Taping Shin Splints

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed.
injured soccer player
Use athletic tape to tape shins.

Taping shin splints can help alleviate some of the pain that may occur in the front of your legs after exercise. There are a number of injuries cumulatively known as shin splints, and it's important to learn the causes and treatments of them in order to allow yourself to heal after an injury and prevent further damage.

Shin Splint Overview

What are Shin Splints?

Shin splints occur when you experience inflammation of the connective tissue attaching one of your calf muscles, the soleus, to the larger bone of your lower leg, the tibia. In some cases, the muscle can begin to tear away from the bone itself. Understandably, this causes pain, usually on the inside of your shin between the knee and the ankle. If left untreated, shin splints can get progressively worse and can even lead to stress fractures of the tibia. If you're experiencing pain, inflammation or swelling, see your doctor for diagnosis.

Causes of Shin Splints

The following situations may make you susceptible to shin splints:

  • Starting a new exercise program or ramping up your workout too quickly
  • Overuse
  • Over-rotating your foot inward (pronation) or outward (supination) while running. You may not be aware that you are doing this if it's part of your natural gait
  • Running on hard surfaces like concrete
  • Wearing shoes that don't provide adequate support or that have lost their shock absorption
  • Failing to warm up before your workout or stretch after your workout

Who Gets Shin Splints?

Anyone who exercises regularly can fall victim to shin splints, but typically individuals engaged in repetitive, pounding sports are more likely to experience pain in their legs. Athletes who play sports like long-distance running, gymnastics, basketball and soccer are particularly susceptible.

Shin Splint Treatment

Often, all you need to do to recover from shin splints is to lay off your exercise routine and rest. Perform the home-treatment R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Take an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen if your doctor has cleared you to do so. This will help with the inflammation and reduce your pain.

Taping Shin Splints

If you need to walk around during the day and can't rest your legs completely, or if you need to continue light training while waiting for your legs to heal, taping shin splints may help alleviate pain and prevent further injury. Don't view taping shin splints as a way to continue training through the pain. Allow yourself the opportunity to rest, if possible. Taping is most helpful when you're first returning to exercise following a your forced period of rest.

Taping Supplies

Taping your shins only requires two supplies:

  • Athletic Pre-wrap
  • Athletic Tape

How to Tape Shin Splints

  1. Starting at the ankle, wrap the pre-wrap around your leg all the way up your shin, stopping just below the knee. Wrap the pre-wrap tightly, but not so tight that you hinder circulation. As you wrap the pre-wrap around your leg, overlap each rotation slightly.
  2. Tear off four strips of athletic tape, each strip approximately 16 inches long.
  3. Take the first piece of tape, and starting at the front of your ankle, wrap it in toward your body and around the back of your ankle. Tightly encircle your ankle, stopping just short of overlapping the starting point as a full-circle.
  4. Wrap the remaining tape diagonally across your shin and toward your knee until you reach the general area where you are experiencing pain.
  5. Cut off any remaining tape.
  6. Repeat the same steps using the remaining three pieces of athletic tape, overlapping the first piece of tape with the remaining tape, but starting each piece slightly higher on the ankle than the previous piece.

Taping Alternatives

You may have noticed during the Olympics that a number of athletes wore strips of tape on their arms, legs and shoulders. This special Kinesio Tape provides athletes with a flexible, breathable alternative to regular taping methods. While more expensive, kinesio tape is an alternative to regular athletic tape.

How to Use Kinesio Tape

  1. Using your Kinesio Tape, measure from the outside of your foot, under your arch and across the front of your shin in a diagonal direction, cutting the tape at the same point that you're experiencing pain.
  2. Peel the backing off of the tape.
  3. Following your measured pattern, apply the tape from the outside of your foot, under the high part of your arch, and diagonally up and across your shin. Don't pull it tight.
  4. Using Duct tape, measure from the outside of your foot and all the way under your arch to the inside of your foot. Cut the duct tape.
  5. Tightly apply the duct tape to the Kinesio Tape, adding support to your arch.

If you experience severe or ongoing pain in the front of your shins, make sure you visit your doctor for diagnosis. Taping shin splints can help alleviate pain or discomfort, but it will not cure a major injury.

Taping Shin Splints