Shin Splints are super common among runners, especially new runners. I suffered from shin splints for over a year when I ramped up my mileage training for my first half marathon. I began to have pain that ran from below my knee down to the base of my foot. Walking was painful, sitting was painful, and running was excruciating. Luckily, I have found ways to treat shin splints as best I can and how to combat them head on when they start to hurt.
What Is A Shin Splint?
Runner's World has a great write up on Shin Splints and describes them as,
...small tears in the muscle that's pulled off the bone, an inflammation of the periosteum [a thin sheath of tissue that wraps around the tibia, or shin bone], an inflammation of the muscle, or some combination of these.
When I first started to feel pain in my shins I had no idea what it was. Many Google searches later I realized I had shin splints. Then I started to research ways to treat them and found a million different answers. After experimenting on myself for a while I found a few things that worked for me:
Yes, as awful as they are, they actually work! The general theory behind this cold therapy is that the exposure to cold helps to combat the microtrauma (small tears) in muscle fibers and resultant soreness caused by intense or repetitive exercise. I came back from a six miler one day with pain running up and down my shins. I filled up my bath tub with cold water (not only cold water, I used a little hot, but it was mainly cold) and sat on the edge with my shins under water for about 5 minutes. Yes, it was cold - but after I took them out the pain was gone! And my legs felt refreshed. As much as I don't like being cold, the ice bath method was amazing. Click here for 8 Ice Bath Dos and Don'ts from Active.com.
I know. This sucks. But would you rather not run for one week than find out you can't run for three months? Taking a week off is super beneficial to healing. That doesn't mean you can't cross train - feel free to get in the pool during that time or hop on the bike.
I've used KT Tape for treatment of my shin splints many, many times. KT Tape is designed for muscle, ligament and tendon pain relief and support. KT Tape can help relieve the pressure and strain on the tissue as well as relax the muscles of the shin. KT Tape will also increase proprioceptive awareness along the tibialis anterior and increase circulation to help quell inflammation. You can buy KT Tape online at Amazon, KTTape.com, and also at sporting good stores and drugstores. Here's a video on how to apply the tape:
Stretch & Foam Roll
Continue (or start!) stretching your calves daily. Click here for a great link to check out for shin splint specific stretches. And check out this video on foam rolling for shin splints:
Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves
I absolutely LOVE my Zensah compression sleeves. I wear them out on every run I do over four miles and I put them on a lot of times after a run for recovery. These sleeves help support blood circulation for performance and recovery, they have full calf support, and they're breathable. Here's what Zensah has to say about using them for shin splints:
The Zensah Compression Shin Sleeve is light enough to allow running with shin splints. The front of the shin sleeve is designed to prevent shin splints by incorporating the chevron pattern or inverted V. The chevron ribbing along the front of the calf sleeve helps support the muscles in the shin area thereby reducing the risk of shin splints. The deep groove ribbing also helps increase blood circulation getting oxygen to the muscles faster. The back of the sleeve provides support of the calf and Achilles. The pock and vertical line mimic the calf muscles.
When I ran my last half marathon I was dealing with shin splints so to make it through the race I used the KT Tape and wore my sleeves over the tape. It worked well and my shins felt great the entire 13.1 miles.