Shin splints: thoughts and advice

Discussion in 'Health, Nutrition, Injuries & Medical Conditions' started by RobinAlexis, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. RobinAlexis

    RobinAlexis Barefooters

    Aug 21, 2017
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    Hey folks,

    I'm am intermittent runner and have been running in VFF for 12 years, since middle school. I've always done other sports (swimming in high school, rowing and sailing in college) with running as a side hobby. Through college I usually ran ±10 miles a week, sometimes more, trail running when I could. I've occasionally ended up with shin splints, but always because I trained too hard, too soon.

    Now I'm living in a place where road running is my primary (really, only) exercise, and trails are not an option. For a while I did ok. I had gradually worked up to 5 mile runs 3- 4 times a week. And then, one day, shin splints. This was in February. Since then, I've tried running again several times, always starting slow - 1 or 2k at a time, no more than 3 times a week. And even with such short distances, within two weeks I have to stop because it hurts took much.

    I have tried everything - altering my gait, landing differently, slowing down, speeding up (my gait feels more natural at higher speed), endless strengthening exercises, every kind of stretching I can find. Nothing seems to help. It's like I've forgotten how to run.

    I'm at a loss. I'd wanted to train for a half marathon, but now can't even manage 5k.

    Anyone elsehave this problem or have any insights on where to go from here?
    trevize1138 likes this.
  2. trevize1138

    trevize1138 Barefooters
    1. Minnesota

    Jun 20, 2017
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    I used to be plagued with shin splints myself so I feel your pain! I also don't have access very often to trails and run 40-50mpw with 1/2 of that completely unshod on pavement and concrete. The other 1/2 is in 6mm Xero DIY sandals on rough gravel.

    The key I've found to preventing shin splints is learning how to truly run light on your feet. To actually do that you have to focus on lifting your feet off the ground the very instant they touch the ground. People mistakenly think trails help prevent impact injuries because they're softer than pavement but I believe that to be completely false just like the belief that cushioning prevents injury.

    Instead, trail running encourages lifting your feet with each step so you don't trip and that's the key. When you focus on where or how your feet strike the ground or pushing off the ground you often over-use your lower legs with their thinner, weaker muscles and they get stressed. Flip that around to focusing on just lifting and you start using your bigger, stronger upper leg muscles. Not only is this less stress on your lower legs (shins) but you're running a lot more effectively and efficiently.

    And that's how I can run injury-free with skin-on-pavement. I'm not trying to "minimize impact" or "take in" the impact of my body weight on the ground. I'm just focused on lifting my feet. Lift lift lift lift. Pretend you're running on hot coals, sneaking up on someone, prancing or marching. You know how it feels when you land your foot on a rock or something sharp and your leg springs that foot up? That's an extreme example of the same motion you should make with each step while you run.

    On how your gait feels more natural at higher speed: I have a theory for that, too. When you first learn to run as a kid you only know one speed: fast. My 5yo boy does this. He doesn't know how to pace himself or conserve energy. He's either running full-speed or walking. It's only when we get older that we start over-thinking it by trying to learn how to pace and conserve energy. But, no matter how old you are you remember what it was like as a kid to run fast and that, my friend, is your "natural" running form. Everybody I know is like this when they sprint: their heads are high, good posture, quick cadence with feet landing under their center of gravity. Then people over-think slower running and it just all goes to hell.

    Running slower than that with proper form should only be a matter of not lifting your knees up as high and not kicking your heels up as much. Cadence should never be slower than about 180 steps/minute you just don't lift as much. Usain Bolt is going 260 steps/minute at his top speed with those long legs so think about that next time you think 180 is too quick a cadence. It's not. It's at the bottom of the cadence range.

    Finally, if you haven't yet kicked off those VFFs and go totally barefoot! It's a great teacher. I've started this summer no longer avoiding the occasional gravel sections on my runs. Running on gravel barefoot is slow and uncomfortable but has really taught me a lot about proper running form.
    Willem208 and Barefoot TJ like this.
  3. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
    1. Nomad

    Mar 5, 2010
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    Welcome, Robin! Maybe it's time to try it without the shoes. Start over. Completely over. If you listen to your bare feet, your soles will guide you. They will tell you how far you should go, how softly you should run, how you should run/stride. Just try it. Don't overdo it.
    Tedlet likes this.
  4. migangelo

    migangelo Chapter Presidents
    1. Oregon

    Jun 5, 2010
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    shin splints tend to happen from over striding. you're wearing shoes so while you may be able to feel where you land better in your choice of shoes you may not be aware of over striding. yes, you can over stride with a forefoot landing too.

    have someone video you running towards the camera and from the side. if you are work on that. jumping rope is a good way to help train you to land under your self instead of reaching in front. be careful of making the mistake of landing on your toes. that too will cause shin splints. your foot should be near flat when landing.

    good luck and keep us posted.

    Barefoot TJ likes this.

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