Shin splints are extremely common for runners but can occur with many different sports, as well, especially dancing and military activities (and even just for people who walk a lot in the wrong footwear). And, your athletic ability or how competitive you are in your sport will not determine whether or not you are likely to suffer from shin splints, as this condition does not tend to discriminate and every runner, or every active person, is at risk for experiencing this condition at some point. Fortunately, shin splints are almost always fully treatable, and may even be fully preventable when you find the best running shoes for shin splints.
Almost every runner will experience shin splints at some point during their running life. The term “shin splints” refers to any pain between the knee and ankle, on the front or sides of your leg. In other words, pain in your shins. Most commonly, the pain is located along the inner border of the front of your lower leg (tibia bone) in the areas where muscles and ligaments attach to the bone. This condition can be extremely painful in some cases, but can range from some slight discomfort to excruciating pain that prevents you from being able to run at all.
Running is only becoming more and more popular as a form of exercise or a hobby. It is (comparatively) inexpensive, very convenient, and extremely effective for improving fitness. However, it can also be a recipe for disaster if you are not properly educated or prepared, and if you fail to understand that there are not only huge benefits but also significant risks involved. Shin splints is one of the most common running injuries reported, with millions of people each year experiencing this painful condition. You want to avoid being sidelined by this common, preventable, and treatable injury.
Learn about the potential problems, such as shin splints, so that you can be prepared to deal with this type of injury. Find out about shin splints, what causes them, how to treat them, how to prevent them, and how to find the best running shoes for shin splints so that you can fully enjoy this highly motivating and rewarding form of exercise and reap the many benefits.
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What are Shin Splints?
Simply put, the term “shin splints” refers to pain in the shins. Medically referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints is a condition where the muscles and tendons in the shin area become swollen or inflamed, causing pain upon every step. Sometimes there are even microtears that can occur in the muscles, tendons, and bones. With overuse, the smaller tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the shin area can become very stressed. Shin splints can be a very painful condition. Fortunately, shin splints are almost always treatable, they can typically be self-diagnosed (there are usually no x-rays or lab tests except perhaps in extreme or chronic cases), and they can usually be healed in the short term (usually about 3-6 weeks, for most cases).
Shin splints can, however, come with other injuries, including knee and hip pain. The ligaments and muscles in your legs are all connected, which can allow inflammation to travel, particularly when not properly addressed and treated. If the pain is not limited to just your shin area, and it is not easily corrected using simple methods, you should consult a doctor who specializes in sport injuries to help you narrow down the issue and offer potential solutions.
Brooks Ghost Women’s Shoe – Best Womens Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Neutral Support
- New Design Compared To Other Models
This running shoe features extremely lightweight construction and smooth transition from the heel-to-toe, which allows you to improve your performance and avoid injury. The support is neutral, with medium-to-high arch support, and good for those who pronate or flex while running. Cushioning provides extra energizing by keeping the impact softer. The Brooks Ghost 11 is intended for road running.
The outer material is constructed from earth-friendly, breathable, stretchy, engineered mesh, and the removable foam insert is made from BioMoGo DNA and Brooks DNA, making the shoe very responsive. Inside the shoe you will find a soft plush tongue and collar with a soft fabric lining for extra comfort, and a full-segmented crash pad to meet the needs of any foot landing pattern. The soft rubber forefront gives excellent grip to the road. Measurements include 12mm differential and 30mm/18mm heel-toe.
Saucony Freedom Mens – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Extra Energy With Each Step
- Lightweight Mesh Design
- Premium Price Depending On Size
This innovative road running shoe provides extra energy with each step you take, thanks to the introduction of the Everun midsole. The upper is constructed from extremely lightweight mesh material, making your strides easy. Dynamic fit is achieved by ISOFIT technology. A crystal rubber outsole gives the shoe excellent gripping potential. The shoe provides good support and a neutral step, helping to correct for pronation and maximize performance.
Nike Air Zoom – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- High Quality
- Neutral Support
- Nike Isn’t Usually Known as Leader In Running Shoes
Nike continues to deliver high-quality running shoes with the latest model of the Zoom. Great cushioning and neutral support help improve performance and offer excellent comfort for any distance. The unique Zoom air units allow for deflection of impact, softening the blow of each step. Lightweight mesh upper and sturdy outsole make this shoe a great option for those seeking affordable comfort.
Brooks Ghost – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Comfortable Feel
- Smooth Footstrike
- Very Flexible
Like the women’s version of the Ghost 11, the men’s shoe offers terrific support, smooth stepping, and a lightweight design that allows for high responsiveness. Best for neutral footstrikes, the shoe has excellent comfort and flexibility, with great breathability.
