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Stress Fracture vs Shin Splints: How to Tell the Difference and 3 Pairs of Shoes That May Relieve the Pain of Shin Splints


Most runners have probably at least heard of stress fractures and shin splints. Some less fortunate runners may have had to experience the pain themselves. These injuries have similar symptoms and often affect runners. However, there is a difference between stress fractures and shin splints. Knowing that difference may help prevent further injury and relieve the shin pain so you can continue training.

What’s the Difference?

Both stress fractures and shin splints are overuse injuries. Basically, runners experience pain due to overusing their body in training.

A stress fracture, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, tibial stress fracture, and exertional Compartment syndrome is an actual small fracture in the bone and may even require a bone scan. For runners, this usually occurs in the lower leg which is why the injury is often confused with shin splints.

Shin splints are tears or inflammation that occur in the muscles around the bones in the lower leg. While running, it can be hard to tell the difference between a stress fracture and a shin splint.

One way of knowing the difference is paying close attention to the type of pain. Stress fractures are often described as a deep, throbbing pain while shin splints feel like a tight, radiating pain. Of course, shin pain is shin pain and that may not be the best way to determine what type of injury you have.

Another good way of finding out whether you are suffering from a stress fracture or shin splints is to take a rest and then try walking or hopping on the bad leg. Stress fractures will likely cause pain even while walking or hopping. On the other hand, shin splints typically only cause pain while running. Walking or hopping should not cause pain as a result of shin splints.

The final way to tell the difference is to see a doctor for proper medical imaging. This is a final resort if you are experiencing chronic pain that is not resolved with home care.

Stress fractures require you to stop running and training immediately. They can take weeks to heal and, without proper healing, will lead to further pain in the future. Shin splints can be resolved with changes to running gear, training methods, and over the counter anti-inflammatory medication for short-term pain relief.

Shoes for Shin Splints

One of the biggest causes of shin splints is inadequate support and cushioning in a running shoe. People who run with the wrong type of shoe are at a greater risk for shin splints. Those with high arches are at an even greater risk than others.

Finding the right running shoes for shin splints with proper cushioning is key to relieving and avoiding this painful injury.

Here are a few of our top picks for runners who want to say goodbye to pain from shin splints:

Hoka One One Clifton 9

If you want balanced cushioning for your feet without giving up performance or feel then the Hoka One One Clifton 9 is the shoe for you. This running shoe is designed with cushioning in mind. From the moment you put them on to the very last steps of your training, the Hoka Clifton 9 shoes provide the support you need to avoid shin splints.

The breathable mesh design also makes these an ideal shoe for long-distance runners that are aiming to push themselves to go further and further with every training session.

Finally, the style of the Clifton 9 shoes is something that will definitely catch the eye. You don’t have to give up looks for quality. These shoes have it all.


Asics GEL-Nimbus 25

Runners who initiate contact with their heel can be at an increased risk for shin splints. Without proper cushioning, the force of the impact can radiate throughout the lower leg and cause the inflammation that leads to shin splint pain.

Asics use shock absorbing gel in the Nimbus 25 shoes to help alleviate the force of impact as runners contact the ground with their heel first.

The cushioning is also balanced throughout the sole of the shoe which makes this a fantastic option for people with high arches. These shoes support the arch throughout the running motion and reduce the impact that is transferred throughout the lower leg.

What’s the result? Better training, better runs, and less pain from shin splints. Runners who heel strike and have high arches should strongly consider the Asics GEL-Nimbus 25 shoes for the most comfortable training possible.



Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23

Brooks updated their line of shoes and introduced the Adrenaline GTS 23. An emphasis was put on providing cushion for the feet while also offering flexibility. The outsole has been designed to be more durable while the mesh upper portion provides a sleek, lightweight feel. The result is a very well-rounded running shoe that offers great support for runners prone to shin splints.

A stable running stride is also important to avoid a variety of running injuries and Brooks has aimed at providing a ton of stability while also decreasing the weight of the shoe from previous models. These might be the best looking running shoes on the market and runners will be excited to experience the performance these stunning shoes offer as well.



Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner