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Shin splints have kept many a runner from getting that runner’s high. This common running injury is sneaky. It starts as an ache along the front of your leg but can turn into a fiery nightmare, especially when you first start your workout. NOT cool, shin splints. Not. Cool. The pain tends to go away as your workout progresses but comes back when you stop.
Runners are no strangers to pain, but if you’re feeling the burn in your shins, it’s not a hopeless cause. Your running shoes can help. Shoe support, training methods, the biomechanics of your gait, and the running terrain are all factors that contribute to shin splints. New shoes and other changes to your routine can help put the pain behind you.
Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right running shoes for shin splints.
A solid pair of shoes can make a big difference in your running comfort. They’re also an important part of injury prevention. To battle the stresses of shin splints, here’s what we looked for:
- Cushioning. Running is a high impact sport that puts a lot of stress on the lower body. Shoes with durable cushioning reduce the shock on your legs. Even the lightweight shoes on this list have adequate cushioning to reduce the stress on your legs.
- Support. A shoe with arch support that matches the mechanics of your foot (high arch, low arch, neutral arch) can reduce overall stress on the leg musculature.
- Durability. Shoes should stay supportive for 300 to 500 miles.
Best neutral running shoe
- Price: $$
The Nike Zoom Pegasus 38 builds on what was already an amazing, responsive shoe in the Pegasus 37. The 38 has a deeper heel cup that keeps your foot in contact with the shoe throughout your stride.
Its midsole foam provides a medium soft feel but stays bouncy and flexible on toe-off. That midsole foam also supports your arch, which you need to reduce the shock of impact. While the Pegasus 38 is designed for a runner with an average arch, it provides above-average cushioning and durable arch support for daily or long-distance runs.
The men’s and women’s versions differ slightly in the cushioning. The air pressure in the women’s model hovers around 15 PSI, while the men’s stays at 20 PSI. The result is a women’s shoe that’s slightly softer — which is designed under the assumption that women have smaller frames.
Reviewers report a few downsides to the Pegasus 38, like the thick upper that can get warm on hot days and the time it takes to break in — this shoe adapts to your foot, but it can feel a little strange until it does.
Best running shoe for flat feet
- Price: $$$
Brooks enjoys a well-deserved reputation for excellent running shoes. The Adrenaline GTS 21 falls in line with the brand’s generally impressive designs.
For overpronators (aka your foot rolls inward, which is common for flat-footed peeps), it has guide rails that center the foot in the shoe. The guide rails are comfy and lightweight — you’ll only notice them if your foot starts to fall inward. Otherwise, you may not even know they’re there.
Brooks uses its specially designed “DNA Loft” cushioning from heel to toe in the 21 (an upgrade from the 20). The cushioning is designed to react to your stride, feeling soft but still supportive. For shin splints, that means extra cushioning to reduce the strain on your legs.
Reviewers tend to like the GTS 21’s cushioning and light stability — but it tends to work better for mild overpronation rather than severe. Think of it as comfortable gait correction.
The only thing you might not like is the 12 mm heel-to-toe drop (aka the height different between the height at the heel and the height at the toe), which is pretty high. Some runners find that their toes slide to the front of the shoes or that the extra heel height causes a heel strike.
Best running shoe for high arches
- Price: $$$
The Brooks Ghost 14 is one of our faves on this list because it feels AMAZING on high arches.
It features the same soft foam as the Adrenaline GTS 21s, running from heel to toe for a cushy feel. The contouring of the foam strikes a balance between softness and support, so it feels hella responsive. This shoe also has a roomy toe box but a narrow heel cut for runners who have narrow heels that always seem to slip.
BUT all that delicious cushioning isn’t ideal for short distances or sprints, where you need a little more bounce and energy return for power.
Best trail running shoe
- Price: $$$
You can’t talk about trail running shoes these days without coming across the Salomon Speedcross 5. They’re a favorite among trail runners, especially those who face muddy, wet terrain — which is where these shoes do the best. Their aggressive lugs are set in several directions to provide grip over uneven, unpredictable terrain.
These shoes are designed to give your foot tons of stability, which can help reduce stress on the muscles and soft tissues involved with shin splints. The Speedcross 5s also features an anti-debris mesh upper that keeps rocks and other debris out of the shoe.
This version of the Speedcross has a wider, longer forefoot than previous models. You also have to watch out on the terrain. Reviewers love the upper and lugs on these shoes because they let you run like a mountain goat.
But these shoes are def best used on softer, muddy terrain. The lugs can wear out prematurely if you wear them on harder surfaces where they can’t dig into the ground.
Best cross country running shoe
- Price: $
The New Balance XC Seven V3 has more cushioning than the average racer. New Balance uses its REVlite foam — which is a lightweight foam with a slightly springy feel — through the midsole, making it feel more like a training shoe. That springiness helps take the stress off your legs. There’s also added protection through the midsole, so you won’t feel any rocks or sticks.
