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8 Ways to Prevent Shin Splints When Running

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By: KURU Footwear
Learn more about 8 effective ways on how to prevent shin splints when running.

Shin splints are a common, painful issue among runners. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints cause pain along the inner part of the shinbone. This pain can make it hard to stick to a regular running routine and can affect how well you run.

Knowing how to prevent shin splints when running is key to keeping up with your training and improving your running performance. By focusing on prevention, you can enjoy a healthier, more enjoyable running experience.

Below we’ve gathered a list of eight ways to help you avoid this painful injury. Let’s check them out!

Key Takeaways

  • Shin splints, characterized by pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, are a common issue for runners that can disrupt training routines and lead to extended recovery periods.
  • There are several ways to prevent shin splints, including wearing the right footwear, regular stretching, and listening to your body. By prioritizing prevention, you can enhance your running experience and maintain better overall health.
  • Your heels are critical in running. Without proper support, repetitive heel strikes can lead to foot pain and an increased risk of shin splints. KURU’s footwear technologies safeguard your feet against our hard, flat world.

1. Design an Appropriate Training Plan

An incremental approach is key in creating a training plan for running that minimizes the risk of shin splints. Beginners, especially, should prioritize steady progression over pushing themselves too quickly. Starting with a walk-to-run program allows the body to adapt gradually and reduces the strain on muscles and joints.

Increasing your mileage by no more than 10% per week ensures your training is steady without overwhelming the body. This gentle increase discourages a “too much, too soon” mentality, where runners eagerly pile on mileage without adequate recovery time.

Emphasizing rest days is crucial for injury prevention. Muscles need time to repair and strengthen, and pushing through fatigue only heightens the risk of overuse injuries like shin splints. Listening to your body is very important—any hint of pain should signal a need to dial back intensity or mileage.

By understanding how to prevent shin splints through an appropriate training plan, you can protect yourself against the pain and setbacks of this common overuse injury.

2. Wear the Right Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is essential in how to help prevent shin splints and ensuring a comfortable, injury-free running experience. Running shoes are designed to cater to the specific demands of running—a predominantly linear activity that involves repetitive forward motion. Their structure, especially the cushioning and shock absorption in the midsole, is tailored to minimize impact on the feet, ankles, and knees.

Robust cushioning systems in running shoes—focused on the midsole and made of specialized foam compounds—effectively absorb shock during foot strikes. This reduces strain and the risk of injuries, including shin splints. Additionally, running shoes offer exceptional support elements like arch support, which is vital for runners who overpronate.

The breathability of running shoes, achieved through lightweight, porous materials in the shoe’s upper construction, ensures improved airflow. This feature not only keeps feet cool and dry but also helps prevent blisters and reduces foot odor, particularly during extended training sessions or in warmer climates.

Lastly, each type of running shoe is built with specific features to optimize performance and safety, so it’s important to select footwear suitable for the running surface—be it road, trail, or track.

3. Incorporate Strength Training

Incorporating strength training into your workout routine addresses potential muscle imbalances and can be critical in preventing shin splints. Weak calves can add stress to your shins and Achilles tendon—increasing the risk of injuries.

Here’s how to strengthen shins to prevent shin splints with targeted exercises:

Plyometric Lunges

  1. Begin by lunging forward with your right foot and left arm until your back leg’s shin is parallel to the floor. 
  2. Push off explosively, switching legs midair to land in a lunge with your left leg forward.

Complete 3 sets of 15 reps.

Straight-Leg Calf Raise

  1. Stand on a step while holding a dumbbell in your right hand. 
  2. Cross your left foot behind your right ankle and balance on the ball of your right foot. 
  3. Lift your heel and pause before lowering. 

Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

Bent-Knee Calf Raise

  1. Follow the straight-leg calf raise instructions, but keep your balancing leg bent throughout. 

Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.

Eccentric Calf Raises

  1. Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge.
  2. Push up on your toes.
  3. Slowly lower your heels below the step level to a count of 10. 

Complete 3 sets of 15 reps.

Farmer’s Walk on Toes

  1. Hold heavy dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Rise up on your toes.
  3. Walk forward for 60 seconds and increase the weight if you can go longer. 

Complete 3 sets.

Incorporate these exercises into your routine at least twice a week if you’ve had previous shin, calf, or Achilles issues.

4. Stretch Regularly

Stretching regularly is crucial to prevent shin splints because it keeps your muscles and joints flexible. Adding stretching to your daily routine can help loosen tight muscles and improve body movement, which reduces the strain on your shins when you run or exercise. Stretching also boosts blood flow to your muscles which helps them recover faster and lowers your chance of injuries.

It’s important to learn how to stretch to prevent shin splints and reduce injury risks during running. Try out these four stretches:

Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your hands on it for support. 
  2. Extend one leg straight back, keeping the heel on the ground, and bend the other knee forward. 
  3. Gently turn the back foot inward to feel a stretch in the lower leg. 
  4. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs. 

