A Beginner’s Guide to Kinesiology Tape for Runners

If you watch any sports program on TV (such as March Madness basketball or the Summer Olympics), you’ve probably noticed the colorful tape that some of the athletes have on their bodies in intricate designs.

This article will explore the history, uses, and best techniques for using kinesiology tape for runners, such as learning how to remove kinesiology tape. If you’re an athlete interested in trying kinesiology tape, keep reading to learn more.

What is Kinesiology Tape?

Kinesio tape, also called K tape or physio tape, is a thick, elastic, heat-activated sports tape. Crafted with an innovative blend of cotton and spandex, the tape is lightweight, breathable, and flexible.

Its elasticity does not overly restrict the area of application (like white athletic tape does), and it is designed to provide just enough pressure and support to facilitate strength in the muscles and tissues

Leading manufacturers boast that this product is capable of relieving over a dozen different injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendonitis, and even glute discomfort.

kinesiology tape for runners

A History of Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape has been around since 1995 but didn’t get local attention until the London Olympics in 2012. Since then, the demand for this tape has grown significantly. Personal trainers, physical therapists, and athletes love the tape for its diverse applications.

Does Kinesiology Tape Actually Work?

There is mixed research on the efficacy of kinesiology tape, but many people swear by it. Proponents claim that it increases blood flow to certain areas, reduces inflammation and bruising, and supports muscles during physical activity.

However, other studies state that the effects are either minimal or only short-term. Ultimately, if you want to know whether or not kinesiology tape will help you, the only way to find out is to try it for yourself. As long as you’re a good candidate for trying it, at worst, you wasted some cash on tape that doesn’t work.

You may notice K-tape in the office of physical therapists. Some providers love using it as an adjunct treatment to optimize overall recovery from injury.

What Research Does Show

Although the precise physiological processes of kinesiology tape’s efficacy remain largely unknown, its healing capabilities are undeniable.

Many studies have investigated its effects on pain, inflammation, muscle function, and joint position sense.

  • An ultrasound study showed that the tape helped to lift up the tissue layers underneath the skin. This shows that it reduces swelling and/or injury pressure well.
  • A recent study used MRI scans to show that kinesiology tape on the skin not only helps with physical problems but also affects deeper muscles and tissues. This is likely because it changes how the body sends signals to the brain.
kinesiology tape for runners

The Uses and Benefits of K-Tape

There are a few primary benefits to using kinesiology tape for running. These include:

  • Provides feedback, known as proprioception, to help runners keep optimal form.
  • Biomechanical retraining. K-tape can be used to retrain muscles that have become unbalanced from overuse, underuse, or injury.
  • Improved muscle performance because it lifts the skin slightly away from the muscle, improving circulation and allowing for a better exchange of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Enhanced swelling management thanks to its elastic properties that lift the skin and allow better fluid movement.
  • Pain relief. The elastic pressure from the K-tape can be used to reduce pain and discomfort associated with muscle strains, overuse injuries, ligament sprains, and more.

What K-tape Isn’t Good For

There is a misconception that the purpose of kinesiology tape is to provide support, protection, and stability without restricting the athlete’s range of motion.

Overall, studies do not show that K-tape is helpful for providing stability or support. A brace or stiffer tape, such as athletic tape, is better for these processes.

What is K-tape Used For?

As a runner, you may face several potential injuries or issues that kinesiology tape can help with. Examples include:

  • Localized swelling from a bruise or other injury. This involves strategically placing strips of tape across an area of swelling to promote circulation toward the heart.
  • Iliotibial-band syndrome (IT band syndrome). A common and painful running injury affects the hip, knee, and lower leg. It involves placing tape strips from the hip to the knee to provide reduced tension in affected areas. Tape may also be used to retrain better running mechanics by placing the tape on the glutes.
  • Muscle fatigue or cramping during a run. This can involve applying strips of tape over muscles to promote circulation during a run or training session.
  • Hamstring strain. You may place tape strips along the muscle’s length to help reduce tension in the affected area.
  • Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome). This involves using a strip of tape along the affected muscle (along the front of the shin) to help reduce tension and promote circulation.
  • Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome). You may place strips of tape on the kneecap to improve tracking or across the quadriceps muscle to improve muscle activation with running, jumping, etc.
  • Plantar fasciitis (pain in the bottom of the foot). Tape may be used on the bottom of the foot or across the foot and ankle complex to encourage better mechanics and blood flow for healing.
  • Painful muscle knots. Creating a “star” of tape around the muscle knot can help promote relaxation and pain relief.
  • Hip and pelvis pain from pregnancy. Strategically placing strips of tape across the lower back or even the belly itself can provide pain and pressure in a pregnant belly.
  • Achilles tendonitis. Strips of tape can be used to provide feedback and reduce strain on the back of the ankle. (See best running shoes for Achilles Tendinitis here.)
  • Addressing poor postural habits. By applying strips of tape across the spine and back, kinesiology taping can provide feedback that encourages better posture for running, walking, standing, etc.
  • Fine-tuning lower body mechanics. Such as reducing overpronation of the foot, improving hip alignment, and reducing strain on the knee.