Hoka One – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Helps Foot Issues Like Non-Other
- Added Support
- Unique Design Choice
The Hoka One One series of running shoes is following the latest trend of maximalist cushioning for running shoes. The midsole is highly emphasized, offering more than two and a half times the volume of a standard running shoe. This increased volume allows for those with foot problems, shin splints, and other orthopedic issues to gain support. It is important to remember that there are many different types of Hoka One One shoes, and each model provides different stability and support for road and trail running. The differential for this shoe is higher than most of the minimalist running shoes on the market today.
Asics Gel Womens – Best Womens Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Premium Stability
- Efficient Gait
- Asics Aren’t For Everyone
This shoe offers excellent stability thanks to the Dynamic DuoMax support system, which provides lightweight platform support. With a vertical flex groove, the tooling along the line of progression is decoupled, leading to a more efficient gait. Asics uses a philosophy of design, specifically the Impact Guidance System, linking componentry of the shoes to enhance the natural gait between heel strike and toe-off steps. Excellent bounce comes from the unique Flytefoam Propel Technology made from an elastomer compound. The combination of these state-of-the-art technological advances provides exceptional comfort and neutral stability, energizing you through each step you take.
Saucony Triumph – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Excellent Design & Feel
- Unique Midsole
This shoe offers superior cushioning and a lightweight design. After examining the biomechanics of many top athletes, Saucony developed shoe technologies that include an Everun topsole for comfort, a PWRGRID+ midsole for cushion, and an SRC landing zone to protect you from the impact of each step. With an 8mm offset, this shoe helps to neutralize your gait pattern effectively, allowing you to enjoy your running more.
New Balance Cruz – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Thick Heel For Comfort
- Knit Design
Known for their comfortable shoes, this latest offering from New Balance is especially breathable and flexible, with a very lightweight outer that forms to the shape of your feet. The minimalistic design with a thick heel provides great comfort and cushioning. This shoe does tend to offer less arch support than other neutral shoes. The bootie construction, made from FreshFoam material helps with getting the shoes on and off effortlessly.
Brooks Adrenaline – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Designed For Shin Splint Relief
- Higher Heel To Toe Drop
This running shoe is designed to help runners who experience shin splints and knee pain. As one of the best running shoes for shin splints and knee pain, this shoe has a higher differential (12mm), but offers tremendous comfort from the new GuideRails support system, which helps neutralize excessive movement while running. Plenty of cushioning is available with the BioMoGo DNA and DNA Loft cushioning, to make running feel easy. This shoe is also designed for those runners with a flatter arch, as limited arch support is available.
Adidas Ultraboost – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Designed For Comfort
- Performance Driven
- Adidas Isn’t a Common Running Shoe
The Adidas Ultraboost is a running shoe that offers comfortable fit and responsive cushioning. The StretchWeb outsole and Primekit upper both contribute to offer extra boost and performance. Feel confident in every step, with perfect grip and custom fit, you will never sacrifice comfort for performance.
Saucony Mens – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Added Cushion
- Seamless Construction
- Unique Midsole
Like the other Saucony models, the PowerGrid full-length cushioning takes care of your comfort during every step. The dual-density SSL EVA midsole, impact zone protection, and 10-ounce weight make this shoe perfect for high performance needs. The inside of the shoe offers a moisture-wicking collar and ComfortLite sockliner to keep your feet dry.
Asics Nimbus 20 – Best Running Shoes For Shin Splints
- Multi-Directional Stretch
- Technology Driven
- Heavier Shoe
This running shoe offers a low differential from heel-to-toe. There is a special technology, the FluidFit Upper, which gives multi-directional stretch to fully adapt to just about any foot. Seamless construction limits opportunities for chafing and blistering. Extra support comes in the form of a heel-clutching technology and provides extra comfort and no slippage. The special FluidRide midsole, unique to Asics, gives great cushioning properties with limited weight added.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are caused by the repetitive motion of your feet contacting the ground, and the enormous amount of pressure that is caused by that impact. Over time, the small connective tissues in your lower legs become inflamed, and this can be very painful. Some of the most common causes of shin splints include having flat feet, wearing shoes that do not provide the proper support for your activity or your body, failing to properly warm up or cool down before and after working out, increasing your workout intensity or volume too quickly or suddenly, running on an uneven surface or sloped (cambered) road, and having weak leg, hip, and core muscles. With the exception of having flat feet genetically (which can be helped in many instances), each of these causes is quite treatable and can help you get rid of and prevent recurrence of shin splints.
