It is now ubiquitous kit for any runner serious about their game – strips of coloured adhesive tape that adorn arms, legs, backs and even necks. If you didn’t already know, it’s called kinesiology tape, or K-tape. Viewers tuning in to last week’s London Marathon would have seen countless competitors who looked as if they’d been daubed in DayGlo paint.
IT WORKS… BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHY
As an osteopath who treats people with all kinds of running-related injuries, I’m often asked for advice on how to correctly use K-tape. The super-thin flexible material is used to aid muscle recovery and increase a range of motion in joints. The tension created by the fabric retracting over the skin is supposed to boost circulation, leading to these benefits. Although it has actually been around since the 1970s (it was used to treat arthritis pain), studies have failed to show whether relief reported by sportsmen is simply a placebo effect.
As a keen runner myself, I have used it for a calf strain. The skin tension felt beneficial and most likely took my mind of the injury itself. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a guide to taping four of the most common running-related injuries that I see.
Strips of coloured adhesive tape (pictured) is now used by a lot of keen and serious runners
BEFORE YOU START
A 16ft roll of tape typically costs between £3 and £5. Make sure the tape is prepped beforehand: measure the amount you need and then apply it to clean, dry skin.
Use scissors to round the edges of the tape as this makes it less likely to catch on clothing.
K-tape is very stretchy – to get 50 per cent tension, for instance, stretch the tape as far as it allows, then let it slack down. Once applied, give the tape a rub. The adhesive is stimulated by heat, so this will make it stick for longer.
Of course, always seek medical attention first when an injury is suspected, and mention you are keen to use K-tape.
If you get the green light, read on to learn how to apply it…
KNEESY DOES IT
THE PROBLEM: Patellofemoral pain syndrome is also known as runner’s knee due to how common it is among those who run. There are a number of causes, from imbalance of the hips or core, tired muscles, worn-down cartilage at the joint, flat feet or bad shoes.
Any of these issues can cause extra stress on the knee when running, causing the patella (kneecap) to rub on the femur (thigh bone) when putting the foot down.
HOW TO K-TAPE IT
❋ While seated, measure out a piece of tape long enough to run either side of the knee joint, just below the kneecap.
❋ Straighten out the leg in front of you. Make a tear in the middle of the backing tape and peel both sides away, so you stick the middle of the piece beneath the kneecap first at 25 per cent tension. Peel off the paper on either end while sticking the sides down – a bit like you would apply a normal plaster.
❋ Now bend the knee to 45 degrees, and measure out a piece long enough to run from mid-thigh to just below…