Repeat 3 times for each leg.

Soleus Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your hands on it for balance. 
  2. Bend the knee of your back leg toward the wall with your heel on the ground, feeling the stretch in your lower calf. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

 Repeat 3 times for each leg.

Toe Flexor Stretch

  1. Sit in a chair with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Cross your right ankle over the left knee and hold your right foot with both hands. 
  3. Gently pull your toes back while keeping your foot straight to feel a stretch from the big toe to the arch. 

Hold for 10 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

Tibialis Anterior Stretch

  1. Stand and step your right foot back, keeping the top of your toes or shoe on the ground.
  2. Shift your weight forward slowly to feel a stretch in your shin.

Hold for 60 seconds before switching legs.

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5. Run on Soft Surfaces

Running on unforgiving surfaces like concrete can take a toll on your body—leading to pain and potential injuries.

Choosing softer surfaces such as grassy fields, dirt trails, synthetic tracks, or even sand can help reduce impact and strain on your muscles and joints. Treadmill running offers another option that’s less harsh on the body.

By varying your running surface, you can keep your workouts fresh and less repetitive!

6. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important in preventing shin splints, as excess weight can significantly increase the strain on your lower legs during physical activities like running.

When you carry extra weight, your muscles and joints—including those in your shins—have to work harder to support and move your body. This additional stress and impact can lead to inflammation and pain in the shin area, making you more susceptible to developing shin splints.

By achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise, you can reduce the load on your shins, which will help decrease the risk of shin splints and other related injuries.

7. Have Your Running Technique Analyzed

Incorrect running or landing techniques can strain your lower legs and lead to shin splints, so you may want to consider having your running technique analyzed by a physical therapist.

A physical therapist can assess your movement patterns, identify muscle imbalances, and design a personalized exercise program to improve your form and strengthen weak muscles.

They can also educate you on proper stretching techniques to enhance flexibility, reduce muscle tightness, and address factors like heavy heel striking, tight calf muscles, or overpronation that contribute to shin splint development.

Consulting a physical therapist can help you optimize your running technique, learn how to run to prevent shin splints, and achieve your fitness goals safely.

8. Listen to Your Body

Ignoring pain and pushing yourself too hard can cause injuries, exacerbate issues, and lead to prolonged recovery times. If you experience pain while running, it’s essential to cut back on your activity and allow your body to rest and heal. Wait until you’ve been pain-free for at least two weeks before resuming your running routine.

While it may be tempting to push through discomfort, it’s important to recognize that pain is your body’s way of signaling potential problems. Taking breaks when needed and respecting your body’s limits can help prevent injuries and keep you running safely.

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Discover relief with our comprehensive guide to plantar fasciitis pain relief.

Risks, Diagnosis, and Symptoms

Several factors contribute to the development of shin splints, including sudden increases in physical activity, such as running longer distances or adding hill workouts, without adequate preparation.

Additionally, running on hard surfaces like concrete, wearing improper footwear, or having flat feet can increase the risk of developing shin splints. Muscle imbalances, tight calf muscles, and overpronation can also contribute to the condition.

Diagnosing shin splints typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional with a focus on the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and activities that exacerbate the pain. Common symptoms of shin splints include pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, tenderness, and swelling.

The pain may initially be present during physical activity and subside with rest but can become constant if left untreated. Some individuals may also experience mild swelling or a dull ache in the lower leg.

Consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan if you suspect you have shin splints. Early diagnosis and intervention can help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and facilitate a quicker recovery so you can safely return to your regular activities.

Treating Shin Splints

In most cases, treatment for shin splints focuses on reducing pain and inflammation and promoting the healing of the affected tissues. One of the fundamental aspects of treatment is rest to allow the injured shin to recover and heal properly.

An over-the-counter pain reliever is also generally recommended, along with avoiding activities that aggravate the pain, such as running or jumping, which is essential during the initial stages of treatment.

The RICE method—Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation—is a widely recommended approach for managing shin splints. Rest involves avoiding activities that strain the shins, while ice application helps reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Compression with an elastic bandage can help minimize swelling and provide support to the injured area. Elevating the affected leg above heart level can also assist in reducing swelling and improving circulation.

In more severe cases of shin splints, medical attention may be required. If the pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by symptoms like numbness, tingling, or visible deformity, it’s crucial to seek medical advice promptly.

Additionally, if the conservative treatments above don’t alleviate the symptoms within a few weeks, a healthcare provider can offer further evaluation, including imaging tests like X-rays or an MRI, to rule out other potential causes of shin pain and recommend appropriate treatment options.

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FAQs

  • What are shin splints?

    Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, refer to pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (the tibia).

    They are commonly caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach muscles to the bone—often resulting from overuse or improper running techniques.

  • Why am I getting shin splints when I run?

    Shin splints commonly occur due to repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach muscles to the bone. Factors contributing to shin splints while running include sudden increases in activity levels, such as running longer distances or intensifying workouts without proper conditioning.

