Whether you’re a casual runner or trained professional, you’ve likely experienced shin splints.
Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, “shin splints” is a term used to describe pain along the front of your lower leg that’s due to repeated stress (
While there are several potential causes of shin splints, one of the best ways to keep your legs pain-free is by selecting a running shoe that provides just the right amount of cushion and support.
To help you decide which shoe is best for your running needs, we consulted Theresa Marko, PT, DPT, MS, owner of Marko Physical Therapy in New York City, on exactly what you should be looking for in a shoe.
In addition to getting Marko’s stamp of approval, all of the shoes on this list were selected based on the following criteria:
- the level of cushioning and support
- the overall fit
- the intended use
Here are the 8 best running shoes of 2021 for preventing shin splints.
This shoe is one of Brooks’s most versatile trainers, as it’s well suited for everyday runs, recovery efforts, and even long distances.
In particular, wearers will be drawn to the shoe’s DNA Loft foam midsole, which provides extra cushioning without sacrificing durability or reducing responsiveness.
Offering a smooth and bouncy ride, this shoe provides all-around comfort while helping you avoid injury.
Best for distance running
Featuring ASICS’s Gel technology, the Kayano Lite is ideal for logging miles, as it’s designed to provide a smooth stride without losing speed.
What’s more, the shoe’s 3D Space Construction provides improved compression and cushioning at the footstrike, which helps prevent your ankle from rolling inward when you land.
Built from durable, eco-friendly materials, the Kayano Lite provides an overall bouncy, stable ride.
Best for stability
With extra arch and ankle support, the Saucony Guide 14 is an excellent option if you want more stability or struggle with overpronation — meaning that your ankle rolls inwards as you land.
The shoe features Saucony’s FORMFIT construction, which wraps and fits around your entire foot for a truly comfortable fit.
Additionally, the Guide 14’s midsole contains Saucony’s PWRRUN foam to provide a softer and more responsive experience than traditional EVA foam formulations.
At 8.1 ounces (229.6 grams), this shoe offers a lightweight option for those who also want stability, comfort, and a roomy toe box.
Designed with both sprinters and long-distance runners in mind, the Adidas Adizero Adios 6 offers a responsive midsole cushioning to keep you pain-free. It also features a supportive fit for maintaining proper running form.
However, it’s worth noting that the Adios 6 has a relatively narrow platform under the heel. While it’s still plenty stable, some users mention that it can take a few runs to get accustomed to the feel.
Hoka One One is known for its soft and flexible cushioning, and the Clifton 8 is no exception. In fact, users often describe the experience of the shoe as “running on clouds.”
Thanks to its EVA foam midsole, which provides excellent shock absorption and minimizes the amount of pressure under the heel and ball of your foot, this shoe is particularly great if you’re prone to shin splints.
While its thick and wide soles give the shoe a bulky appearance, the Clifton 8 is the lightest version of the shoe to date.
Plus, thanks to Hoka’s Meta-Rocker technology, the Clifton 8 allows for quick transitions from heel to toe, despite its low 5-mm heel drop.
If you’re a high-mileage runner in search of support, the Saucony Triumph 18 provides all the cushioning and shock absorption you need to combat time spent on pavement.
In addition to a breathable mesh upper, the shoe features Saucony’s PWRRUN+ foam, which provides an even distribution of cushioning around the shoe.
While it’s designed to help you maintain good form, the Triumph 18 is heavier and less bouncy than other models, so you’ll want to opt for a different pair if you plan on doing sprints or interval training.
Best for pronation control
A well-trusted brand, Brooks is known for producing high quality, durable running shoes.
The Brooks Addiction 14, in particular, is a favorite among runners who struggle with overpronation and are looking for an everyday trainer.
While it’s not quite as cushiony as others in the Brooks lineup, the Addiction 14 has a firm platform and stable design to help you maintain proper form and avoid shin splints.
Furthermore, as it’s available in a variety of fits, from narrow to extra wide, the shoe easily accommodates orthotics for optimal support and alignment.
Best for wide feet
If you have wide feet, you may be frustrated with the lack of options when it comes to running shoes, let alone finding a pair that also keeps shin splints at bay.
Fortunately, the Fresh Foam 1090 V11 from New Balance offers a durable shoe that’s available in four widths, including wide and extra wide.
What’s more, the Fresh Foam midsole provides plenty of stability and support, while the flexible upper and wide toe box allow for optimal room and comfort.
