KT tape only works for 3 types of calf injuries!
You’ll often see runners using KT tape for calf pain – the bright colours typically give it away!
Aside from the colourful patterns though, can KT tape for calf pain really make a difference?
This is due to the action of the tape and what it offers the runner.
It also means that KT tape for calf pain is ineffective for gastrocs muscle injuries (Gastrocs is the larger calf muscle at the top), shin splints, calf muscle overload issues and bone stress injuries.
Causes of calf pain
Using KT tape for calf pain misses the point – you need to address the underlying cause of the injury.
If the calf pain is due to bone loading and impact, taping your calf won’t change the impact loading on the bone.
Intended actions of tape
The tape is an effective method of improving control of calf loading and ankle movement.
It does this by using skin sensation to augment the feedback to the brain from tendons and joints.
Rather than judging how much the calf is loading based on the Achilles tendon stretch, the brain can also use information form the tape pulling on the skin.
What tape can’t do
The tape is elastic, very elastic. It stretches easily and stretches further than muscles, tendons and skin.
So it’s unable to support any joints or movement. Tape might feel supportive but that’s the kind of support you get from a warm hug from Mum – not the support you need like an ankle brace.
It won’t protect against excessive movement. Rigid strapping tape, used after ankle sprains, is designed to restrict movement and protect against excessive stretch.
KT tape for calf pain, or any elastic tape for that matter, is unable to provide any restriction or protection against excessive movement.
When applying the tape, position the foot slightly pointed and add some light tension to the tape as you stick to to the skin.
Anchor each end of the tape by applying a circumferential tape around the foot/ankle and upper calf to hold the ends in place. Ensure this piece of tape wraps all the way around and sticks to itself.
To ensure you have the right tension, you should be able to stand up with only mild tension felt. That tension should increase as soon as you begin to squat (ie. ankle moving past 90 degrees).
If it doesn’t tighten up immediately, you can peel it off and restick the same piece of tape a few times before adhesion becomes a problem.
Is it working for you?
If you’re using KT tape for calf pain, you should know if it’s making a difference within 2-3 training sessions.
It might work as soon as it goes on but sometimes it takes a while for the brain to adapt to the new input.
If it hasn’t made a difference after 3 sessions, don’t bother with the tape and save your money.
If it helps initially, you can gradually phase it out by reducing the number of strips of tape per application or just apply it lighter until it’s not required.