I have received a lot of inquiries regarding the Zensah Shin Splint – Calf Compression sleeve I began using last week. So many in fact that I felt a product review was in order. To date I have used the sleeve for 4 training runs covering 21 miles and the Austin 3M Half Marathon last Sunday. So far the performance of the Zensah compression sleeve and the added comfort it has provided has exceeded my initial expectations for the product.
To provide the necessary back-story for this review I really should start with my training injury suffered earlier this winter. Until December I had never experienced any type of shin pain or shin splint issues since I began distance running and marathon training in 2005. I am fortunate to have a very neutral strike, a solid running economy and do not put a lot of additional strain on my musculature as my body weight has remained very stable over the course of the last several years.
That said, shin issues much like IT Band issues are injuries that for most distance runners is not a matter of if you will experience them, it is simply a matter of when. You hope that the timing is not terribly disruptive to your training for a big race and that you can resolve them quickly with a return to pain-free running as soon as possible.
My shin issues were directly related to a change in my training preparing for the Boston Marathon in April. Ironically it was not a matter of increased mileage that caused the problem which is often the cause of shin splints in runners. I monitored the weekly mileage component very closely by sticking to a proven training plan that had kept me injury free in the past. In my case it was a direct result of a change to the terrain over which I was running not an increase in intensity or frequency.
At the time I believed that a change to my traditional training plan that would incorporate more hill work into my runs was a requirement in order to prepare for the treacherous Boston course. The increased hill training had an adverse effect however and I suffered a strained calf muscle as a result. My attempt to back-off slightly, but continue to train through the calf issue landed me on the shelf with full-blown cae of shin splints less than three weeks later. Instead of building strength in the injured calf area my continued training was in fact doing the opposite. My weakening calf muscle forced the smaller surrounding muslces in my lower leg to take on more of a load than they were designed to handle.
The transfer of energy from the largest muscle in my lower leg (the calf) placed far too much strain on the smaller muscle groups which typically serve as “shock absorbers” during your ground strike. This added energy was then transferred directly to the sheath that surrounds the tibia – and “whala” – shin splints.
After a trip to Austin Sports Medicine (Visit information here) http://wp.me/pHGel-1Ian an MRI (story here) http://wp.me/pHGel-38 ice therapy, no-impact cross training (cycling) and a gradual return to running my shin injury had recovered to approximately 85-90%. I was now able to run “close” to injury free – but I was still feeling some weakness during my runs and had some residual soreness after running or strength training. Not having the luxury to wait much longer as Boston loomed approximately 16 weeks away – it was time to get on with training and start preparing in a serious way for the first of two marathons 13 days apart to deliver on my Run for Dom commitment http://wp.me/PHGel-H.
The warmth aspect is a key as properly warmed muscles are much more pliable and able to better absorb shock – which would address what I feel was the primary source of my discomfort.
The other feature of the sleeve that drew me to the Zensah product was the fact that the front of the sleeve is designed to prevent shin splints by incorporating a compression pattern (the chevron pattern or inverted ÒVÓ). This chevron ribbing along the front helps support the muscles in the shin area thereby reducing the pain associated with shin splints. The deep groove ribbing also helps increase blood circulation which transfers oxygen to the muscles faster.
The back of the sleeve provides support of the calf and Achilles with pock and vertical lines that closely mimic the calf muscles.
The sizing information was very straightforward based on the height of the runner which made ordering online very straightforward:
S/M: Height 5 9″ and below. Calf Size 11.5″ – 14.5″
L/XL: Height 5 10″ and up. Calf Size 14.5″ and up
Like other Zensah products I had read about online – the product is really well made. The compression sleeve is constructed from high quality neoprene material and features a virtually “seamless” design to decrease any chance of discomfort or chafing during a long run.
From the first time I used the sleeve I noticed a significant difference in the support and “strength” I seemed to have in my lower right leg. Instead of feeling like I had 100% strength in my left leg and 90% in my right – immediately I felt as if my legs were now equal from an overall strength perspective.
The true test for me however was how my leg would respond post-workout. Again, I continue to ice the area after each run – but the results were very impressive. Gone was that nagging soreness that seemed to come between 30 minutes and 1 hour after each of my training runs.
Under race conditions last weekend at the 3M half Marathon (race report here link) http://wp.me/pHGel-7U – I honestly had forgotten all about my shin issues until about mile 12 when I reflected on how strong I felt and the absence of any issues in my lower right leg.
I am not saying that without the proper diagnosis, rest, rehabilitation, ice therapy and physical therapy that the Zensah sleeve is a “magic product” that will resolve all of your shin issues. But if you have followed a sound rehabilitation plan and have worked back to reasonable level of recovery – I think the Zensah sleeve may just be what you need to push you over the hump and get back to doing what we all love to do which is run and run pain-free.
If you have any questions about the product or any of the exercises my Doctor prescribed to help me move past this issue – please feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to help. The blessing that comes from being able to run injury free is one that I have a newfound respect for. I am happy to help anyone suffering from this painful condition.
One final note as I have stated in previous blog postings – I by no means receive any incentives to provide positive product reviews on this site. I simply pass along my own experiences with various products that I have found helpful. Stop back tomorrow as I will be posting an update on Dom who has made some progress on his final round of chemotherapy treatments. Go Dom!