When I was on the Cross Country team in high school, one of my biggest problems was getting shin splints. I can so vividly remember that piercing pain that ran through my leg each time my foot hit the ground and my coach would just tell me to keep running if I said anything about it. What I didn’t know was that during that time was that I was not running properly. Running with the incorrect form can lead to shin splints and many other injuries.
So you may be wondering, what exactly are shin splints? Shin splints are another word for Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. Medial means towards the midline of the body and tibial means the tibia bone, also known as the shinbone – so in other words, you feel pain on the inner part of your shinbone. The pain that you experience from shin splints is caused by stress to the connective tissue that surrounds the tibia. When the connective tissue is overexerted from physical activity, such as running, it starts to fatigue and loses its ability to absorb the shock from the constant impact of the movement performed. When this happens, the connective tissue starts to pull away from the bone, causing an aching pain because the tibia is now forced to absorb the impact.
Before I knew the correct way of running, I would land on my heel and roll to lift off with my toes. My coaches always said that this is the way you should run, but NO it’s not. Landing on your heel puts pressure on your muscles, joints, and bones in a way that it shouldn’t, which can lead to shin splints. If you think about running barefoot, you land on the ball of your foot. This is the most natural and safe way to run. Landing first on the ball of your foot is the CORRECT way of running.
So next time you experiencing pain caused by shin splints, try running on your tippy toes for a minute or two. Focusing on landing on the ball of your foot forces your gastrocnemius and soleus, or calf muscles, to engage and takes the pressure off of the tibia and the surrounding connective tissue. If you still feel pain, then take precaution and let your body rest so that you can prevent yourself from further injury. Always make sure to take care of your body first.
I really hope this helps those of you who suffer from shin splints just like I did!