As training runs increase in time and distance, this is usually what leads to injuries. Even with a well thought out and scheduled training plan injuries can occur. Usually, shin splints or common lower leg pain that occurs below the knew on the front outsides of the leg is due to too much distance too soon. Therefore, finding the best compression sleeves for shin splints can help prevent the pain of them.
Of course, as soon as you have any lower leg pain seeking a medical professional is always highly recommended. Simply because shin splints may not be the leading cause of the pain. Other common injuries can be stress fractures or compartment syndrome. Compression sleeves are designed to increase blood flow and decrease the rate of fatigue of your muscles. As a result, they can be very helpful to triathletes who are running consistent mileage each week.
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Best Compression Sleeves For Shin Splints –
1. CEP Men’s Progressive Compression Calf Sleeves –
Price: Average | Rating: 9.8
When it comes to finding the best compression sleeves for shin splints, CEP Compression company is a leader. Designed to perform, recover, and prevent such injuries. CEP is a leader in creating compression sleeves that can help increase blood flow. For over 50 years CEP has been producing top quality compression sleeves in Germany. There unique circular knit technology allows for a constant compression in every thread around your lower leg. On top of that, they have over 27 quality checks per sleeve, ensuring that nothing leaves their facility that doesn’t match their quality standards.
You’ll find when you order a set of the CEP 2.0 sleeves that is built on two core technologies. First, the graduated compression, meaning its tighter at the ankle and gradually gets less tight towards the top of the sleeve. Therefore, improving circulation and increase the deoxygenated blood to circulate back to the heart. The second technology that is embedded in the sleeves is consistent calf compression of 18mmHG. Therefore, giving your muscle increased blood flow with oxygen-rich blood allow you to perform more efficiently. The best part about all of this is that they can be used while running or recovering. They help to stabilize your muscle and increase the recovery and reduction of any swelling.
The last advantage to the CEP sleeves is that they have a very foolproof measurement process. This way you get a set that is going to give you the optimal compression CEP intended for. Simply measure your calf muscle in centimeters and this will help get you in the correct size. We found that the compression sleeves never slipped, twisted, or became torn over our use with them. Overall they have a fantastic feel.
The only disadvantage with the CEP sleeves was that they can be a little difficult to get on. Now, of course, they are compression sleeves so that is expected. However, a simple trick to get these on was to bunch them up in a circle and slip them over your ankle first. Then this allows you to roll them up your calf much easier, especially when your legs are sweaty during a transition.
1. CEP Women’s Progressive Compression Calf Sleeves –
Price: Average | Rating: 9.8
Thankfully CEP is such a large and expanding brand unlike any other. They have Men and Women specific compression calf sleeves. The sleeves feature their same progressive compression found in the men’s sleeves above. Which are clinically proven to improve performance, reduce micro-trauma to the leg muscles, and prevent injuries. The unique increased circulation technology helps to improve the performance and endurance triathletes need.
The largest advantage to women’s specific CEP compression sleeves is that the sizing is custom made to fit the contour and size of women’s calves better than the men’s version.
2. 2XU Compression Performance Run Sleeves –
Price: Average | Rating: 9.6
2XU (AKA “Two Times You”) launched when professional triathlete Jamie Hunt turned his passion for the sport into performance fabrics. He partnered with Clyde Davenport and marketing specialist Aidan Clarke and created 2XU in Melbourne Australia in 2005. They started by servicing the running and triathlete industry with leading technical sportswear, from shorts, t-shirts, pants, to compression sleeves. 2XU’s proprietary PWX compression fabric was developed specifically with medical technology to give athletes powerful, lightweight and flexible performance.
Made of 72% nylon and 28% elastane the lightweight compression sleeves are extremely durable and retain their compression for life. 2XU even has a 1-year guarantee in the event of any manufacturer imperfections. The design of the sleeves are really nice as a triathlete. I know I hate having more material on me than needed, especially when the temperature is rising. So 2XU designed the front panel to be lightweight and breathable increasing airflow and moisture management. With constant 360° compression that is graduated for added circulation and faster recovery. The 2XU sleeves are perfect for any endurance athlete seeking the benefits and preventions of any lower leg issues.
