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Kinesiotape - What is it and will it help with my running?

If you look down in the London Marathon start pens, you will see a sea of pink, blue and black tape wrapped around runners' ankles, knees, calves and hamstrings. You may even see some up into the shoulders and elbows if you look closely enough. What is this magical tape you may ask? And what is it actually doing?

How does K-tape work?

K-tape is an elastic, adhesive tape that is hypoallergenic and water-resistant. When applied, the tape does not restrict motion and can be worn for several days before removal. It is also very flexible and can be applied almost anywhere on the body, which makes it ideal to run in.

Kinesiotape or K-tape techniques were developed and introduced in the 1970s in Japan by a chiropractor, Dr Kenzo Kase, to tap into the body’s natural way of healing whilst allowing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body's range of motion (which is what rigid traditional tape does).

Since its development, K-tape has become a very popular additional treatment for many sports therapists and has been seen on many Olympic and professional level athletes.

The theory behind K-tape is that it microscopically lifts the skin, which encourages lymphatic drainage and blood flow.

Some positive effects include: reduction in pain, decrease in swelling, improved circulation, increase in muscle activation (stability) and improved confidence of the affected area.

How will it help me during running?

Unfortunately, little injuries and muscle strains are pretty common for runners, especially as you up your mileage. K-tape can give your muscles a little extra support as well as provide stability for injuries that you have picked up along the way, including plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, runners knee, shin splints, ITB, hamstring and quadriceps muscle strains.

It is important to note, however, that although K-tape can help with these injuries, it is always advisable to find out why your are getting the problem in the first place and how to avoid it re-occurring. Tape should never just be used instead of treatment.

Sticking points

Keep these things in mind to ensure that your tape can do its thing:

  • The area taped must be clean, dry and free of oils or lotion. Otherwise, the tape won't stick to your skin. If you're very hairy, you'll need to shave the area to be taped, or the tape won't stick.

  • The muscle or area taped should be put into a position of stretch before taping.

  • The ends are always laid down with no tension.

  • Once the tape is applied, rub the tape with the palm of your hand to activate the adhesive.

  • Wait 30 minutes after applying the tape to exercise, or it might come off.

  • Don't apply ice, shower or swim within an hour of taping.

K-tape can be left on for three to five days. For some people, however, it might not stay on this long, especially in areas that tend to be moist (like feet), or that receive constant rubbing from clothes.

Also - make sure you run in the tape you are going to wear on race day or it may cause friction.

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