Test yourself - do you present any of the following symptoms?
- Pain on the front, sides, or inside of your shins
- Tenderness or soreness in your shins
- Swelling in your shins
- Numbness or weakness in your feet
If you recognize any of these symptoms, you may have shin splints.
Shin splints are a common injury that affects runners, dancers and other athletes, caused by inflammation of the muscles and tendons in the lower leg.
Shin splints typically occur when you start a new exercise program or increase the intensity of your workouts. The repetitive stress of running or jumping can cause the muscles and tendons in your lower leg to become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to pain, swelling and tenderness, also known as shin splints.
In most cases, shin splints will go away on their own with rest and proper treatment.
When should you wear compression socks for shin splints?
If you already had shin splints, their prevention primarily relies on gradually and progressively increasing your activity level. It is also important to properly stretch and warm up before any high intensity activity, as well as cool down and stretch afterward.
In addition to these preventive measures, wearing compression calf sleeves or socks during your runs can provide added support when your legs are healthy.
The best compression socks and the most effective for preventing shin splints should fit well, apply gentle pressure (without limiting your range of motion), and be constructed from fabrics that ensure comfort during workouts or runs.
If you are recovering from shin splints and resting from physical exertion, it is recommended to use compression socks during the day and take them off when you go to bed. In this case, the socks should offer a slightly firmer fit on the leg than the ones used for preventative reasons. These socks will massage the calf muscles, providing relief from tension and discomfort.
What is the best thing to wear for shin splints?
Shin compression sleeves or two-piece compression socks are best for preventing or treating shin splints (continue reading to find out exactly how such socks help).
A two-piece compression sock, that consists of a mid-calf compression sock and a calf sleeve, is the most recommended option because it makes putting on the normally-difficult-to-wear knee-high compression socks a breeze, while still protecting both your feet and your calf area.
Instead of fighting your way into a one-piece, knee-high compression sock, with the two-piece system you first wear the pressure sock just like you would regular socks, and only then you easily put on the calf sleeve.
Do compression socks help shin splints?
Compression socks both protect your shins against additional harm and help them heal.
Here’s how compression socks can help if you have shin splints or want to prevent them:
- Improve blood circulation. Compression socks apply gentle pressure to the feet, ankles and calves. This pressure helps improve the blood circulation to the shins and the return of blood to the heart. This optimal blood flow carries essential nutrients to the affected area, helping to heal or prevent shin splints.
- Alleviate pain. The gentle pressure applied by compression socks also effectively reduces inflammation, thereby helping to alleviate pain. Additionally, the improved blood flow resulting from compression also helps to eliminate the lactic acid that contributes to muscle soreness.
- Combat swelling and stiffness. By applying pressure to the specific area affected by shin splints, the compression socks effectively reduce the likelihood of painful swelling and stiffness.
It’s also worth mentioning that once your shin splints have healed, wearing compression socks will not only help prevent their recurrence, but also enhance your performance, because the increased blood flow improves the efficiency of your movements and reduces fatigue in the feet and legs.
Will my shin splints ever go away?
Seeing as the healing process is individual, there’s no way to know when your shin splints will heal. But, it usually takes anywhere between 3 to 6 months. Still, in some cases healing can also take a year.
Normally, shin splints tend to heal on their own when you:
- wear compression socks (for all of the above mentioned reasons);
- rest from high intensity or your previous sport activity to give your shin splints time to heal. When they do heal, it’s essential to return to your regular exercise gradually and continue using compression socks to prevent the shin splints from coming back;
- ice your shin every 4 hours for about 30 minutes for a few days, to reduce swelling and ease pain;
- wear shoes or orthotic inserts that provide support to your arches if they tend to flatten or collapse, and to your feet in general. The best shoes for shin splints come with orthopedic features that disperse shocks evenly across the foot, taking some of the added pressure off your shins.
Note that in most cases, it’s not necessary to take a break from all types of physical activity, only the ones that aggravate your shin splints. While you heal, you can still engage in no-impact activity, such as swimming.
Finally, how will you know that your shin splints healed? Look for the following signs:
- When you apply pressure to previously tender areas you no longer experience pain.
- Running and jumping no longer hurts or causes discomfort.
- Both legs are similarly flexible (with shin splints, your injured leg will be less flexible).
- Your injured leg is as strong as your uninjured leg.
If there is no improvement or if your shin splints return after they’ve already healed, it’s best to see a doctor or a physical therapist, who will recommend treatment and check if you have stress fractures.