The Seven V3 is geared more toward beginner racers than advanced. But the roomier feel and extra cushioning also work well for experienced racers who prefer not to feel the ground through their shoe.
Reviewers appreciate the cushioning and extra room in the toe box. The overall feel provides a comfortable ride for a quick race.
Best long-distance running shoe
- Price: $$$
The Asics Gel-Kayano 28 is another one of our faves. We love it for long-distance running — and we’re not the only ones.
This shoe is perfect if you have overuse issues with your ankles or arches. Gel cushioning in the heel and an absorbent foam in the midsole add support on long runs that can do wonders for shin splints.
It features a special support system that takes the place of an old-school medial post (basically a foam wedge designed to prevent overpronation). The support system is essentially a sloped piece of foam that stops your foot from rolling inward. (Side note: This type of support might not be comfortable if you have a neutral gait and is def not recommended if you underpronate).
There aren’t a lot of downsides with this shoe — but it’s a little snug in the midsole. If you have narrow feet, be careful not to overtighten your laces (we’re speaking from experience here). If it’s too tight, you’ll be able to feel it in your midsole.
Another feature worth mentioning is the 13mm heel-to-toe drop in the women’s version (the men’s version is only 10mm). That’s a pretty drastic drop. But we’ve tried this one ourselves and can confirm that it def doesn’t feel like a high drop.
Best for wide feet running shoe
- Price: $$$
If your wide feet make it hard to find running shoes, meet your new BFFs. The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11 comes in four widths, including an extra-wide option that isn’t easy to find.
The foam is soft, but it’s still supportive — especially through the arch. A wide toe box gives your tootsies room to wiggle (and swell) while you run.
For your shin splints, it’s got a lightweight, cushioned midsole that provides a soft landing — but it’s not the cushiest shoe on our list. Distance runners might need a little more to prevent injury.
Reviewers report that this shoe runs a little small, so you might have to order up a half size.
Best lightweight running shoe
- Price: $$
The Kinvara features Saucony’s PWRRUN platform, which has made an appearance in earlier versions of this popular shoe. It provides lightweight cushioning with a responsive feel. The light weight comes from the PWRRUN foams, which are designed to be super lightweight and durable.
The shoe only weighs 7.5 ounces. That’s light for a racer, let alone an everyday running shoe, which this shoe can do.
It also has a roomy toe box and an ultra-light, highly breathable upper. The upper isn’t quite as flexible as earlier models of the Kinvara, but that’s easy to overlook when it feels like your foot is flying. Runners who get hot feet will appreciate the extra airflow. (Runners in the rain might not, tho.)
Best cushioned running shoe
- Price: $$$
HOKA ONE ONE has some of the most well-cushioned shoes on the market. The Clifton gets high praise for its substantial yet lightweight cushioning. It’s also got the seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association, which is only given to products that have been found beneficial to foot health. Hell-to-the-yeah!
These stable shoes cushion like few others, and you can feel it from the time you put them on, especially in the heel. But the best part is that the thick foam doesn’t add weight, so the shoe only weighs 7.2 ounces. It also features HOKA’s meta-rocker, which the brand says has a rocking chair effect that makes for a smooth gait. It can also help counter some of the clunkiness of all that foam.
Some reviewers say that the foam makes it feel less responsive, though it’s comfortable for long runs.
Best running shoe for road running
- Price: $$$
The Saucony Triumph 19 balances cushioning with responsiveness and support. It contains Saucony’s PWRRUN+, a lightweight foam designed to offer excellent durability and bounce.
The shoe is also designed to hug your foot, making for an excellent fit — and reviewers confirm that it’s comfy as hell. Plus, they’re pretty good lookin’ shoes.
The only place where reviewers get negative is with the laces. They’re flexible and round, which can make it hard to get them adjusted correctly.
|Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38||$120||10.0 oz (M) 8.2 oz (W)||10 mm||road||daily runs or long distance|
|Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21||$130||10.4 oz (M) 9.1 oz (W)||12 mm||road||long, steady runs|
|Brooks Ghost 14||$130||9.9 oz (M) |
9.0 oz (W)
|12 mm||road||daily or distance runs|
|Salomon Speedcross 5 Trail Running Shoes||$130||11.3 oz (M) 9.9 oz (W)||10 mm||muddy & soft||short, long, and everything in between|
|New Balance XC Seven Spike||$55||6.4 oz (M) |
5.9 oz (W)
|0 mm||grass||cross country races|
|Asics Gel-Kayano 28||$160||10.9 (M)|
9.1 oz (W)
|10 mm (M) |
13 mm (W)
|New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11||$150||9.3 oz (M)|
8.1 oz (W)
|8 mm||road||long distance|
|Saucony Kinvara 12||$110||7.5 oz (M)|
6.5 oz (W)
|4mm||road||short, long, and everything in between|
|Hoka ONE ONE Clifton 8||$130||7.2 oz (M)|
7.2 oz (W)
|Saucony Triumph 19||$150||10.2 oz (M)|
|8mm||road||daily training and long distance|
Running shoes should be snug, but not tight. Watch the heel cup for slippage. If you have narrow heels, you might need a shoe with features that lock your heel in place or a narrower heel cup.
