What is KT tape?

I know it was a big fad for the 2012 summer Olympics, but I’m still unclear as to exactly what it does.

From its website:

KT Tape provides stability and support for joints by providing an external layer of support around the joint.

So, it’s a brace?

KT Tape is applied along muscles, ligaments, and tendons (soft tissue) to provide a lightweight, strong, external support that helps to prevent injury and speed recovery. KT Tape works differently for different injuries. KT Tape can lift and support the knee cap, holding it in place for Runner’s Knee.

So, it’s a brace?

KT Tape can support sagging muscles along the arch of the foot, relieving the connective tissues for Plantar’s Fasciitis.

So, it’s compression?

And KT Tape can lift the stress off of shin splints to allow pain release and give the body a better opportunity to recover.

So, it’s a suspension bridge?

Depending on how it is applied, KT Tape supports, enables, or restricts soft tissue and its movement. By stretching and recoiling like a rubber band, KT Tape augments tissue function and distributes loads away from inflamed or damaged muscles and tendons, thereby protecting tissues from further injury.

really don’t understand this part. How does moving/distributing/synergizing load away from damaged muscles protect them from further injury? How does it actually move “things” away?

I know this sounds pedantic, but these are honest questions; I’d like to have a teensy amount of intuition of what my equipment is actually doing before I use it. There are enough veritable snake oil remedies for athletes out there that if I’m going to spend what little disposable income from my graduate stipend that I have, it damn well better work!

Like most of the habits I have and the equipment I use, I’ve looked to organizations like Runner’s World and studies in literature to validate the rhetoric that companies push for their “10000000x speed improvement!!1” products. From what I’ve found, while KT Tape has certainly made the rounds with Olympic sponsorships and advertisements, the scientific community has been less than impressed.

From one study:

In conclusion, there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries. KT may have a small beneficial role in improving strength, range of motion in certain injured cohorts and force sense error compared with other tapes, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings.

From another study:

Application of KT to RF, VL and VM muscles did not significantly change lower limb function, postural balance, knee extensor peak torque or electromyographic activity of VL muscle in healthy women.

Again, I’m really not trying to split hairs or convey some deep-seated hatred for all things KT. I’m simply putting forth the question of if it’s worth blowing $20 on this when equipment that’s already in your standard Rx shop wouldn’t suffice for a quarter of the price. It certainly sounds great, and as a runner who is not at all built to post the mileages that I do on a regular basis, equipment to ward off injury and allow me to keep running when not 100% sounds f#@$ing awesome.

On the other hand, $20 isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, so it’s certainly worth trying out if you’re curious. However, in the game of running that is highly mental, anecdotes and placebo effect can play a very influential role in the formation of habits and treatments of injuries. I’ve seen lots of people on the internet who swear by KT Tape. I’m not suggesting their experiences are invalid, only that they aren’t indicative of whether or not KT Tape actually does what it says it does on a large scale.

So I’m doing the most reasonably unscientific thing I can think of: I’m going to try it out for myself. Since I definitely have an injury that is supposedly a KT Tape dream, I’m going to give it a shot at helping fix me. Not that the result I get, either way, will be indicative of anything. But it certainly can’t hurt, and I’m positively chomping to get back into the game. I will report back and let everyone know what I think!


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