Even with proper warm-up and pacing while running, shin splints and stress fractures can still occur. Often shin splints occur from poor running form or wearing the wrong running shoes (see our list of good running shoes for shin splints).
Whatever the cause, if you’ve found yourself suffering from medial tibial stress syndrome—or shin splints to you and me—on one or both legs, you might think that you’re going to be on the bench for the next few days while the shin pain and body naturally heals. With taping, however, you can speed up the process significantly.
Why Taping Helps Recovery
When the body is injured, it sends lymphatic fluid to that area causing your shins to swell up and become inflamed. This can lead you sore or painful shins, which is not fun.
But taping, especially using tape with elastic properties (like KT tape or Rock tape), reduces the soreness of shin splints by lifting the skin and allowing greater mobility of lymphatic fluid to transport white blood cells throughout the body, which heals the area quicker.
Taping is a cheap, quick thing you can do to make your shin splints improve rapidly and you will return to running in no time.
There are multiple ways to tape a shin splint and multiple tapes to use. While you may have your own preferences as for what tape to use, this article will deal with KT tape.
You’ll need to take the correct precautions before applying KT tape for shin splints. Be sure to shave or trim any hair on your leg and make sure the skin is clean and dry before starting. Also, try to avoid any open wounds or scabs, as the tape can hinder any healing.
Tape for Frontal Shin Splint (Anterior)
A frontal shin splint is one that runs down the tibia, stopping an inch or two above the ankle. This taping method is simple and doesn’t require much tape.
- Lay your leg loosely bent in front of you.
- Identify the point of pain along your leg or the straightest line the pain runs through (if it runs down your leg).
- Cut off a long strip of KT tape that’s as long as the pained area.
- Twist off a piece of the paper backing and stick the adhesive to an area near the ankle to anchor the tape. Then remove the paper backing for the rest of the tape, being sure not to touch the adhesive (keep a little bit of paper still stuck to the tape)
- Stretch the tape till it is at max elasticity, then loosen it to about 50 percent elasticity.
- Lay the tape down flat against your skin. Rub the tape vigorously to heat the tape up. This helps it bond better to your skin.
- Now, cut off two smaller pieces of tape. They should be shorter than the circumference of the middle of your calf.
- Apply the first small piece of tape much in the same way above the central point of pain on your leg.
- Apply the second small piece of tape just under the central point of pain in your leg.
All done! The KT tape should stay in place and not slip during regular wear. It will move with your body and at no point should be uncomfortable. If you’ve applied the tape too tightly around a certain area, you need to remove the tape and reapply it with less tension.
All Around Taping
This one is good for pain that’s spread to other areas of the lower leg, such as the calf.
- Find the bony part of the interior ankle and anchor a little KT tape there.
- Run the tape to encircle the ankle (running from the bony bit to around the Achilles tendon then back again.)
- Now, run a piece of tape diagonally up the shin till it encircles the bottom of the calf, running up to stop just below the front of the knee.
- Repeat with another piece of tape as needed.
This should successfully take the pressure off your shin and allow you to heal the area much faster. Again, if at any point the tape is too tight and is uncomfortable, remove it and start over.
Inner Shin Splint (Posterior)
If you have pain running along the inner portion of your lower leg, then you might have a shin splint running behind your tibia and its subsequent muscles.
- Find the center of pain along your inner lower leg. It is probably a few inches above the bony part of your ankle.
- With a long piece of KT tape, anchor the piece of tape to a spot below the ankle (several inches below the central point of pain).
- Fold the tape in half and cut it gently into two pieces.
- Take the piece closest to your big toe and run it straight up your leg, giving it about 50 percent tension.
- Take the other piece of tape and curve it slightly towards your calf. If should look like the top of a ‘K’, then straight out again to run parallel to the first piece of tape.
- Get a second long piece of KT tape.
- Anchor it a few inches above the heel, several inches away from the central point of pain. Place it horizontally on your leg.
- Rip this piece of tape in half as well.
- Take the top piece and run it horizontally till it goes to above the top of your foot, then curve it up your shin. In effect, it should make a horizontal J-shape of sorts.
- Do this with the second piece of tape. Make a J-shape that runs an inch below the first piece of horizontal tape.
- Rub the tape vigorously to create friction. The heat allows the tape to better adhere to your skin. It helps to use a piece of paper from the back of the KT tape to do this.
There you have it, some of the best techniques to tape up a shin splint. Pain tends to distribute itself based on what area of the leg is stressed and which isn’t, so you might find yourself using all three taping techniques at some point in your running career. But with this knowledge now in your mind, you’ll be better prepared to handle your recover the next time your legs decide to give you shin splints.