Kick Up Your Legs Higher to Avoid Runners Shin Pain

What do you need to do if you suffer from runners shin pain? Swing your leg higher up behind your body when you run.

For most of the beginning stages of my forefoot running journey, I was disappointed because I kept suffering inner lower leg pain, or medial tibial shin pain. At first, I thought it was because I was over training, but I soon learned that running volume is not always a risk factor for running-related shin injuries (Yagi et al, 2013). So, I figured my biomechanics must be the problem, and I was correct.
Runners Shin Pain

 I found that increasing the height of my back-kick (pulling the leg up higher) took a lot of pressure away from my lower shin, helping me overcome medial shin pain without having to rest and miss time from training.

Kick Up Your Legs Higher to Avoid Runners Shin Pain

A study by Yagi et al.(2013) found that runners with medial shin splints had limited raising motion of the leg, suggesting that these runners may have a smaller-back when they run. Studies have found that a more rearward swing of the leg (higher back kick) during running is better than having more front-ward action of the leg (reaching the leg out in front of the body). Mentally enforcing a higher back swing of the leg, instead of raising and swinging your leg forward will help keep your Q-angle smaller as a large Q-angle is also strongly linked to side lower leg pain (Tiberio D, 1988).

  • When the feet kick up higher behind the body, this lessens the time for the leg to swing out in front of the body, which would therefore, help reduce braking.

If you teach yourself to kick your legs up higher behind you when you are forefoot running, this will reduce contact time of the foot, and therefore, will minimize pronation time as excessive pronation is a major risk factor for painful shin splints (Tiberio D, 1988).

The message in the end is that it’s not your mileage that’s hurting your shins –remember, if you are running with a forefoot strike, you are running with significantly less impact force as compared  with heel strike running; you may need to simply tweak your forefoot running form by getting your foot to float up higher towards your butt. Pose running also explains why a higher back-kick is promising to lower leg health.

Stronger Hamstrings

According to Pose Running, the hamstrings are in-charge of pulling the foot up off the ground, this is why it’s important to add hamstring and leg raising exercises (link coming soon) to your strength training regime.

More From Run Forefoot:

Learning to Eat Properly for Running

Forefoot Running – the Secret to Better Performance

Heel Strike Running and Injuries

Forefoot Strike vs Heel Strike


Tiberio D (1988) Pathomechanics of structural foot deformities. Phys Ther 68:1840–1849.

Yagi  S., Muneta T and Sekiya I. Incidence and risk factors for medial tibial stress syndrome
and tibial stress fracture in high school runners. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc, 2013, ) 21:556–563.

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!