 2012 at 8:21 am

hey, don’t forget.. I used to say I wasn’t good at running! I think everyone’s got a runner somewhere inside them. ;)

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13 Megan May 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Thanks for the post! I’ve been dealing with some serious shin pain lately and will to anything to get rid of it. I’m definitely going to concentrate on trying this out!
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14 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss May 2, 2012 at 8:20 am

there are so many things that could cause shin splints. old shoes, the surfaces you’re running on, how hard you’re training (is it too hard/too much?), and your posture or stride when you’re running. check all those out!

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15 Kristen @ notsodomesticated May 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I don’t know what exactly has helped me, but since moving to Georgia 2 months ago, I have had way less problems with shin splints. I don’t how they “magically” improved, but I’m so thankful that they did!
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16 RunningFarce May 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

YES! This is an excellent thing to remember – especially when you’ve been away from running for a while and are making a return. Forgetting this will put you back on your butt for a few days!
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17 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers May 1, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Wow, that woman is not just pain-free, she is care-free!

I’m glad you’ve left shin splints in the dust. I’ve had them before, but they’ve never been a big thing for me. knockonwood
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18 Mattie @ Comfy and Confident May 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Huh! This is very interested. I haven’t had any shin sprint problems but I struggle with runners knee ALOT.
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19 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss May 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

Are you only running on really hard surfaces? Try some trail running for your poor little joints!

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20 Chelsea May 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

You’ve joined the GIF party hahahah =D I always use them to make my posts much more fun as well. & Yay for problem solving!

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21 Alysia @ Slim Sanity May 2, 2012 at 9:38 am

great advice! form is something I need to focus on a little more
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22 Paulette May 2, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I think I’m somewhere between heel and midfoot – but this makes me want to try more midfoot! I have some shin pain too although not as much as I used to.
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23 Michelle May 3, 2012 at 11:21 pm

This was such a well-timed post! I have been running a lot in the last few months (at least by my standards), and suddenly have pretty painful shin splints. I’ve been icing, resting, and stretching, but it’s great to now have some practical techniques to focus on when I’m running. Thanks! :)

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24 Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut May 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm

This is great info…I actually didn’t know there was a mid-foot strike option? I knew heal striking was a no-no, so I’ve been trying to land more on the balls of my feet. Yikes!

Good to know before my first half-mary! Thanks for the post! :-)
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