Why Running Barefoot Does Not Cause Shin Splints

Running barefoot does not cause shin splints, it actually prevents them through improvements in plantar flexor strength, which increases supination activity, deflecting shock away from the tibialis anterior during landing.

Why Barefoot Runners Don't Get Shin Splints

Why Running Barefoot Does Not Cause Shin Splints

Researchers have long known of dissimilarities in ankle kinematics between barefoot and shod runners — barefoot runners use ankle plantar flexion at touchdown to allow a forefoot strike landing, whereas most shod runners use ankle dorsiflexion to allow heel strike.

Why Running Barefoot Does Not Cause Shin Splints
Left, ankle plantar flexion at touchdown in barefoot running ; right, ankle dorsiflextion at touchdown in shod heel strike running.

Because plantar flexor activity is lower in heel strike running, heel strike runners tend to have weak plantar flexors and thus a greater risk of encountering shin splints than barefoot runners.

  • How Weak Plantar Flexors Cause Shin Splints -Weak plantar flexors reduce supination activity and are unable to provide proper arch support during landing, as a result, a greater load is transmitted on the tibialis anterior during shod running.

Since plantar flexor activity is greater during barefoot running, implies that shod heel strike runners with shin splints might fare better on running barefoot because supination torque during stance would be greater which could drastically improve symptoms of shin splints.

Here are more articles at Run Forefoot on the health benefits of barefoot running training.

Don’t want to run barefoot all the time? Here are reviews and recommendations on the best minimalist running shoes that simulate feeling barefoot.

More From Run Forefoot:


Noh et al. Structural deformation of longitudinal arches during running in soccer players with medial tibial stress syndrome. Euro J Sport Sci, 2015;15(2):173-181.

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!

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