No matter what level an athlete you are – pro, semi-pro, collegiate, high school, weekend warrior – soreness and injuries happen. It’s part of the training. There are many products on the market that target injury prevention during an activity, as well as recovery applications.
A couple decades ago, the only things available were braces and sports tape. While this is what many of us grew up on, both of these restrict movement of the area targeted. This has been found to not only stiffen the area, but there is also the possibility of it affecting the range of motion. And, in terms of muscles, tendons, and ligaments this is not ideal. You want that range of motion. You need to work out the inflammation.
Enter kinesiology tape – a flexible adhesive tape you stick to the affected area. It gives you range of motion, while providing support, as well as other beneficial scientific stuff that helps us recover. When KT Tape was first prominent during the summer Olympics in I believe London (I may be wrong), I went out and got a roll to see how it worked.
At that time, the only product of theirs I could find was the original cotton one. Hairy legs, profuse sweating and the Miami humidity were all factors in the KT Tape coming off during soccer games or runs. There was more than likely user error as well.
Now number of years later, I was given the opportunity to test out an entire suite of KT Tape products – Original, Gentle, Pro, Pro Extreme and Pro Wide. First thing that struck me was the number of products they have – as it gives athletes of all calibers a chance to find their fit. The second was the personal touch KT Tape added to the box it sent, as my name was on a placard inside.
Before I get into the review, lets cover the basics. KT Tape is a sports tape designed to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments. When you injure a part of your body it swells. The swelling is lymphatic fluid that builds up in the area – our body’s reaction to treat the injury. However, pressure builds and causes discomfort or pain. It is believed that when KT Tape is applied correctly to the injury, it lifts the skin decompressing the layers of fascia, allowing for greater movement of lymphatic fluid which transports white blood cells throughout the body and removes waste products, cellular debris, and bacteria. This helps reduce the pressure and may reduce pain and discomfort. Correct taping also provides support to muscles by improving the muscle’s ability to contract, even when it is weak, and helps the muscle to not over-extend or over-contract.
The biggest key to getting the most out of KT Tape or any other product for that matter is correct application. If you go to kttape.com there are dozens of videos of how to correctly tape an extremity for a multitude of injuries. I’ve had both my knee (ACL) and shoulder (Labrum) surgically repaired. Also, as a runner, I get common soreness in my ankles, calves, piriformis, IT band and lower back. For this test, I focused on my knees for support during runs and any area giving me trouble, then focused on my lower back, piriformis, and IT band for recovery (which tend to be barking the day after a tough training). The goal was to see if KT Tape worked, and which of their products was right for me.
Before taping, you have to make sure you are applying the tape to get the best possible adhesion. It is advised to trim hair in the area of application. Full transparency, I did not do this. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the area you are applying the tape. Once you apply the tape use the paper backing to rub the tape to create friction. I do this for about 60 seconds. You have to give the adhesive time to activate before doing strenuous activity – have it on for at least an hour before training. The adhesive is heat activated, so as you create friction, it sticks better. Because it is heat activated, do not use a heating pad or other heat source on the area over the KT Tape. You’ll get a great stick, but you’ll also get a nice waxing when you pull it off. One other note: if you cut the tape at all, be sure to round the corners so it doesn’t lift up when your clothing touches it.
KT Tape Gentle: I knew right when I opened the box that Gentle would not be for me. Gentle was developed for those who have sensitive skin so they could take the tape off easier. Luckily, my wife was complaining of a tender ankle from a run (maybe luckily was not the right word to use when talking about my wife’s injury). However, she has sensitive skin – it stays red for hours after pulling a Band-Aid off, and she usually gets a rash were it is applied. So, I told her to put her foot up and I taped it using the gentle. She was able to keep a good range of motion and the tape did not come off. She went on a run and said she didn’t even feel as if she was taped up. After the third day, I pulled off the KT Tape Gentle. Her skin did not get red and no rash appeared. The test was a success for her, and she now benefited by keeping the roll.
KT Tape Original: I already spoke about my first experience with the Original product, but I wanted to give it another shot. Instead of taping my knee with it, I used the Original in areas where I have less hair. I targeted my piriformis with it, in particular after runs for recovery. Most mornings after long or hard workouts, my piriformis will let me know it is unhappy with every step. After watching the video and correctly taping, I went about my usual recovery methods – stretching, icing, foam rolling. After the first day, there was a difference in the soreness level – it was much less than usual. Not wanting it to be in my head, I taped my wife’s IT band (her normal area of stiffness) after a run and she experience the same – less discomfort than normal. As for the tape, it remained stuck to the area for 3 days before I pulled it off.
KT Tape Pro: Pro gives you greater adhesion than the Original. Its fibers allow for moisture release, which is critical to comfort and wear. As a result, it gives you more comfort over a longer period of time. All of this is true. I tested the Pro during both runs and recovery. One test was on my left calf that was cramping up during runs, and the second was on my IT band. I felt like Goldilocks because the Pro is just right for me. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. It stuck to the area, provided relief, and was comfortable to the point where I didn’t even notice it was on for 5 days straight.
KT Tape Pro Wide: The Pro Wide is twice the size of the regular Pro and meant for large areas – quad, hamstring, lower back, etc. I used it on lower back spasms I was having. I had my wife apply it correctly and went about my activities. This is where I learned about the no heating pad rule.
KT Tape Extreme: When I opened the box, I knew the Extreme going to be applied to my knee. The area where the most movement is, where I need the most support, where there is a lot of hair, and I have to deal with sweating and the Miami humidity. This was the ultimate test. I did a full knee support tape, waiting an hour for the adhesive to activate then went out for a run. Much to my surprise the tape didn’t come off or restrict my movement. It gave me the support I needed throughout the entire run, didn’t give me any awkward discomfort and even stayed in place for 6 days (3 runs and several showers).
I’m happy I got the chance to try KT Tape again. It changed my opinion of the product, as it opened my eyes to its full suite of tape and allowed me to find the product that was fit me best KT Tape Pro Extreme for my knee and KT Tape Pro for everywhere else. It also made my wife a fan giving her something she can use in KT Tape Gentle despite her sensitive skin.
If you want to find which KT Tape is right for you, head over to kttape.com. Use promo code BIBRAVE30 at checkout and get 30% off your order.