Everything You Need to Know About Kinesiology Tape

Julia Malacoff
by Julia Malacoff
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Everything You Need to Know About Kinesiology Tape

Whether at the gym, a race or a physical therapist’s office, you’ve probably seen kinesiology tape before. Usually, it looks like colorful strips of tape placed in patterns over shoulder blades, around knees or along someone’s back. So what is it, and what does it actually do? Here’s what you need to know.


“Kinesiology tape is a special type of elastic therapeutic tape that can be used to treat a wide variety of injuries,” explains Hannah Dove, DPT, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified kinesio tape practitioner at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, California.

It’s super versatile and can be applied in hundreds of different ways and stays on the skin for several days, she adds. “It will even stay on in the water or in the shower.”

Kinesiology tape is also different from regular athletic tape. “It is stretchy in one direction (along the length) and it serves to lift the skin,” notes Erwin Seguia, DPT, certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder and owner of Match Fit Performance.


Kinesiology tape is most often used on people with injuries like shin splints and tendonitis, Dove says. It’s also often used to decrease swelling or improve joint support after surgery. Many people also believe it can improve muscle function, joint alignment and posture when applied in certain ways.

As for the best time to apply the tape, it depends on the reason you’re using it. “If there is discomfort with movement, you can apply before exercise,” Seguia says. “If you are looking for some assistance with swelling post-workout or injury, apply after your workout.”

While most people can use kinesiology tape safely, there are some specific situations where it may not be a great idea, according to Seguia. Anyone with decreased sensation because of neuropathy, nerve injury, poor blood circulation or very fragile/sensitive skin should check with a professional before using kinesiology tape.


Kinesiology tape is often used for recovery, to help reduce swelling, assist in scar tissue healing, and to improve sports performance — but exactly how it accomplishes those things is up for debate. “The only thing that is semi-agreed upon is how it reduces swelling: by helping to lift the skin due to the stretch of the tape,” Seguia says. This allows for better circulation to the taped area.

“The reasons it changes and/or affects pain and performance seems to be related to neurological changes,” Seguia notes, but this is not known for certain. Some advocates of kinesiology taping believe it causes physical changes to underlying muscle and tendons, but there’s no strong evidence for this at the moment.

As for how effective kinesiology tape is: We’re not sure. “Anecdotally, many physical therapists and athletic trainers swear that it works,” says Lauren Lobert, DPT, certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of APEX Physical Therapy. Though it has helped countless patients, the research is mixed, she explains. Research supports the idea kinesiology tape helps short-term symptoms, but there is likely no long-term effect.

“In my opinion, it is likely not the ‘fix’ to any problem, but for some, it can be effective in short-term management of musculoskeletal symptoms,” Lobert concludes.


If you’re in the market for kinesiology tape, it’s easy to find at your local sporting goods store or online. Some of the most popular brands include: Kinesio, KT Tape and Rocktape.

Though it’s easy to apply on your own once you know how, experts recommend getting directions specific to your injury or reason for taping beforehand. “I strongly recommend getting a healthcare professional that is trained in this skill to teach you, or at the very least to watch a video specific to taping for your individual condition,” Lobert says. “A pre-packaged kit for knees is not adequate. There are very specific requirements on where to start and end the tape, which direction to pull and how much to pull.”

If you decide to apply it yourself, make sure your skin is clean and dry beforehand. “If you have any dirt or lotion or oils on your skin, the tape will not last very long and will fall off quickly,” Dove says. “If applied correctly, it can stay on for several days.”

About the Author

Julia Malacoff
Julia Malacoff

Julia (@jmalacoff) is a seasoned writer and editor who focuses on fitness, nutrition, and health. She’s also a certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach. Based in Amsterdam, she bikes every day and travels around the world in search of tough sweat sessions and the best vegetarian fare.


4 responses to “Everything You Need to Know About Kinesiology Tape”

  1. Avatar Abolore Adekoya says:

    I will be using KT tape this year while training for my Half Marathon. I suffer from right ankle tendonitis due to an ankle fracture in the late 80’s when I was 14. Only bother me if weather is cold and during training. Going to try something new. Thanks for the great read!

  2. Avatar VitaliZEN says:

    Great! Thank you for sharing this! I’am planning to get one of these but after i read the article, I wanted to consult my PT first. Because maybe my injury will just get worse. But right now I am using this Earthing sheet for my recovery and for my joint pain relieve. It is really helpful after the workout.

  3. Avatar Vincent B says:

    I’m not aware of a single credible study that has said that kt tape is anything more than just an expensive placebo. What I do know is that several kt tape manufacturers have been hit with and have lost class action lawsuits on the basis of their product not being able to do anything it, or this article, claims it does. RockTape, mentioned in this article, is currently facing a class action suit and is expected to settle.

    It seems like kt tape is right up there with wearing magnets for managing pain.

    • Avatar Zack Black says:

      Yep I was disappointed in MyFitnessPal for pushing this snake oil. Looks like they are about as reliable in their recommendation of products as Dr. Phil. I wonder if “Under Armor” makes k-tape?

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