23.06.2024

Running fast is the leading cause of shin splints

It’s long been thought that walking and running up a hill is the leading cause of the common injury shin splints. The problem causes sudden, intense pain along the shin – the front of the part of the leg between the knee and foot.

Walking at an incline is thought to put excess pressure on the anterior tibialis muscle at the front of the leg, causing the uncomfortable sensation.

But new research suggests this is not the case, and instead it is the speed you’re running at that is to blame.

Scientists at the University of Calgary in Canada recruited 17 volunteers and put motion sensor trackers on different parts of their legs while running.

New research suggests the speed you’re running at that is to blame for shin splints (file photo)

New research suggests the speed you're running at that is to blame for shin splints (file photo)

Each volunteer completed a number of runs – which included three different speeds and five levels of inclination.

Motion capture technology was used to measure the force of the feet hitting the treadmill.

The researchers analysed the data from the sensors to determine the force, acceleration and speed of leg movement in the different running scenarios. They then inputted the information into a sophisticated computer programme which worked out the resulting strain on the shin bones and muscles.

The analysis showed that running speed had by far the greatest impact on the shins.

Michael Baggaley, author of the study at the University of Calgary, said his team ‘didn’t see a difference in strains when you run uphill or downhill.

‘But it was obvious that when volunteers ran faster, the strain increased quite a bit’.

Mr Baggaley added that adjusting to changing terrains has served more of an evolutionary purpose through history, as opposed to changing pace.

Scientists at the University of Calgary in Canada recruited 17 volunteers and put motion sensor trackers on different parts of their legs while running (file photo)

Scientists at the University of Calgary in Canada recruited 17 volunteers and put motion sensor trackers on different parts of their legs while running (file photo)

The researchers said that their findings suggest that running at a faster pace also carries a higher risk of stress fracture compared to running uphill.

However, other factors are crucial for preventing fractures – such as calcium deficiency and previous bone injuries.

A 2021 analysis of commonly-Googled enquiries found that searches for ‘help with shin splints’ had soared by 600 per cent in a year.

Experts say the best way to recover from a severe case of shin splints is to take at least two days of full rest.

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