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.


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Like that.

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