It's been a couple of years since I last had bad shin splits but I can still recall how painful they can be. I was able to heal them before mostly with a couple weeks rest.

If the pain came back when backpacking, a day or so away from transportation, what methods can be used to at least control the pain enough to get back to civilization without having to leave all my gear on the trail?

I prefer answers that do not include an additional person to carry weight since I often backpack alone. I also don't need answers on how to treat it once I am home.

Is there anything better than a couple of ice packs and aspirin? Obviously I would prefer the lightest solution to reduce pack weight and the chance of the shin splints in the first place.

  • 1
    Please don't use aspirin as pain-killer, especially not when in the backcountry alone. It inhibits blood coagulation which can prove fatal in an accident. Also see outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/6291/…
    – imsodin
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 10:46
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    As a therapist, what we would look for in first place are your shoes and how you walk, including your stride, often too long of a stride is the problem. It could be also due to compensation so a whole assessment should be performed. You need to understand that there isnt a one solution fits all. I know you ask for remedies but you also talk about reducing them in first place and the lightest solution of all is to not get them. Out there you treat them as inflammation, thats why you get to ice and aspirin, but that doesnt help if you have to go on with it for a long time Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 13:57
  • @ErikvanDoren - write this up as an answer! Especially the part about stride and if you can suggest any other possible solutions that people can DIY, that would be great.
    – Ryley
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 0:34
  • @ErikvanDoren - I second the comment from Ryley . I would love to hear more details if you have them. Like is there a rule of thumb for stride length and height? I'm pretty tall and hike slowly so I doubt I take too long of a stride but I would love to find out.
    – Justin C
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 13:22
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    @JustinC, there is a correlation obviously but not a rule of thumb, while its very easy to spot on the sunday jogger that takes extremely long steps because of bad technique, when you are taking someone walking, its way less obvious as the whole muscle usage is different switching much more effort on the calves, sometimes can be a matter of small changes and terrain and weight do have their importance. Then some really slam their heels, some do it only with an heavy pack. You need to assess people in person, see how they walk to pick on the problem, if thats where the problem is. Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 3:09

2 Answers 2


I have suffered pretty badly from these on a couple long hikes. Here's my best suggestions from my experience:

  • If at all possible stop hiking for a week (I know the scenario you set up precludes this ).

Assuming for the rest of these you have to keep going:

  1. Whenever you stop, lie down with your feet up. If a cold stream is nearby, sticking your legs in it would be preferable.
  2. Take NSAIDs (Ibuprofen would be the my preference). My personal, probably body-destroying dosage is to take a lot. I'm ~200lbs, so if it gets bad I'm taking 4x200mg tabs at a time, every 4 hours. I've gotten by on 2x200mg but it was painful.
  3. Wear compression on your shins. The best thing I've gotten was a neoprene calf sleeve, but I've also done it successfully with just a normal ACE bandage. Anything that provides compression on your shin really, I once doubled up a stretchy ankle brace and used that.
  4. If you are far enough out that you have to camp with shinsplints, sleep with your feet and knees raised (put a log under your tent, or use your backpack under your knees).

With just the Ibuprofen and compression, I was able to hike 10-12 hours a day, 30+km for 5 days, and only truly suffered for the first 2 days, it started healing almost immediately once compression was added. Just taking the Ibuprofen, I have not successfully shaken the shin splints off.

  • I asked a similar question to this by the way - more about prevention than controlling symptoms - outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/596/…
    – Ryley
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 21:22
  • Thanks, great ideas. I had seen your earlier post and found it very helpful. It left me wondering about the question I asked and that is why I tried to differentiate my specific question from yours.
    – Justin C
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 22:54
  • Yep Justin, I agree that this is a good question and definitely different than the one I had!
    – Ryley
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 23:14
  • FYI, 1,200 mg is considered the maximum daily dose for over the counter use of Ibuprofen.
    – furtive
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 0:17
  • @furtive, I suppose I should have made it clearer above that I'm aware it's not healthy :)
    – Ryley
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 0:49

Compression sleeves work really well. In addition I would add stretches for your calves and arches. Carry lacrosse ball to roll out under your foot and lower leg muscles, especially if you get shin splints often.

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