    Running on hard surfaces like concrete, wearing improper footwear, and having muscle imbalances or flat feet can also increase the risk. Additionally, poor running techniques, such as overpronation or heel striking, can contribute to the development of shin splints by placing excessive strain on the lower leg muscles and bones.

  • How should you run to avoid shin splints?

    To prevent shin splints while running, focusing on proper running technique and gradual progression in training is essential. Start with a proper warm-up to prepare your muscles and joints for the activity. Incorporate cross-training and strength training exercises to improve muscle balance and support.

    Ensure you’re wearing appropriate footwear that provides adequate cushioning and support for your foot type. Avoid overstriding and practice a midfoot or forefoot landing instead of heel striking. Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your training intensity and volume accordingly.

    Following these guidelines on how to prevent shin splints running can help reduce the risk of developing this painful injury.

  • How do I strengthen my shins for running?

    To strengthen your shins for running and reduce the risk of shin splints, focus on exercises that target the muscles in the lower leg. Incorporate calf raises and lunges into your routine to build strength and endurance in the shin and calf muscles.

    Plyometric exercises like jumping jacks or skipping can also help improve lower leg strength and power. Additionally, consider incorporating resistance training and flexibility exercises to improve overall lower body strength and mobility.

    Gradually increasing the intensity and frequency of these exercises will help build resilience in your shins and support healthier, more efficient running.

  • Can running shoes prevent shin splints?

    Running shoes play a fundamental role in preventing shin splints by providing adequate cushioning, support, and stability for your feet and legs. Properly fitted running shoes can help absorb shock and reduce the impact on your lower legs during running, which reduces the risk of shin splints.

    Be sure to replace your running shoes regularly to maintain their supportive features. Podiatrists recommend replacing footwear every 300 to 500 miles or approximately every six months to one year. If you’re an aggressive runner or frequently run on rough terrains, you may need to replace them sooner.

    Check the condition of your shoes regularly. If the outsoles are worn out or the cushioning feels less springy, it’s time to invest in a new pair to continue protecting against shin splints and other potential injuries.

Unleash Your Potential With KURU

Starting or maintaining a running routine can be an exciting journey, filled with the promise of newfound fitness and stress relief. However, the threat of shin splints can cast a shadow over this excitement—causing discomfort and hindering progress. Fortunately, you can confidently face this challenge.

Having learned eight effective strategies on how to prevent shin splints when running, you’re equipped to fully immerse yourself in the thrill of running without the fear of setbacks.

From following an appropriate training plan to incorporating strength training exercises, each preventive measure helps protect you from the pain of shin splints and ensures that your running experience remains enjoyable and injury-free.

At KURU, we believe health starts with heel. What does this mean in terms of running? That’s a great question! The heel serves as the initial point of contact during running, as it absorbs shock and facilitates forward propulsion. Maintaining a stable and controlled foot strike helps distribute forces evenly, minimizes the strain on the shins, and reduces the likelihood of developing shin splints.

We studied the foot’s natural biomechanics and designed our sneakers with three layers of supportive technology. No flat, heel-crushing shoes here! With footwear designed around the shape of your foot, you get perfect cushion and support in all the right places that will keep your heels happy and lower your risk of injuries.

KURUSOLE—our heel-health-supporting rockstar—is patented, responsive technology that dynamically flexes as you move and protects your every step. We know you’re running in a flat world, so we make sure your shoes shield you from its unpleasant effects.

KURUCLOUD is our lightweight, shock-absorbing EVA foam midsole. Glide along your running path with ease, ensuring essential impact protection for your bones, ligaments, and tendons. Lastly, our ULTIMATE INSOLES mold to the unique shape of your foot over time for a custom fit. You’ll get strategic zones of support—including exceptional contoured arch support.

Get all three layers of support in any KURU sneaker you choose. So, lace up a well-fitting pair and hit the pavement knowing you’re prepared to prevent painful obstacles!

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Sourcing

  • 11 Common Running Mistakes to Avoid. Verywell Fit (January 2020)
  • 5 Quick Exercises To Prevent Shin Splints. Runner’s World (January 2018)
  • How to Do Stretches for Shin Splints. WebMD (October 2022)
  • What is the best surface to run on to avoid getting injured? Runner’s World (June 2015)
  • Is your running form causing shin splints? Women’s Running (March 2023)
  • 5+ Ways to Get Rid of Shin Splints. Healthline (March 2019)
  • Shin splints. Mayo Clinic (October 2021)

About Us

At KURU, we’re on a mission to help you Heel Better™ with footwear technology (including the best plantar fasciitis shoes) designed to relieve foot pain, so you can live a life you love. Since launching our innovative technology in 2008, we’ve received more than 35,000 five-star reviews from thousands of customers who tell us their KURU shoes helped them get back to doing what they love.

For all media inquiries, please contact us at pr@kurufootwear.com.

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