How to Adjust Your Running Form to Prevent Shin Splints

About the Author

Doug Adams PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, CSCS Dr. Doug Adams is a Physical Therapist who has published and spoken at an international level on all things related to running. Doug has taught thousands of professionals his systematic approach to providing personalized plans for runners through the Certified Running Gait Analyst and Endurance Running Coaching courses. He also designed and created a portable 3D Motion Analysis system called Helix 3D for analyzing and categorizing running form that is used widely throughout the Department of Defense, professional sports, and commercial sectors.

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Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, are a common ailment characterized by shin pain along the shin bone, which can significantly hinder your running progress and enjoyment of the sport.

By focusing on proper form, you can minimize the risk of shin splints and enhance your overall running performance.

This blog presents effective strategies and techniques to refine your running posture and mechanics, ensuring you stay injury-free and enjoy every mile on your run.


Proper Running Form 1

The Role of Running Form in Preventing Shin Splints

Your running form can either contribute to stress and injury or help you enjoy a pain-free running experience.

Here are the most common culprits that increase your risk of developing shin splints:

  • Overstriding: Landing with your foot too far in front of your body creates excessive force on the shin bone.
  • Heel Striking: While it’s natural for some runners, landing heavily on your heels with each step sends shock waves up your leg, which can strain the muscles and tendons around your shin.
  • Improper Foot Landing: Failing to land correctly on the mid-foot area can cause an imbalance, putting pressure on the lower leg and shin muscles, leading to mild shin pain or more severe issues like shin splints.
  • Lack of Alignment and Posture: Running with your body out of alignment, such as leaning too far forward or back, can disrupt your center of gravity and increase the strain on your lower legs.

5 Components of Proper Running Form

Start keeping these guidelines in mind so you can run more efficiently and reduce injury risk:

  • Mid-Foot Striking: Aim to land softly on the middle of your foot, engaging the calf muscles to help distribute impact more evenly across your foot. This technique helps avoid shin splints by reducing the stress on your shin muscle.
  • Maintain Upright Posture: Keep your body upright and aligned with a slight forward lean from the ankles, not the waist. This posture ensures your weight is centered and reduces strain on your shins.
  • Relaxed Stride: Avoid overextending your legs. Instead, keep your strides short and comfortable to minimize impact on your shins and joints.
  • Arm Position: Your arms should swing naturally at your sides, with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. This helps maintain balance and prevents unnecessary torso movement that could throw off your form.
  • Core Engagement: A strong core stabilizes your entire body, improving your posture and reducing the workload on your legs. Incorporate core strengthening exercises into your training routine.


tip injury free running experience

Tips to Adjust Your Running Form

Adjusting your running form is essential for enhancing performance and preventing injuries, such as shin splints.

Here are some practical strategies to help you refine your technique and enjoy a more efficient, injury-free running experience.

Gradual Transition to Better Form

Start by focusing on one aspect of your running technique at a time, such as improving your leg muscles’ flexibility or strengthening your calf muscle to defeat shin splints.

As you make these adjustments, it’s crucial to listen to your body’s feedback. Initial discomfort is expected as you challenge your body to move differently, but sharp or persistent pain is a clear signal to reassess your technique or the pace of change.

Increasing the distance you run with your new form allows your muscles and joints to adjust gradually, minimizing the risk of strain or injury.

Exercises to Improve Running Form

Incorporating specific exercises into your routine can significantly support your running form adjustments.

Calf raises, for example, strengthen the muscles around your shins, promoting a stable and efficient mid-foot strike. This is particularly beneficial for beginner runners who are more susceptible to shin splint pain due to tight calf muscles.

Core exercises like planks enhance your overall stability, helping your posture remain upright and aligned throughout your run.

Leg swings contribute to greater hip flexibility, facilitating a fluid, natural stride, while toe walks bolster the strength of your foot and ankle muscles, crucial for a proper foot landing.

Choosing the Right Footwear

In addition to selecting the right running shoes that complement your unique running mechanics, visiting a specialty running store allows for a professional gait analysis.

The right shoes should offer a balance of support and cushioning tailored to your foot type, enhancing comfort and reducing injury risk, which is especially important for runners prone to stress fractures in the lower leg.

Replacing your running shoes every 300-500 miles maintains optimal support and cushioning, as worn-out shoes significantly increase your risk of injuries like shin splints.

Cross-Training and Rest Days

Cross-training with low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, or yoga boosts your overall fitness and minimizes the repetitive strain on your shins and other joints.

Rest days are essential for recovery, allowing your body to repair and strengthen in response to training.

Stretching and Warm-Up Routines

Starting each run with dynamic stretches, such as leg swings and lunges, increases blood flow and flexibility, reducing the risk of injury.

Post-run stretching promotes recovery and maintains flexibility for key muscle groups, such as calves, hamstrings, and quads, promoting recovery and maintaining flexibility.

Making these routines consistent with your training supports your form adjustments and contributes to a more enjoyable and sustainable running practice.


Perfect Your Running Form Now

By embracing the strategies outlined, you’re setting the foundation for a healthier running journey.

Share your progress and insights with fellow runners and build a community committed to running smarter and safer.

Let’s outrun shin splints together!