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Are sore shins holding you back from regular runs? That was me about 3 years ago. As a soccer player when I was younger I did a lot of running. Fast forward 10 years and I was late 20’s, out of shape, and under the illusion that I could simply pull on some runners and pump out a 5km run 2 or 3 times a week to regain some level of fitness… instead, I was met with sore shins, knee pain and regular missteps leading to a number of rolled ankles. If you can relate then please read on to find out how with a little knowledge you cast greatly reduce shin pain. I will also present a range of neutral shoe and stability shoe options that will help you to prevent shin splints.
There were a number of factors contributing to my running frustrations but persistent pain in my shins was the main issue standing between me and a return to the athletic prowess I enjoyed in my teen years. For months I was in an annoying cycle of getting in a good 4 or 5 runs following which I would need 8 to 12 days of no running to allow my shins to recover.
Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and see a physiotherapist about my issue. I was relieved to hear that I was not over the hill but instead suffering from aggravated lower leg muscles that were copping a hammering every time I ran. The other thing I did was visit a local shoe store that informed me of my tendency to overpronate. I now know that everyone’s feet are slightly different and learned that the shoes I had at the time (a very sexy-looking pair of orange Asics) were the exact opposite of what I needed. Sore shins, knees, and ankles were all being exaggerated because my lower leg muscles were working overtime to correct for the instability stemming from shoes that did not suit my feet.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints refer to the often excruciating pain that runs up the front of the shin bone (tibia). Left untreated stress fractures can develop which can take months to recover.
What causes shin Splints?
According to the Mayo Clinic shin splints which are otherwise known as medial tibial stress syndrome and are commonly linked to an increase in activity which can overwork the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. This was certainly the trigger for me.
How to help shin pain from running
Over time your muscles and tendons will adapt and the pain should eventually dissipate. My own experience however was that this is not necessarily a quick process and the downtime whilst you are recovering can be rather disheartening.
My top suggestions to prevent and treat shin splints are as follows:
1) Choose the right running shoes:
Foot and leg pain is inevitable without the correct shoe choice to ensure ankle support, a secure fit, and a natural running feel. After some research, I determined that I have a tendency to overpronate which means my feet tend to roll in and flatten out as I run or walk. You may be lucky and have more neutral pronation or alternatively, you may tend to under pronate.
Without a shoe that caters to your natural footfall, it is impossible to maintain proper form in your running and without proper form, injury is sure to follow.
Determining which particular running shoes will suit you best requires you to first assess your foot shape. You can do this by lightly wetting your feet, putting a piece of paper down on the floor and standing on the paper. When you step away the sections of your foot that come in contact with the ground will be shown by the watermark left on the paper.
You can compare your foot imprint with the below images. Selecting the closest match will enable you to determine whether you have a neutral foot strike (see “normal” in the image below), a tendency to overpronate (see “flat” in the image below) or underpronate (See “high” or “very high” below).
Those of you with a normal strike will typically want to opt for a “Neutral Shoe” whilst those with Flat feet or high arches will want to opt for a “stability shoe”.
We have set out below a list of the best running shoes for shin splints according to your foot type.
Stability running shoes (for those with flat feet who tend to roll inwards)
Last update on 2023-03-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
The GTS 21 features a guide rail system that replaces the classic (and heavy) support used in the majority of shoes in this category. The guide rails are two sections of soft plastic along the sides of the shoes near the arches and heel.
Whenever your foot turns backwards it is gently placed in place by the rails. This enables a safe running movement that doesn’t strain your legs and foot while you run.
I personally have relatively flat feet and the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 are my current shoe of choice. I previously owned a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19’s and when I had worn them out I didn’t think twice about grabbing another pair. After some time running in these shoes I felt myself spending less energy consciously thinking about foot placement and attempting to manually correct my running form. These are a very durable shoe which combined with the wide toe box and cushioned midsole these are a great all round running shoe well suited to help you avoid shin splints.
Asics Gel Kayano 28
The dynamic duomax support system in these shoes is designed to assist with stability and reduce the tendency of the foot to roll inwards. Fans of these shoes report getting upto 800kms out of each pair as compared to some others shoes that can lose their support after only 400kms.
New Balance Fresh Foam 880 v11
The New Balance Fresh Foam 880 v11 has midsole cushioning that has been engineered to deliver a soft ride and the molded external heel counter helps limit heel movement. These shoes really are designed with comfort in mind which are therefore well suited to those running long distances.
