Progressive Running

Running Form Correction and High Intensity Training

Category: Injuries

Shin Splints Explained

What is Shin Splints?

Almost every runner I have met knew or heard of Shin Splints, one of the common running injuries that inflicts pain at the front side of the shins. It comes and goes in some cases, and sticks for long in some unfortunate others.

Some people relate it to running shoes, because once they change shoes the problem goes away. Some believe it never happens in barefoot running. Their explanations are not very accurate although they might get these solutions to work for them. The basic issue with these solutions is they do not discover the cause of the problem first; they go straight to prescriptions. That is why they randomly work no matter how this randomness is close to perfection.

Types of Shin Splints

This is a good article explaining types of shin splints although I skip its explanation on why the issue happens: http://elitesportstherapy.com/shin-splints . Based on this, there are two types of Shin Splints each linked to a different muscle:

  1.  Type 1: linked to Soleus muscle with the function of plantar flexion
  2. Type 2: linked to Tibialis Anterior with the function of dorsi flexion

Functions of these muscles

One end of Soleus is on Tibia bone also known as shin bone, and the other end merges with Gastrocnemius, or the calf muscle, into Achilles tendon. Soleus plays a dominant role in moving toes away from the shins (plantar flexion) when the knee is bent. If the knee is not much bent, Gastrocnemius (calf) comes in more effectively at plantar flexion. This action is called push-off or pawback in Pose running lexicon.

Tibialis Anterior moves toes towards the shins, called dorsi flexion. One end is on Tibia bone (shin) and the other end goes to the foot.

Type 1 shin splints and Soleus Muscle

One scenario I suspect the soleus muscle would be used much is pushing off the ground right after landing deep on the knee. The knee is bent so that soleus is used more than calf muscle to move toes away from the shin.

I have had clients with cadence slower than 180 at their jogging pace.  I helped them manage removing toe push off but they still had a push somewhere. Further investigation with slow motion video analysis transpired that there was a knee push off in the running cycle and that starts with landing deep on the knees, to load the knee for a good push. That significantly slows the stride rate due to the range of motion of knee joint. Going back to when they still had the toe push off on top of the landing deep on the knees, they would have to push off the ground to compensate for the delay caused by landing deep on the knees to maintain the momentum/pace. The push of course starts from the lowest point during landing when Soleus is more dominant than Calf muscle.

Here is how pushing off the ground can result shin splints in my own understanding.

Type 2 shin splints and Tibialis Anterios

Over-striding and landing ahead of the body is ubiquitous these days. While the comfortable cushioning in popular running shoes mitigate the damage by protecting some parts of foot and leg locally, the magnitude of such landing impacts other parts anyway. Landing ahead of the body usually comes with landing on heel. Note that landing ahead of the body can also happen in fore-foot landing and I have seen runners doing that. If the runner allows the heel to gently land, then it should be shin-splints safe; otherwise if toes are actively lifted to expose the heel to the ground first then there would be a good chance for this type of shin splints. There are running shoes that hold your toes up so you would not have to drosi flex to expose your heels (Ok, no hard feeling, let say it is because shoe makers love you and want you to feel comfortable at running) … and I never recommend going down such track. It is like counting on fat-removal surgery to binge on food. Better stop the wrong doing in the first place, do not you agree?

Here is how active heel striking can cause such shin splints, and it is all my understanding shared in here.

One PB a year, keeps the doctor away

City2Surf 2017 was on Sunday 13 August with Harry Summers and Celia Sullohern winning men’s and women’s top spot on the podium. Congratulations to both. Harry Summers won the race last year too and came second in the one before that. He was injured this year and only had 6 weeks to prepare, and there you go, he made it!

Although this race is my favourite I took it easy this year because I had planned for improving my PB in half marathon earlier in May (and it went well) so I decided not to push for another one in the same year to avoid any chance of injuries. That is why I came up with the title of this blog post. Well, if I had Harry Summers’ super genes I might think differently! Anyway, I think I did ok at the race as I did not even expect to go sub 60min but I just made it in a few seconds better: http://live.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2017/00658

Back in 2012 when I was pushing hard to make good time at any race I ended up in growing a bone-spur right in the back of my right heel bone that still annoys me every time I run. Worst thing this bone-spur did back then was tears in the [right] Achilles tendon. It stopped me from running for 6 months which was depressing however there was an enlightenment for me from this injury. I used to run – and still do a lot – in extreme minimalist shoes like vibram five fingers. Back in time I was on this notion that running like a caveman must be injury free due to being completely natural. There is a misunderstanding in this approach and that is “not everyone knows how to run correctly efficiently”.

Please do not think I am going to say running in Vibram Five Fingers causes injury (from my last conversation with Harry Summers on this in June 2016, he did not agree with me). I still run in them and cannot recommend anything better for training. My point is something else. At running in cushioned and supportive shoes what is protected by shoes is your feet “locally”. What you may not see through is the magnitude of improper landing on the higher parts of your legs. Moreover, design of most of running shoes is based on the [true] statistics that most people “push off” the ground so that running shoes try to make it more comfortable and effective (monetizing the current trend). The alternative to this approach, and in fact the opposite view, is that pushing off the ground is not really right/efficient. The chance of injuries is higher when the runner pushes off the ground due to “unnecessary usage of muscles”. If you could do less to get the same result, would not you think it would be more efficient and less prone to injury?

The opposite approach, which is fully explained in Pose method of running, is to use gravitational torque as the only source of propulsion. What is left to manage would be to learn how to redirect forces to properly run within this framework. That is why running correctly efficiently is a skill.

One immediate noticeable difference you would experience once start running in Pose is you hardly get sore from your running workouts. Calf and quad soreness is usually caused with pushing off the ground. Not getting sore is a great benefit because otherwise you would have to slow down or postpone training for the soreness to go (safe approach). The other great benefit is the lower chance of injury (nothing can beat over-training though). It is more likely to get injured at training rather than the race day, comparing the amount of time spent and the distance taken at training with those of the actual race. That is how running in pose can keep you on the safe side during your training period, and besides it helps you save energy up to 20%.

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