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I want to be able to run and I can however I suffer from severe shin splints whenever I do so, it has been suggested to me in the past that this could be prevented by one of two main reasons.

Reason one: I need to change my style to POSE and run in shoes which simulate bare foot running so that my muscles absorb impact how they are supposed to.

Reason two: I don't have the correct running shoes and I need to make sure that I get shoes which match my gait and correctly absorb impact when I strike using a heel-first technique.

I own a pair of vibram five-fingers currently and a pair of nike frees (currently trying reason one out), however in the vibrams I have to run so slowly that it doesn't seem worth it and I produce such a huge "slapping" sound when running on anything downhill that it is quite uncomfortable.

When running in the nike frees which I got as it was described as a way to sort of ease into bare foot running I still get really bad shin splints after 100m or so.

Before I go and splash more cash on a pair of heel striking running shoes I would like to understand the benefit of each running style and which would help me solve my current problem which is I can't seem to run for more than 100m or so without getting shin splints.

I should add that I am self diagnosing my shin splints, the pain felt when running feels like my shin bone (lower leg bone) will shatter that is, it feels like there is a pain going up and down it which could be akin to when you see a cartoon character get hit with a hammer and they crack into tiny little fractures like glass or something similar.

So to summarise firstly I would like to understand which running style will help me to get rid of my shin splints and why it is recommended. Secondly I would like to know more about which running style will help me to perform best, by perform I mean run for longer and faster, think 100m sprints to up to 10km.

I also do not want answers which consist of biased opinions I would like any response to be balanced and if possible linked to evidence that running said way will reduce shin splints (for example). This is purely to make the question less subjective and any answers more rigorous.

If any further information is required please ask, cheers.

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Running style may or may not get rid of your shin splints. I got mine from the laces being too tight. Switching to a barefoot-like running method is more likely to benefit your knees than shin splints. If the injury is anything like what you describe the pain feels like, it could be a stress fracture. See a doctor ASAP. –  Robin Ashe Sep 5 '12 at 8:40
    
I don't experience any pain when walking or performing squats, it literally only occurs when running. I will go and get a doctor to have a look though. How did you determine the cause of your shin splints? –  Aesir Sep 5 '12 at 13:09
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"I need to change my style to POSE" is probably not the best total approach. While I agree with the philosophy behind barefoot/minimalist running, I only agree with it insomuch as it teaches people to run properly. Subscribing to a single, named (in your case POSE) "style" seems a bit of an oversimplification to me. –  alesplin Sep 5 '12 at 17:25
    
Possible way to cure your shin splints: gizmodo.com/5902699/… –  michael Sep 5 '12 at 17:52
    
That's a nice article and I will try the suggestion in it, but even in the comments there are numerous people saying that you should run "properly" using POSE, is there any proof that this is how you should run? –  Aesir Sep 8 '12 at 6:14

2 Answers 2

I have personal experience with shin splints, traditional "heel-cushioned" running shoes, and barefoot running in Vibrams and without shoes at all.

For many years I suffered from extremely painful shin splints. I asked for advice on how to get rid of it every time I met a fellow runner, but the solutions suggested to me didn't give a clear picture; run more, run less, heat, cold, creams, herbs, ... you name it.

After testing various things, I found that heat helped me; keeping my legs and feet warm seemed to do the trick. I also tried to run toe-strike in my traditional heel-cushioned running shoes, which actually seemed to help a bit - my personal explanation to this was that toe-striking activates the calves more, and active muscles produce more heat - but that is my own non-scientific explanation.

After many years with shin splints I got rid of them by wearing thick wool socks and long legged underpants, and never run with naked shins.

A friend of mine claims to have literally cured her shin splints with fenugreek seed powder, which she got wet, distributed on her lower legs, wrapped it all in plastic and left it there for an hour.

Others will tell you that cooling their shins helped them.

All in all, my experience is that shin splints are not so much cured by changing running style. And after I cured mine, I could run any way I wanted, and only when the weather is extremely cold, I can feel a tiny bit of the old shin splint pain again.

That being said, switching from the heel-cushioned running shoes to Vibrams is the best thing I ever did for my running. But be aware that you can't just put on a pair of Vibrams, and then expect to do better on every parameter of your running; your body will have to adapt.

The cushioned running shoes will pamper your feet and calves instead of letting them work the way they were made to work. That means, that after running with cushioned shoes for years, your feet, ankles and calves are not trained for this running style, and you will find it tough on your feet and calves - many people give up on barefoot running in this phase, since they expect miracles from the shoes, but only are suffering from the impact of their "old" cushioned running style. When you feel you get slower when running in Vibrams, it's just because you are doing something you haven't done for many years.

If you are patient, and give yourself time to train and learn the barefoot running style, it can improve your running experience significantly.

I was about to give up running 3 years ago, since my knees were hurting more and more from running. In an act of desperation (and after consulting a fair amount of the theory behind barefoot running), I decided to buy a pair of Vibrams.

After a period where I ran once or twice a week in my cushioned running shoes, and once a week in Vibrams, I switched to exclusively to running in Vibrams.

Before the switch, my knees hurt when I ran faster than 6 minutes per kilometer, and my typical cruising speed was 6:30min/km. Now my cruising speed is between 5:30min/km and 5:00min/km. I cut off around 25 minutes of my half-marathon time. My current goal is to run 10 km in 45 minutes - 4:30min/km on average, and I can now run 3 km at that speed.

So my speed has increased. It didn't come with the shoes, it came from slowly adapting to a different running style.

But most importantly, barefoot running is fun - I look forward to every training pass, and that's really important if you want to exercise several times a week.

Note that this is my personal experience - Barefoot running might not work for you at all, so remember to listen to your body. Just because it was the right thing for me, it's not necessarily the right thing for you.

Good luck!

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First, let me address the misconception in your post. Your heel touching first is not necessarily heel striking. Unless your heel is still out in front of your center of gravity when the majority of your weight is on that leg (overstriding), you probably are not heel striking and are more likely already running either mid or forefoot. It has to do more with the loading phase of the run stride than it does which part of the shoe touches first.

For your shin splints, or tibial stress syndrome, there can be many different causes, one of the most common of which is simply overuse. This can be caused by either markedly increasing your distance or your intensity in a short period of time. Shoes not fitted for your gait, or ones that are worn out and have compromised soles can also contribute.

As Robin notes, there are other conditions that can produce or mimic the pain that is commonly called shin splints (Some of which can be serious), so you should have it checked by a pro.

On a more personal view, I'm not a fan of Chi/Pose or any other trendy "run on your toes" style of running. Truly running on your toes is a sprinter style, and not really sustainable for more than sprint distances. I've seen more injuries from people trying to adapt to not letting their heel touch than actually paying attention to how they really run.

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