And if you’re a long-distance runner, you’ll need to buy a half to a whole size up to make room for foot swelling.
Base your support needs on the biomechanics of your foot. Runners with flat feet who overpronate may need a shoe with a lower arch or extra features like a guard rail to help keep your foot in the center of the shoe.
High arches don’t flex as much as they need to, so these runners need plenty of cushioning and support through the arch.
Runners who supinate (aka roll their foot outward) can benefit from a neutral shoe or shoe with a guard rail that centers the foot.
Cushioning plays a big role in shin splint prevention because it absorbs the shock that can strain the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the lower leg. The farther you run, the more cushioning you need.
Everyone has an amount of cushioning that feels right to them. Some love the extra cushioning of HOKA ONE ONEs, while others find too much cushioning affects their gait and speed.
But if you’re dealing with shin splints, lean toward too much cushioning rather than not enough. You want to take the stress off your legs — and that’s exactly what cushioning does.
We’re enjoying a golden age of running shoes, where you can find ultra-cushioned shoes that are extremely lightweight AND the foams support the foot for 300 to 500 miles.
Keep in mind that runners with higher body weight might wear out the shoe’s support and cushioning system faster than someone with lower body weight, so they might need to replace running shoes more often to keep shin splints from becoming an issue.
What causes shin splints?
Shin splints usually come from several factors working together and a number of aches and pains along the front of the lower leg (the shin) may be called shin splints. Stress fractures, medial tibial stress syndrome, tendonitis, and compartment syndrome are all potential conditions behind shin splints.
Usually, there’s pain around the tibialis anterior, the muscle on the front of the leg. This muscle stabilizes the ankle joint when your foot hits the floor and helps propel you forward as you “toe-off.”
The way your body naturally moves and strikes the ground puts you at risk as well. If you overpronate, you’re at higher risk of developing shin splints, for example. But imbalances anywhere along your kinetic chain (movement pattern) can contribute to lower leg problems.
Hard or uneven surfaces like concrete or hills both put extra stress on the lower body and can factor in too. Any of these issues coupled with tired, worn-out shoes are a recipe for shin splints.
Can shoes really prevent shin splints?
Yes… and no. Shin splints don’t usually develop because of one thing. If you’re wearing worn-out shoes while running on the road, yes, new shoes could prevent shin splints. But if your training schedule and biomechanics (how you move) are part of the equation, shoes alone won’t fix or completely prevent the problem.
What are the best exercises for shin splints?
Here are a few exercises to start. Keep in mind that shin splints often resolve themselves with rest and ice to reduce swelling and inflammation. Then, you can do stretches and exercises to prevent them from returning.
- Calf stretch. Stand a couple of feet from the wall. Plant your heels and lean toward the wall to stretch your calves. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Then, bend one knee to stretch the inner calf muscles. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
- Achilles stretch. Stand on your toes on the edge of a stair. Gently press one heel toward the floor, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
- Toe taps. Sit in a chair with your heel on the floor. Lift your toe toward your shin without lifting the heel. Return it to the floor and repeat on the other side.
Runners, we know it’s hard to stop your training. We can all get a little obsessive about falling behind or missing out on our runner’s high. But in a review of conservative treatment options, it was found that cutting down your workout by 50 percent was an effective way to treat shin splints while continuing your training.
If they still don’t get better with that tactic, you’re better off resting until they resolve.
When should I see a doctor about my shin splints?
Shin splints often resolve on their own with adequate rest. However, if after icing, elevating, and resting for more than a few weeks you still have pain, go see your doctor.
You should also chat with your doc if your shin splints are extremely painful, or your legs are red and swollen. There’s potential for a stress fracture or other condition that may require a different treatment plan.
A well-cushioned, stable pair of running shoes can keep you pounding the pavement. Make sure they fit the structure of your foot and running goals.
Take a look at all of the factors that could be contributing to your pain. You might need to change more than your shoes for relief. For example, try running on a trail if road running is putting too much stress on your legs. You can also try some strengthening and stretching exercises to prevent and manage your pain. (Psst: Here are some to get you started).
The bottom line — look at the whole picture to see where you can make changes. That includes wearing running shoes that fit how and where you run.