Training exclusively on grass

I suffer greatly from shin splints, caused by sprinting on a tartan track. I cannot consistently do more than a week of low volume speed work on a tartan track.

If I did all my training (i.e. speed and tempo) on grass would I be greatly disadvantaged? I would use spikes for speed and flats for tempo.

How would I fair training exclusively on grass and then competing occasionally on tartan?

Is training exclusively on grass a sound option to dealing with shin splints?

I have tried every thing recommend to deal with shin splints (i.e. ice, massage, lost weight, “worked through them”) but I still cannot consistently do more than a weeks training on tartan.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Background information

Height 194cm
Weight 87kg
No serious athletic background
Determined to improve

Originally posted by The Privateer


Is it possible to have a stress fracture and not know about it?

I would venture that all the pain you are expereincing is telling you something! It’s probably not a stress fracture, but it’s worth getting checked out. Then, like I said before, I would make my #1 priority to get pain free before I worried about training.


A good therapist could have a look at gait and posture and maybe reccomend podiatory and get you fit for insoles.

Those who know me will tell you I’ve been suffering with Achilles problems for the last 5 years. It probably will never be cured, so it’s a matter of controlling it

I do all my tempo workouts on grass, and all my short speed (less than 40m) on grass with an old pair of spikes and 9mm needles.

After 40m, it’s difficult to maintain the proper hip hieght, so speed endurance (up to 150m) days are done on the track with regular spikes. Ice right away when you get home.

For special endurance (i.e. 500m) I used to use a pair of ultra-lightweight spikeless road-racing shoes.

Finally, for competition, I don’t put on the spikes until the every last minute, when I’m called to the blocks. Kevin Young (400mH) did this, so I am told.

I would definitely do all of my tempo on grass, but I would probably try to do my speed work on the track.

The volume of your speed work should be low enough that you should be able to work up to handling this.

I used to have problems with shin splints, but I found that strengthening the muscle on the front of my shin really helped fix the problem. I used a DARD device to exercise this muscle, but you can also use a bicycle inner tube. Basically, you want to have resistanced when you pull your toes towards your knee (dorsiflexion.)

Good luck!



Tempo on wet grass is not a problem. In fact the other day I did a tempo session (i.e. 25200m) while it was raining. There would be grip problems when doing speed work on wet grass (only really wet grass, damp grass would be fine). But I feel it would be better to miss the odd speed workout due to wet grass than to miss weeks due to shin splints.


No I have not tried taking any aspirin. I would prefer not to have to be medicated just to run. But I have tried ice and self-massage (i.e. rubbing leg from knee to ankle with and without oil) but neither provided much relief.


I already do my tempo on grass in flats. But it is the speed sessions on tartan in spikes that are the problem. After a long break the first speed session goes well. But the next one (i.e. two days later) is unbearable painful. I believe that the muscles of my lower leg are well developed (i.e. 17 inches in circumference cold) including the Tibialis Anterior. But I will try your suggestion, thank you.


I like your suggestion about competition warm ups. Would you tell me more about your experiences with short speed work on grass? What changes need to be made to spikes when sprinting on grass? Also why is there a problem with hip height with sprinting on grass?


I really do not see how a paediatrist would help.

I have gotten good speed gains off of primarily grass training. I think you should occasionaly do sprints on a more solid surface though. But again you must do what you can handle. It doesn’t matter if you can run a 9.79 if you can’t step on the track.

but what if it is too wet or muddy to run on?

The Privateer,

I find after you accelerate, say around 40-50m, you basically want to “stay tall” and step over, and the uneven surface makes it hard to do so. I find my hips “collapse/sink” when sprinting on grass surfaces.

also, use an old pair of spikes, and the longest needles you can find. With the wet grass surface, the spikes will get muddy/wet/worn after a season or two or three.

The Privateer
Have you tried taking a couple of aspirin about an hour b4 you do speed training on tarten.It seems to do the job and with ice massage after the session you should be ok for a further speed session in two or three days and with luck you may be able to gradually train thru the shin soreness.

What if the grass is too wet to do tempo on? How should tempo be done then?

Try running with soccer-shoes when you do speedwork on grass, then you probably can go full out without loosing grip and get focus on the runs… :mrt:

Mebbe u could incorperate 1 track session into ur week by making it ur last session allowing a greater time for recovery ?
I once found I got shin splints despite training full time on grass - because of the hard ground .
The only way I got rid of them was by completely cutting back on the amount of reps I did to almost nothing and then gradually buildng back up .
In retrospect weight was definately the original problem for me - at 80kg everything is easier .
A good set of flats like puma cellerators definately helps too - they really take the sting out of the ground and are light enough for real sprints .
Good luck

As long as your shin soreness is periostitis I would also consider asprin if it means getting a second quality speed session out of a week. If you are only doing one speed session a week (whether on good quality grass or track) you may not increase your speed easily. The next speed session needs to be performed before the adaptions from the previous speed session are lost. One aspirin before training a couple of times a week is a small amount. I know of sprinters who constantly train with shin soreness (periostitis type) and aspirin which does not lead to any real problems other than a few days off now and then. But if you do take aspirin just be aware that the underlying soreness is not spiralling out of control. Soluble aspirin is best since it does not crystalise and cause gut problems.

Good point Richard - the effects of long term aspirin use seem to be quite minimal - but make sure it’s not hiding a more fundamental issue.

Are you sure yo don’t have a stress fracture? You really shouldn’t be having that much chronic pain. If you do, then you must first address the underlying problem and get to the point where you are pain free before you can really worry about making progress in your sprinting.


Privateer -
if the athletes posture is incorrect or lower leg\calf\ankle muscles are tight casuing an incorrect foot strike ofetn associated with those who have experienced ankle ligament damage - incorrect stress may be placed on the front of the shins or achilles.
A therapist\podiatrist or good physio may be able to diagnose and offer, as part of treatment or as a temporary solution, insoles to correct the gait and foot strike.


I will stop being so pig headed and see a paediatrist. What questions should I ask them?


Is it possible to have a stress fracture and not know about it?

Richard Hand

You are spot on; my problem has always been getting the second or third speed/speed endurance session in the week. What is periostitis and how do you diagnose it as opposed to other problems?


I have lost quite a bit of weight (i.e. 97kg to 87kg, 85kg in the near future) and still have the same problem. In the near term I am going to do all running on grass.


Grip really is not a problem at the moment. I just have to get some consistent training.


Is it just a matter of getting long spikes in standard track spikes? Can more training on grass or finding a more even grass surface overcome the problem of the hips sinking on grass?


If the grass is too wet I will just have to miss the odd speed session.


Would you share your experiences of training on grass, in particular how it differed from tartan?

On a side not have there been any elite athlete who have done the bulk of their training on grass out of either desire or necessity? How much slower do you run on grass as opposed to tartan (i.e. world record verses fastest times on grass)?

Thank you for all of your help!

Training exclusively on grass

Marijuana is illegal sir, and I hardly think this board is the place to discuss your illicit activities.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. :smiley: Seriously, get those shin splits checked out and/or healed up. God bless.