K-tape also be used for back pain, neck pain, shoulder issues, and many other conditions. Overall, kinesiology tape can be a great tool to help runners stay healthy, prevent injury, or manage current conditions.

For the scope of this article, covering each taping technique cannot be covered. However, there are great tutorials online, such as the Official KT Tape YouTube channel, that you can check out for additional information on the application.

kinesiology tape for runners

The Basics Steps for Using Kinesiology Tape

When you’re ready to get started with K-tape, follow these steps.

1. Purchase The Right Kinesiology Tape

There are several brands on the market, including the popular KT Tape and Rock tape. You can buy these online or in a local pharmacy.

You can buy tape in precut strips or as a long roll. For versatility and better cost efficiency, I recommend buying the roll so that you can cut each strip to the specific size you need.

You’ll notice different colors and levels of “stretch.” This isn’t super important when you’re first getting started. In general, choose a color you will use and a moderate level of stretch.

2. Prepare Your Tape For Application

Once you select your tape, you can prepare strips for applying to your body. Measure the area you want to cover and cut the appropriate length of the strip. To maximize its use, round the edges of the tape with scissors to prevent it from getting stuck to your clothing. If you are doing any special application that requires splitting the tape into one or more strips, now is the time to do that as well.

Note: There is a misconception that you will “stretch” the tape for application. In recent years, it has been shown that simply laying the elastic tape flat on your skin will provide the same benefits without unnecessary skin irritation.

3. Prepare Your Skin For The Application

It is essential to prep your skin before applying the tape. This helps ensure that the tape will stick and provide you with physical benefits.

Start by washing your skin with soap and water where you plan to apply the tape. You’ll also want to exfoliate if there is dead skin or oil buildup on the area of application.

Dry the skin completely (with a cloth or paper towel) before applying the tape. If the area is very hairy, you may consider shaving as well to maximize the stick and prevent follicular irritation.

4. Apply The Tape

Now that your skin and K-tape are prepared, you can begin applying the tape. Start with one side of the tape, pressing it down firmly as an “anchor.” Then, gently guide the tape in your desired direction, firmly pressing the opposite anchor into place.

Once in place, repeatedly rubs the tape to warm up the adhesive and promote better sticking. Ensure all edges are secure and no air bubbles are present. You should also avoid excessively stretching (if at all) or bunching up the tape while you apply it, as this will decrease its effectiveness and cause irritation.

5. Wear The Tape For 24 to 72 Hours

Once applied, you can wear the tape for 1 to 3 days. It is not recommended to wear kinesiology tape for more than 3 days.

Remove the kinesiology tape as soon as:

  • It’s lost its functionality
  • If it’s causing any skin irritation
  • It’s been 3 days

What can you do while wearing your kinesiology tape? Pretty much everything. You can shower, sleep, exercise, and even swim. As long as you avoid rubbing or picking at the tape directly, it should remain in place for the duration of its use. Make sure to pat it dry after it gets wet.

6. Repeat As Needed

If you found using K-tape beneficial, you can repeat this process anytime. As with any therapy treatment, consistency and proper application are key to success. Make sure to combine the application of tape with other injury recovery strategies for the best results too.

You can try applying tape to other problem areas or continue taping the same spot. For the continuous taping of one area, always assess your skin quality and consider giving it a day or two breaks between applications to prevent skin breakdown and irritation.

kinesiology tape for runners

How to Remove Kinesiology Tape

When you’re ready to remove kinesiology tape, remember these tips to avoid excessive skin irritation.

1. Gently feel the edges of the tape with your fingers to locate them.

2. Slowly and carefully peel off the tape, starting at one end and working down to the other.

3. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing your skin while removing the tape, as this can cause irritation

4. Once removed, wash the area with soap and water to remove any adhesive residue.

To avoid skin irritation, DO NOT do the following:

  • Rip the tape off “like a bandaid”
  • Or pull the tape forcefully

If one type of tape was too harsh on your skin, kinesiology tape might not be for you. You might try a type of less adhesive, a different brand, or avoid a certain area of skin on your body for future use.

When to Avoid Using Kinesiology Tape

There are some contraindications for using K-tape. Kinesiology tape should not be used if any of the following is present:

  • Open wounds
  • Infected areas
  • Active rashes
  • Overly sensitive skin.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions such as circulation problems, diabetes, allergies to adhesives, etc., consult your healthcare provider before using kinesiology tape. If you are pregnant, you should also talk to OB before using K-tape as well.

Additionally, if you experience any redness or irritation, or if your condition does not improve with the use of kinesiology tape, discontinue use and talk to a healthcare professional.

Kinesiology Tape for Runners: Smart Investment or a Scam?

Kinesiology taping is a great tool for addressing injury prevention, reducing pain and swelling, and dealing with faulty biomechanics with daily activities. For the best results, you might consider talking to a physical therapist first for instructions on the most beneficial applications.

With patience, proper application techniques, and practice, you can take advantage of this natural healing treatment as one tool in your toolbox or recovery.

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JayDee Vykoukal

JayDee is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and ex-collegiate Division 1 athlete. Through her own online platform, Health Means Wealth, she is dedicated to helping her clients live their best lives through the power of healthy habits.

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