Running comes with risks, and a very common one is overuse injuries. Other times, you might just trip and fall.
A sudden fall can cause ankle pain, whether it’s a strain, sprain, or something else.
Such injuries are both painful and annoying. They cut into your running routine. Even with rest and ice, you may not be able to put pressure on your ankle for a few weeks.
You could purchase an ankle brace or let it heal on its own. Another option is to tape your ankle.
Taping your ankle comes with a few benefits for when you’re recovering from an injury, as well as after the injury.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of taping an ankle for running, and how to do it effectively.
Benefits of Ankle Taping
If you’ve sprained your ankle, taping it provides compression. It’s one part of the RICE recovery recipe, compression decreases inflammation and provides stability. Taping the ankle will also reduce the risk of re-injuring it within the next 48 to 72 hours.
With each sprain, the structure of the ankle can weaken. That can lead to instability, which in turn could result in more sprains. Once your ankle has healed, taping it before your run will help to provide the ligaments and muscles with additional stability and support.
Running with a taped ankle will also create more awareness of what and where your ankle is while you run. This will prevent you from over-exercising or re-injuring it.
When you tape the ankle, make sure that it’s not so tight that it restricts blood flow. Good circulation is just as important as good support, so be sure to find the balance. The tape needs to be snug to reduce any instability, but your joint still needs blood.
What are the different types of tape?
When it comes to taping your ankle, there are two different types of tape that can be used: athletic tape, or kinesio tape.
Athletic tape is rigid and doesn’t provide much stretch. It’s best to be used for stabilizing an injured ankle.
It can also be used after an injury to provide stability and support to the ankle to prevent further injury.
It’s important to note that athletic tape is designed to restrict movement. It shouldn’t be worn for extended periods of time. It’s best to use this tape for less than a day, as its rigidity can have an effect on your circulation.
Unlike athletic tape, kinesio tape (sometimes called KT tape) has more stretch to it. It will support the ankle without restricting your range of motion. It can also be used for 5 to 7 days, and will stay on even after you’ve showered. The upside of the stretch is that it allows better performance. The downside is that the stretch also means it provides less support.
Sports podiatrists and running coaches will often use kinesio tape to support stretched ligaments, weak ankles, sprains, or inflamed tendons. It’s not uncommon to see athletes running with kinesio tape.
Steps to put on the athletic tape
When you’re using athletic tape, you’ll take a different approach than when you’re using kinesio tape.
Clean the ankle and make sure that both the ankle and foot are dry. Get two non-adhesive pads—like gauze— that you put on the front and back of the ankle. This will help to prevent blisters and chafing around the ankle and on the bridge of your foot.
Athletic tape sticking to leg hair and skin is a recipe for discomfort. Some athletes choose to shave anywhere tape will touch, and then tape directly to the skin. This gives a more solid level of support.
Others, though, will use a non-adhesive pre-wrap layer before applying the tape. If you go that route, start applying the pre-wrap from the ball of your foot. Move upwards to the bottom of your calf muscle, stopping about 3 inches above your ankle.
Then take two strips of athletic tape and apply it to the top part of the pre-wrap; these will be your anchor strips. You’ll be starting at the front of your leg, and wrapping it around your leg until the strips of tape overlap.
Make A Stirrup
Then find where the first strip is and apply another strip past halfway of where the first strip is. Now you’ll need to create a stirrup piece.
To do this, you’ll apply the tape to the top of one anchor strip and take it over the ankle, then take the tape over the heel until you reach where you started but from the opposite side of your leg. The tighter this piece of tape, the more support it will provide. But make it too tight, and flexibility and comfort will suffer.
Then, add another stirrup piece. But this time, start in the center of the bridge of the foot—top of the foot—and go around the ankle, sticking the tape to the anchor strip.
Take another piece of tape and place it over the stirrup tape, but only wrap it halfway from where the last anchor strip starts. Continue to wrap your foot and ankle like this until you reach the top of your foot, as this will hold the stirrup in place.
Wrap the Heel
When you’re wrapping the heel, you want to wrap it in a figure-eight. For this you’ll start on the inside of the arch of your foot, then bring the tape across your foot down towards your heel, crossing over the ankle. Make sure that you wrap your foot twice using the figure-eight.
To finish the wrap, make sure all the pieces of tape go from the front of your lower leg, around the heel of your foot—or the arch of your foot then around your heel—to the other side of your foot. By now, your foot should be completely covered. You shouldn’t be able to see any skin.
Steps to put on the Kinesio tape
Unlike athletic tape, kinesio tape doesn’t cover the whole ankle and foot. Before you start to apply the kinesio tape, make sure that your foot and ankle are clean and dry.
Position your ankle at 90 degrees. Before you stick the kinesio tape into position, measure how much you need. For your first anchor, you want to place one end of the kinesio tape under the heel of the foot—on the side where you’d be able to see the inside of the arch of your foot—coming up below your ankle bone.
Then, making sure there’s no stretch in the kinesio tape, start to apply it from the outside of your ankle. Run it to the inside of your heel. As you go under the heel, apply about 50 percent stretch. When you come up below the ankle bone—on the other side—don’t allow any stretch. Be careful not to touch the adhesive side of the tape with your fingers.
After Taping Up
Once the kinesio tape has been applied, give it a bit of a rub. This creates friction so that the adhesive will stick to the skin.
For the second anchor, take the strip of tape and stick it just beneath the ball of your foot—about midfoot—on the instep.
Give it a 50 percent stretch. Then wrap the tape around the back of your heel, coming around under the heel and across the arch. The last 2 inches of kinesio tape can be applied without any stretch on it.
Your foot should still be able to bend. The tape should be tight enough that it moves with your skin, and should feel supportive.
When you’re applying the third strip, adhere it to the outside of your foot, just below the ball of your foot. Then with a 50 percent stretch, apply the tape around the back of the heel, then under the heel and across the arch. The last 2 inches of tape doesn’t require any stretch, and this will come upon the outside of the foot.
Make sure to give this strip of tape a good rub to create friction so that the tape sticks to the anchor pieces.