The two major concerns we had with the sleeves was that they seemed to run a bit tighter than other models according to the size chart. However, for the very low price, we had bought two sizes and had no issues returning a set that didn’t fit. The second disadvantage was that we had a set tear a little while trail running after being caught on a stick. More than likely most brands would do the same. However, with the 1-year guarantee, we had no issues getting a replacement set.
3. SKINS Unisex Essentials Compression MX Calf Sleeves –
Price: High | Rating: 9.2
Skins launched in 2010, the advertisement to feature athletes who choose not to participate in the unfair advantages of using doping techniques and cheating. Instead, Skins wanted to share with athletes proven technology that could help improve performance and recovery without losing the integrity of sports. However, the history of the company started in 1996 with an Aussie skier who was looking for ways to improve their recovery times between skiing. Focusing on blood flow and circulation to improve oxygen to the muscles. The founders of SKINS sought help from sources such as NASA to solve the problem. Pro athletes began using the products as did amateur as they benefits were significant.
Fast forward and SKINS has over 160 products with quality and an emphasis on performance in mind. Their Essential Compression sleeves are one of their most popular products. The sleeves have a dynamic gradient compression that increases muscle oxygenation that helps stabilize active muscles and reducing any lactic acid build up. As a result, you get a sleeve that increases performance and recovery times. The feature that stands out the most on these sleeves is the added UV 50+ rating. With the long hours of a triathlon event having the UV protection is key in not adding any issues or setbacks to your race like sunburn.
Lastly, the memory MX fabric is designed to keep its compression and size for life. We never found that the material every stretched or shrank as we used them. Therefore, this gives you a natural movement that won’t allow discomfort or the sleeves to slip down on your legs.
The largest disadvantage is the price for SKINS, they are significantly higher than a lot of the other models. It’s hard to jump on these when numerous other brands are less expensive. However, SKINS has multiple sizes and colors that make them more desirable if you are looking for something in particular.
4. 2XU Elite MCS Compression Guards –
Price: High | Rating: 9.1
As we talked about early 2XU has such a large focus on triathletes and runners, they decided to expand their product line beyond their performance line and make the Elite line available. Made of 80% nylon and 20% elastane the Elite offers a superior PWX FLEX 70D compression to the calf and shin while the MCS or Muscle Containment Stamping, is targeted to the calves for muscle protection. Offering graduated compression that ultimately increases blood circulation.
The Elite model compression sleeves are one of the best compression sleeves for shin splints as they are very comfortable. Made with Invista lycra it gives a soft feel that provides a great fit and support needed for the lower leg. Similar to the SKINS model these are 50+ UV rated to help protect your skin from the damages of the sun. However, they go above and beyond with the sleeves being antibacterial. As you know it doesn’t take clothing while training to smell. So having that added barrier was really nice.
Unlike some of the cheaper brands, the Elite models have six different sizes ranging from calf griths of 30-48cm. We found it pretty easy to find a pair that would fit correctly. The last added benefit was that they back of the sleeves have gastrocnemius mapping, which really helps to target the calf muscles reducing strain and impact of running. As a result, they really seemed to help make running longer distances possible.
Similar to the SKINS the largest disadvantage to the Elite model was that they are almost double the cost of the 2XU performance model compression sleeves. Secondly, make sure to measure your calf to get the right size. Don’t simply guess what you’d think your correct size would be. 2XU designs their sleeves to custom fit. If you get too small of a size they will be too tight. Same goes for if you get too large of size, they will not provide the compression technology you are seeking when looking for the best compression sleeves for shin splints.
5. CEP Men’s Progressive Compression Socks –
Price: Average | Rating: 8.9
The last to round out our list of the best compression sleeves for shin splints are actually socks. Yes, they aren’t sleeves, however, they have a significant difference to sleeves that some triathletes overlook. There is some difference between a sock and sleeve style that can be personal preference, however, the is added benefits to the lower foot and ankle. The targeted compression of 22-25mmHG in the foot and ankle helps to prevent swelling in the foot and ankle. It also helps to provide a better feel for your foot and ankle position.
