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How to Tape Shin Splints

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT November 22, 2019 0 Comments

kinesiology tape on shin

The lower leg is a very straight forward area for applying kinesiology tape (also known as kinesio tape). Below are the basics on how to tape shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, to help maximize your recovery.

What is Shin Splint Taping?

Kinesio tape can be applied for several different reasons. These reasons include better circulation, improved body awareness, muscle activation, and muscle inhibition (depending on the goal for the area). It is most commonly applied in alignment with the muscle fibers of the affected muscle(s). Shin splint taping is most commonly done with the goal of providing support to the anterior tibialis, a muscle that is often a victim of overuse with running and walking programs.

The Benefits of Taping

Taping the shins can provide several benefits depending on how it is applied. Kinesiology tape has been extensively shown to provide better biofeedback, or building the body’s awareness of its own movement. Thus, having tape on the shin can help you learn to properly modify your activities while recovering. Other additional potential benefits include shin pain relief (via a circulation boost), and mild levels of muscle stability and support. These taping techniques are even safe for applying when stress fractures are present.

Tips for Taping

Here are tips for maximizing use of kinesio tape :

  • Clean the skin prior to taping to increase the life of the tape.

  • The ends of the tape should never have any stretch in them to promote better adherence and prevent excessive skin irritation.

  • Tear the paper on the back of the tape where you want the anchors. This means you will be able to place the tape down without touching any of the adhesive. Touching the adhesive will limit the life of the tape.

  • You have two options: pre-cut tape or rolls of tape that you cut on your own. Pre-cut tape is simpler but less versatile. If you cut your own tape, measure it while keeping in mind the amount of stretch you will be applying. Then round the edges with scissors to increase stick time.

  • You can typically wear k-tape for 2-5 days. Take if off if you notice itching, redness, a rash or any other adverse side effects. When you want to remove the tape, peel it away slowly and gently. DO NOT rip it, it will take skin with it.

  • You can shower with the tape applied, but it will decrease its time that it stays in place. Simply pat dry.

  • When it comes to the right amount of stretch, less is almost always better. Don’t think you need a strong, maximum stretch with the tape to gain benefits. Just laying the tape on the skin without any stretch still provides some tension benefits, try to keep the stretch between 10-20% (use the lines in the tape to determine this amount). Never go more than a 50% stretch to avoid skin irritation.

  • Rub the tape along every edge to properly activate the adhesive and promote proper sticking.

Kinesiology Taping Techniques

Anterior Tibialis for Pain Relief

This technique will address soreness and pain for anterior shin splints, along the muscle you can feel just outside the shin bone itself. First, cut two pieces of tape that will have one singular anchor and two legs on the other end (cut down the middle of the tape on one side, stopping before your anchor). One will be placed horizontally across the shin and the other vertically (this one should be longer). Then, locate the area of pain in the shin that you will be focusing the tape around. Place the single anchor just below the area of pain (1-2 inches) with the legs of the tape facing vertically up toward the knee. Add 5-10% stretch as you put each leg around the sore area. For the second piece, start on the outside edge of the pain spot with the tape legs facing inward toward the shin itself. Complete the same strategy as before, this time horizontally. You should feel relief and support of the shin muscle.

Taping for Trigger Points

This is a great option for muscle knots, or trigger points, to provide pain relief and promote circulation to the trouble area. This taping technique requires 2-4 small strips that will be placed over the muscle knot in a cross pattern (or flower pattern if you’re using more than 2 strips). Take some time to palpate your shin and find any trouble areas you may want to address. Place one side of the strip just below the muscle knot with no tension, then apply 5-10% tension to the tape over the knot before placing the other side of the tape just above. You will repeat this process in a horizontal direction to create an “X”. If you want to add more strips, apply them diagonally. This pattern will gently lift the skin in the area to help with blood flow and healing.

Anterior Tibialis for Muscle Support

This tape technique will promote better muscle activation and provide support the anterior tibialis. Cut one long strip. It will start from the bottom of the foot (starting at the outer edge), go across the inner arch of the foot, then across the shin bone (about midway), and end just below the outer edge of the knee. Apply your first tape anchor on the bottom outer edge of the foot, then apply 10-20% tension as you bring the tape under your foot and over the arch (right in the middle of the inner foot). Continue keeping tension in the tape as you pull the tape at a diagonal across the inner ankle toward the shin. The tape should cross the shin about midway up the leg. Complete the tape by placing the anchor on the outer edge of the knee. Do not go so high with the tape that you cross the knee joint itself. You should immediately feel shin and arch support. If you feel it needs more stability, you can add another strip (or two) that overlaps about about 50% of the first strip.

If you want to add more support and dynamics to your taping, you can find lots of options in the video link below to add even further support to the entire ankle, foot, and shin. However, it is significantly more time consuming. Keep in mind, more isn’t always better. Play with the options and find what works for you. Additionally, consider getting advice and initial instruction from a physical therapist.

Safe and Effective Recovery

Like any treatment option, make sure you are completely comfortable with it before proceeding.  If you are unsure or experience a progression of symptoms, talk to your doctor for further recommendations and treatment options.   

Contraindications for taping:

  • Severe circulation issues or swelling
  • Poor skin integrity or skin sensitivity
  • Allergy to adhesive
  • An open wound
  • Too much hair (due to comfort and effectiveness)

Taping for shin splints is a great cost effective option for providing support and pain relief. Follow these simple rules and techniques and you should notice subtle but immediate improvements. Ultimately, it should be an adjunct with your recovery program.

Stretches and Exercises for Shin Splints

How to Massage for Shin Splints

Foam Rolling for Shin Splints

Icing for Shin Splints


Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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