How Barefoot Running Prevents Shin Splints

It has been confirmed repeatedly that barefoot running has the strongest influence in correcting the mechanical imbalances that cause shin splints as compared with conventional running shoes.

But there’s another aspect of barefoot running that prevents shin splints, and that is it promotes a natural rebuilding of a functionally stronger foot, especially a stronger arch, which in turn, prevents excessive movements of the foot. This prevents the transfer of bending and twisting strain on the shins.

How Barefoot Running Prevents Shin Splints
One of the most confirming attributes of walking and running barefoot is it gives the feet the opportunity to work independently, which they cant do otherwise in shoes. The stronger the feet, the less physically vulnerable they are to injury and the better they are at maintaining movement and postural stability.

Early work has shown that weak feet are a source of shin splints whereby a study in the journal Phys Sports Med revealed that a major cause of shin splints in runners is a weak longitudinal arch because it causes the foot to turn away excessively from its neural line during stance. Out of that comes misalignment of the foot and leg, causing the shin to twist and bend to an excessive degree.

Additional data also confirmed that when the arch is weak, the forefoot and rearfoot (heel) move too much relative to each other which increases muscle action and traction on multiple aspects across the shin in order to counteract the excessive motions of the foot.

The hard truth is, and it should be obvious to everyone, that traditional running shoes are the most blame-worthy for weakening our feet because these shoes are often too narrow and stiff, causing the foots muscles to remain unchallenged.

Improvements in foot strength can only go so far if you routinely lock your feet into the conventional running shoe as these shoes narrow and stiff design not only goes against the natural shape of the human foot, it suspends functional engagements of the foot, resulting in a weaker foot that’s less able to hold firm. This is not the way to reduce injury proneness.

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But above all, there’s no way for you to get stronger feet unless you go barefoot more often. Luckily, your feet can be strengthened and made functionally resilient at any time just by walking barefoot, especially on uneven surfaces because most of the improvements in strength comes from the sensory input on the bare foot!

It turns out, the heightened sensory input when barefoot helps to circulate nutrient-rich blood more efficiently through the feet and helps keep not just the foot’s blood vessels healthy, but the foots nerves, soft tissues, tendons, muscles and bones healthy, too! In that regard, here are more evidence-backed benefits of spending more time barefoot! 



DeLacerda, F. A Study of Anatomical Factors Involved  in Shin Splints. J Ortho Sports Phy Ther, 1980; 2(2):55-59.

Rasch PJ, Burke RK: Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy. Ed 5,  pp 378. 397. 404, 493-497. Philadelphia: Lea 8. Febiger. 1973.

Ryan AJ: Roundtable: leg pains in runners. Phys Sportsmed 9: 42-53. 1977.

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Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!