Runners who tend to pronate while running (turn their foot in medially) may be more susceptible to shin splints, as this style of gait may put more pressure on the muscles and ligaments in the shin area. Pronation refers to the amount of movement from side to side that you have with your natural gait while running or walking (also called eversion). Over time, this movement can lead to injury. You can help to remedy this situation by finding the best running shoes for pronation and shin splints which can help neutralize your gait and reduce the pressure on your shins.
Change It Up –
Also, if you tend to run the same exact running route regularly, any camber in the road (the slope of the road required for proper drainage) can lead to an uneven gait, which could cause shin splints or other problems. A simple solution to this problem would be to run the route in reverse occasionally, to alter the gait patterns your body is exposed to due to the terrain.
Could It Be Something More Serious Than Shin Splints?
Although shin splints are considered to be self-diagnosable in most cases, if they do not go away as expected, or worsen even when you are resting, icing, and taking anti-inflammatory medications, you should see a doctor to make sure that you don’t have a more serious problem that is appearing as shin splints. If you flex your foot, this tends to make shin splints a bit more painful, so this is another way to help determine if that is your true problem.
Other conditions that have shin pain as a primary symptom could include stress fractures, which is best described as a small crack in the bone (although the pain of a stress fracture is often more localized than the pain of shin splints, which is spread over a large area). If you use your fingertips to press on different areas around your lower leg and there is one specific area that is far more tender, this could be a sign of a stress fracture. Your doctor may consider performing a bone scan to get more information.
Leg Pain –
If your lower leg pain is located primarily on the outer side of your leg, rather than the inside edge of your shin, this may not be due to shin splints. Compartment syndrome is a condition that involves swelling of muscles in a small space (a closed compartment). This is a painful condition that will also limit your mobility. Diagnosis of compartment syndrome requires special tests that are performed by a doctor and you should seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you may have this condition, as opposed to straightforward shin splints.
If your symptoms are not the classic, simple symptoms of shin splints then you should consider seeing a doctor to make sure you are not making a serious error with your self-diagnosis. Chances are you are experiencing shin splints, but it is essential that you don’t miss a more serious problem if your symptoms are at all unusual or if they do not improve fairly quickly.
How Can You Prevent Shin Splints?
Whether or not you have ever experienced shin splints, it is a condition you should be aware of as a runner or an athlete of any type. Shin splints are generally considered to be preventable, although most people don’t give this condition a second thought until they experience the tremendous pain that it can cause. Preventing shin splints may be possible with the right strategies.
First, it is important to know your body well. Runners are notorious for knowing their bodies well, but also ignoring certain signs and “running through the pain.” If you find that your shins are sore after a run, it is important to address the problem promptly. There are certain stretches that you can do that can help with recovery from the initial symptoms of shin splints. Icing and anti-inflammatory medicines can also help.
Proper Care –
Make sure that you properly warm up before working out. Don’t just dive into a strenuous workout without warming up your muscles. This is a recipe for injury, and not just shin splints. Cool down is another important part of every workout. Many runners and athletes forego the proper warm up and cool down periods, perhaps thinking that because they are “in shape” they don’t need to worry about these parts. Both warming up and cooling down help your muscles balance themselves for your exercise routine, and not only prepare but also recover from the workout properly. Invest the time in taking care of your body to prevent shin splints and other injuries.
Learn about your personal running style. Find out if you tend to have a neutral gait, or whether you pronate or supinate while running (turn your feet inward or outward). People with each of these gait patterns can benefit from having the best running shoes to prevent shin splints, as well as other injuries that tend to plague runners regularly.
How Can You Heal Shin Splints?
Shin splints is a condition that will typically heal itself over time. The most important thing you can do right away is to stop running, and opt for low impact forms of exercise (or complete rest, depending on how severe your pain is). You can hasten the recovery by using the typical methods of rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatory medications (unless your doctor says this is not a good idea for you), and getting the proper footwear to support your body during your preferred activity. If you find that you are suffering from shin splints, you should seriously consider taking a break from any high-impact activities. If you cannot fully rest your body and avoid working out, choose alternative low-impact forms of exercise like spin classes, swimming, or elliptical machines for a few weeks to give your shins a rest from the impact.
Ice your shins regularly if you have shin splints. For almost any injury, ice is one of your best friends. It can dramatically reduce inflammation, which will lead to less pain. When using ice on your injuries or painful areas, use a bag of ice (with a towel to protect your skin), and apply the ice for a series of 20-30 minute periods of icing and not icing. Do this several times per day for best results.
Proper Fit –
Get a proper shoe fitting. Choosing the best running shoes for shin splints will ultimately depend on your comfort. But, consulting with experts can be an important step in finding the best solutions. A proper shoe fitting will involve having multiple measurements of your foot taken by someone quite experienced. You may be surprised to discover that you don’t even know your real shoe size! The experts will measure not only your shoe size, but where your arch is in relation to your entire foot, whether you have a high or low arch, and any other anomalies that may impact shoe selection.