Neutral Running Shoes (for those with medium feet arches)
Last update on 2023-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Brooks Ghost 14 GTX
The Brooks Ghost 14 are a great everyday trainer. The cushioning is mid level and well suited to those who are not looking for extreme cushioning. Brooks has been able to produce a shoe that not only fits well with users feeling their midfoot was secure but at the same time runners reported sufficient space in the toe box. In addition to the roomy toe box, the other feature runners really like about this shoe is the heel cushioning. Overall this show provides for a very smooth ride. The only real negative is that these shoes are ever so slightly on the heavy side.
New Balance fresh foam 1080 v11
Runners report great cushioning once these shoes have been run in (10 – 15 miles) and excellent shock absorption which is why they have made this list for avoiding shin splints. The negatives are twofold being firstly that runners reported a cramped toe box and secondly that the standard laces have a tendency to come untied.
Asics Gel nimbus 23
The Asics Gel nimbus 23 are Asics most cushioned road running shoe. Runners report a very smooth ride and a soft cushioned feeling underfoot. These shoes will be well suited to those running up to middle distance (15 km / 10 miles). If you are running longer distances the extreme cushioning in these shoes makes them less suitable because the additional cushioning and shoe weight can lead to faster fatigue.
Support Running shoes (for those with high feet arches)
Those runners with high arches looking to avoid shin splints will benefit from a cushioned shoe to assist with shock absorption.
Last update on 2023-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Nike zoom fly 4
These shoes are feature a double-layer mesh upper. A softer inner mesh layer sees the upper feeling more like a sock than a shoe. These shoes are built with a more competitive runner in mind given their lightweight. The under sole foam is relatively dense and runners report a feeling of firmness and stability.
Brooks Hyperion tempo running shoe
The shoe contains Brooks DNA flash midsole which is designed to provide lightweight yet responsive cushioning. The soft cushioning combined with the lightweight and responsive ride all come together to help with a faster recovery after each run so this shoe is well suited to prevent shin splints.
Mizuno Wave Runner 25
Mizuno have designed these shoes with an emphasis on a smooth ride. The soles contain the famous Mizuno Wave Plate which provides both support and cushioning to aid in providing a smooth transition from heel to toe. This shoe is the 2nd oldest neutral daily trainer and at model number 25 you can rest assured there is a lot of research that has gone into this shoe over the years. This shoe is best suited to casual runners who are not looking to set any speed records. The negatives are a real difference between a firm heel and a softer forefoot. Whilst suitable for slower runners the heel vs forefoot firmness gap is a hindrance to faster runners who report a feeling of discomfort in the forefoot and toes under fast transitions. The other main negative is price, these are not cheap shoes.
2) Get some arch support:
I found that the extra cushioning from a relatively low profile inner sole made a real difference in terms of shock absorption. I have relatively flat arches. You don’t need to spend a fortune, I opted for a basic Dr Sholl’s running insole.
3) Stretching and foam rolling:
Your muscles are always going to perform better if you can establish some degree of flexibility to help prevent shin splints. Stretching your calves, Achilles tendon, and the front shin (tibialis anterior) will assist with ankle mobility. Here are some quick stretching tips to get you started.
4) Compression socks
Compression socks or calf compression sleeves are a worthwhile investment for any runner. They will assist to keep inflammation down, relieving shin splint pain, and preventing your legs from swelling. You can pick up 5) Avoid running on hard surfaces where possible
Running on hard surfaces such as concrete or roads is will aggravate shin splints. Where possible you should look to run on grass. Icing your shins after running is a great way to reduce swelling and inflammation. You should avoid putting ice directly on your shins by first wrapping your shins with a towel. Apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes or otherwise as long as you feel comfortable. We hope you found this guide useful and that you will be out running free from shin pain shortly. If you are also suffering from sore calves you can check out our thoughts here: should I run with tight calves?
6) Ice your shins
Running on hard surfaces such as concrete or roads is will aggravate shin splints. Where possible you should look to run on grass.
Icing your shins after running is a great way to reduce swelling and inflammation. You should avoid putting ice directly on your shins by first wrapping your shins with a towel. Apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes or otherwise as long as you feel comfortable.
We hope you found this guide useful and that you will be out running free from shin pain shortly.
If you are also suffering from sore calves you can check out our thoughts here: should I run with tight calves?