While users still find the shoe to be soft, the Fresh Foam 1090 V11 is firmer and less cushy than others on this list, which may not be ideal for long distances.
Additionally, several customers note that the shoe runs small, so you may want to order up a half size.
Here’s a quick look at how our top picks compare:
According to Marko, shin splints occur when there’s a problem with your gait mechanics or form, such as alignment issues, joint tightness, or weakness at your hips or knees.
Shin splints can also happen if your ankle joint is too tight, causing you to land on the outside of your heel. As Marko explained, striking the ground this way can lead to pronation and overuse of your ankle muscles.
“Basically, shin splints mean something is probably wrong somewhere else, so it’s advised to see a physical therapist to help you figure out why you’re getting shin splints,” Marko said.
Other causes of shin pain include overtraining, running on hard surfaces, wearing old or worn out shoes, and running in shoes that aren’t supportive of your gait.
If you’re a seasoned runner, you probably remember the trend of minimalist, or barefoot, running, specifically headlined by the Vibram FiveFinger shoes, which were a recipe for disaster as far as injury prevention was concerned, according to Marko.
These minimalist shoes had little or zero drop in the heel-toe height, placing extra strain on the ankle and increasing the risk of injuries like shin splints and stress fractures.
Later, the trend shifted to super-cushioned shoes, which Marko noted are also not great for runners, as the extra padding reduces feedback from the ground, making you more unstable and unbalanced.
So how do you find a shoe to keep shin pain at bay?
According to Marko, the key is finding a shoe that provides a happy medium between cushioning and support.
When shopping for shoes to prevent shin splints, you’ll want to consider factors, such as the amount of support, overall fit, level of cushioning, and durability.
One of the most important factors to consider is the type of support that the shoe provides. While some have a neutral construction, others are specifically designed to help with pronation issues.
According to Marko, you’ll also want to ensure that your shoes have sufficient arch support, especially if you have flat feet or low arches, as these can cause your ankles to roll inward and eventually lead to shin splints.
Keep in mind that you can also buy a pair of orthotics if you love everything else about a shoe. Just make sure that the shoe is large enough to accommodate the insert.
Especially if you have a narrow or wide foot, it’s important to read customer reviews on how the shoe fits — or better yet, try the shoe on for yourself.
Level of cushioning
When it comes to preventing shin splints, you want a shoe that provides enough cushioning to help absorb the impact of your feet hitting the ground.
“What you want is a shoe that has cushioning to protect your foot from blisters and take up some shock absorption for you, but not so much that your foot loses its sense for the ground,” Marko explained.
This is why nearly all of the options on this list feature midsoles made with gel, air pockets, or EVA foam.
Another aspect of cushioning is the heel-toe drop. According to Marko, “As an optimal choice, I’d recommend shoes that have a drop between 8 and 12 mm.”
Ask an expert
The best way to ensure the proper fit is by having your gait and foot type analyzed by an expert sales associate.
In addition to taking a look at your form, the associate will likely ask about your average mileage, training goals, and injury history to get a better sense of which pair is right for you.
Durability is another key factor, as one of the most common causes of shin splints is running in worn out shoes.
Plus, you’ll get more for your money by selecting a pair that’s built to last.
Therefore, even if you opt for a lightweight design, make sure that the shoe has a sturdy outsole that can withstand heavy use.
According to Marko, when it comes to running with shin splints, it really depends on the situation.
“If you can run with a little pain, it might be OK, but if it’s severe, you probably need to reduce mileage, as repetitive stress and running too much [can be what’s causing the issue],” she said.
She went on to explain how working with a doctor or physical therapist is the best course of action, as they’ll be able to assess whether you’re ready to start training again, while also addressing the cause of your pain.
“If you aren’t strong enough at [your knee and hip] joints, you might be overusing your lower leg and ankle musculature, which could be contributing to your shin splints,” she explained. “A DPT [doctor of physical therapy] can address the kinetic chain and see if you’re having compensatory strategies when you move.”
Shin splints can put a pause in your training regimen, resulting in pain and swelling in your lower leg.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent shin splints, including buying a pair of running shoes that provides the right balance of support and cushioning.
By working with a professional, as well as considering your gait, running style, and injury history, we’re confident that you’ll find a shoe to keep you pain-free.
Lastly, if you’re already suffering from shin splints, make sure to book an appointment with a healthcare professional who can properly address the root cause of your pain.