The best experts are able to watch you run barefoot for a few minutes on a treadmill to observe your natural foot strike pattern, learning about whether you have a neutral, pronated, or supinated foot strike. This will help them recommend the best running shoes for shin splints. Many of the top running stores even have technology to measure your feet while you stand on a sensor, taking even more accurate measurements than the standard non-tech equipment. With these recommendations, it can be easier to find the best running shoes for shin splints.
The top stores that sell the best running shoes for shin splints will be able to present you with multiple options when it comes to the best running shoes for you. They will allow you to try them on and run on some type of indoor track to test them out, even if briefly. Most of the top stores will even allow you to return the shoes after 30 days if you are not happy with them, as long as you try another pair.
Time & Patience –
There is no official way to tell when shin splints are healed, as there is no test to actually diagnose the condition. It can often take 3-6 weeks for shin splints to resolve. You will know that they are healed when you can walk or run without pain, and your gait is not affected by painful shin splints. Be careful to not rush right back into your regular workouts until you are sure that your shin splints are healed, or you may cause your condition to worsen. This is a condition that can become chronic if you choose to ignore the symptoms. You should increase volume of running by no more than 10% each week (e.g., if you run 5 miles a few times per week, you should only increase to 5.5 miles for the next week).
Hills and hard surfaces may also make your re-entry into running more difficult, so keep the terrain easy while you get readjusted to your running routine. Should your shin splints not resolve in an expected time frame, it is wise to see a doctor who specializes in sports injuries, or a physical therapist who may be able to recommend specific stretches or exercises to combat the problem effectively. These professionals may also quickly recognize if your condition is not straightforward shin splints and perhaps something that may be more serious and require different interventions or treatments.
Stretches for Shin Splints
There are several stretches that you can try that may help to relieve your shin splints more quickly. Having loose muscles can help prevent not only shin splints, but most running injuries. The calf muscles and Achilles tendon are important parts of the leg for running, and warming them up appropriately can help prevent shin splints. Learn about how to properly stretch your Achilles when you have shin splints.
One effective way to do this is to kneel down on a soft or cushioned surface, point your toes straight back, and gently let your body weight down onto your legs. Hold the position for about 10 seconds, if you are able. Rest for 10-20 seconds, then perform the same movement again. Repeat 3-4 times, several times per day. If you are experiencing shin splints, this stretch may be quite painful at first, but as you stick with it you will find that it does help to relieve the symptoms.
Effective Stretches –
Another effective way to stretch shin splints is to use your toes to trace invisible alphabet letters on the floor, while you are in a sitting position. Spend about 10 minutes, a couple of times a day, performing this motion. A third method of stretching your shins and helping or preventing shin splints is to alternate heel and regular walking patterns for 30-second intervals, a few times per day.
If you have had shin splints in the past, you may be able to prevent recurrence by making these simple stretches, as well as other calf and Achilles stretches, a regular part of your routine. It cannot be overstated that taking care of your muscles and ligaments can help to prevent running injuries.
Does Heel-to-Toe Drop Matter When it Comes to the Best Running Shoes for Shin Splints?
When you are shopping for the best running shoes for shin splints. You will see references to the differential, or the space between the heel-to-toe drop. Experts disagree on how much this matters when it comes to preventing injury. However, understanding some basics can help you make the best choice. While minimalist running shoes were a hot commodity several years ago (think barefoot running or toe-shoes), a wider variety of options is now preferred by most. Many experts do agree that a low heel-to-toe drop (and many of the shoes reviewed for this article have about an 8-10mm drop, considered low) can lead to fewer injuries.
Some of the more supportive shoes, including the Hoka One One have a higher differential. That said, it may not lead to development of shin splints, but is intended for different types of support. When it comes to preventing shin splints, finding the best running shoes for shin splints and knee pain, or other types of problems. Reducing the impact of each step is often important. For other types of injuries or conditions, a higher level of cushioning or support may be preferred.
Regardless of what the research says, each runner is unique and every person should try several different running shoes to find what fits their style best. Too low of a drop or too high of a differential could lead to different types of injury, depending on your running style, your running volume, and your running experience.
Having shin splints does not make you unique, but your running style just might. Learning about what shin splints are, what causes them, how to treat them, how to prevent them, and how to find the best running shoes for shin splints or the best running shoes for shin splints and knee pain can make them a distant memory in your experience. Invest the time to learn about the different running shoes that are available today, and make the choice that is best for you, which is the one that makes you enjoy running (injury-free) the most.