Besides the better foot and ankle support and compression that can prevent injuries and improve performance. The feel of a complete sock can really add to a more comfortable run. Instead of a sleeve that doesn’t touch your foot or ankle. The sock can actually provide a more even graduated compression from your foot all the way up your lower leg.
The second added benefit was that you don’t have to worry about using socks and sleeves while racing or training. Instead, slip one pair on and you get the performance benefits. No need to worry about your toes not having circulation as the socks are designed to increase circulation without restricting your toes. Therefore, giving you a better fit and it also prevents any blisters or sores that may occur on your feet.
The leading disadvantages for the socks from CEP were that if you don’t bike or run with socks, but still want compression than the sleeves will work better. The socks are also a little more expensive since its more material than the sleeves. However, they won’t break the bank in the event you want a couple pairs in case one needs to be washed.
Understanding How Compression Sleeves Work –
To fully understand how compression sleeves work, we first have to understand the basics of blood flow and how it’s done throughout our body. Your heart pumps oxygenated blood to each of our extremities like or hands and feet through arteries. The cells then use the oxygen and nutrients from the blood, then the deoxygenated blood, lactic acid, and waste enter the veins to get taken back up to your heart to start the cycle over again.
Oxygenated blood flows to the muscles is an important part of triathlete performance. The oxygen-rich blood helps to improve the muscles and functions of the cells. For example, when running your body produced lactic acid as a waste product. If the lactic acid isn’t removed from your muscle it will result in soreness and fatigue.
Where Do Compression Sleeves Come Into Play-
Therefore, once we have basic knowledge of blood flow and its importance we can take a look at compression sleeves. They provide a constant gradual compression as they are worn. Meaning the lower part of the compression sock or sleeve should be tighter and less tight as it reaches the top of your calf. Therefore, this helps to fight gravity and assist in the venous return of deoxygenated blood.
Studies have shown that the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the flow of blood through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase by as much as 40% during activity such as running and as much as 30% during recovery. Therefore, more oxygen is flowing through the body at these times. With compression sleeves, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression helping to increase the flow of blood through them. As a result, the faster rate of blood flow through the veins means that the lactic acid and deoxygenated blood will return to the heart sooner. Decreasing muscle soreness and increase the rate of recovery. Compression also benefits muscle stabilization which is another factor of fatigue.
Overall compression sleeves will help increase blood flow and stimulate a quicker recovery time while preventing soreness in your leg muscles.
What Are Compression Sleeves Good For –
Compression will not cure any ailments or conditions, but rather help to prevent soreness while you have an injury and make your recovery feel better. For example, I had compartment syndrome and after about 2-3 miles of running it would flare up. However, when I wore compression sleeves it would prevent the soreness and I could continue to run. This allowed me to keep training as this was leading up to a race. The best way to rid lower leg injuries is to seek a medical specialist and get rest, stretching, massages, and check your footwear.
What If I’m Injured –
In the event, you are already injured and you are unsure if compression sleeves would be right for you. The answer is yes, with increased blood flow this is going to help improve your overall performance and decrease the fatigue and soreness in your leg muscles. I know wearing a set of compression sleeves after a 140.6 race is a huge help for soreness and fatigue felt from such an event. Compression sleeves are a great way to increase your recovery time, especially if you don’t have the access to a Recovery boot system.
Compression Socks or Sleeves –
The two most common forms of compression come in sleeves and socks. The sleeves are designed to be worn from the ankle to your upper calf. Whereas the socks are to be worn on your feet to just below the knee. If you have an injury or are prone to soreness in your ankle, lower Achilles tendon, or arch. You are going to want to try out compression socks to over the full foot and lower leg.
Another thing to consider is your preference, for me, I don’t like wearing socks on the bike so a set of sleeves suit my style. Same goes for running if you have a set of running socks that you always wear for races. Then the sleeves are going to be your go-to selection. However, I know the socks can be more comfortable and less to worry about as they are one piece and have a more consistent flow. Therefore, trying a couple different styles will help you decide.
The last thing to consider is that compression socks first and foremost help blood flow. So when traveling to and from races, wear a set can really keep the blood flowing and prevent any fatigue prior to a race.