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Ankle tape can provide stability, support, and compression for the ankle joint. It can help reduce swelling after an ankle injury and prevent reinjury.

But there’s a fine line between a well-taped ankle, and one that’s taped too tight or doesn’t provide the needed support.

Keep reading for our step-by-step guide on how to effectively tape an ankle.

Tape

You have two main options for taping your ankle: They are athletic tape, which an athletic trainer may also call strapping or rigid tape, and kinesio tape.

Athletic tape

Athletic tape is designed to restrict movement. The tape doesn’t stretch, so it’s usually best-suited for stabilizing an injured ankle, providing significant support to prevent injury, or otherwise restricting movement.

You should only wear athletic tape for a short period of time — roughly less than a day unless a doctor suggests otherwise — as it can affect circulation.

Shop for athletic tape online.

Kinesio tape

Kinesio tape is a stretchy, moveable tape. The tape is best-suited for when you need range of motion in the ankle, but want additional support. You may want to wear kinesio tape if:

  • you’re back to physical activity after an injury
  • you’re back on the playing field
  • you have unstable ankles

Kinesio tape can stay on much longer than athletic tape — usually up to 5 days. The stretchy nature of the tape doesn’t usually restrict blood flow and is waterproof, so you can still shower or bathe with the tape on.

Shop for kinesio tape online.

Support accessories

Some people may also use special accessories to increase the tape’s effectiveness and reduce blistering or discomfort that it can sometimes cause. Examples include:

  • heel and lace pads, which are applied on the top of the foot and over the heel
  • taping base spray, which helps reduce friction while also allowing the tape to better adhere to the skin
  • prewrap, which is a soft, stretchy wrap that’s applied before athletic tape and makes the tape easier to remove

Shop for heel and lace pads, taping base spray, and prewrap online.

Since using athletic tape involves a different approach than kinesio tape, there are a few separate steps for each approach. Both approaches will start with clean, dry skin. Be sure to avoid taping over open wounds or sores.

Desired, but not required, first steps

  1. Apply a base spray to the ankle, spraying on top of the foot and on the ankle.
  2. Then, apply a heel pad to the back of the foot, starting just behind the ankle (where shoes often rub), and a lace wrap on the front of the foot (where shoelaces often rub) if desired.
Healthline
  1. Apply prewrap to the foot, starting just underneath the ball of the foot and wrapping upward until the ankle (and about 3 inches above the ankle) is covered.
  2. Take the athletic tape and apply two anchor strips at the top-most part of the prewrap. This involves starting at the front of the leg and wrapping until the strips of tape overlap by 1 to 2 inches. Apply an additional strip halfway past where the first strip is located.
  3. Create a stirrup piece by applying the tape against the top of one anchor strip, advancing it over the ankle, going over the heel, and ending at the same place on the opposite side of the leg. This should look like a stirrup.
  4. Repeat and place an additional stirrup piece slightly more in the center of the top part of the foot, going around the ankle, and having the tape adhere to the anchor strip.
  5. Place another anchor strip over the stirrup tape, wrapping about halfway from the start of the last anchor strip. This helps hold the stirrup piece in place. Continue wrapping in this fashion until you reach the top of the foot.
  6. Wrap the heel using a figure-eight technique. Starting on the inner aspect of the arch, bring the tape across the foot, angling down toward the heel. Cross over the foot and ankle, continuing the figure-eight for two complete wraps.
  7. Finish by placing pieces of tape from the front of the lower leg, around the arch or heel to the other side. You may also need additional anchor strips. You shouldn’t have any open areas of skin.

Kinesio tape doesn’t cover most of the foot and ankle as athletic tape does. While different methods exist, here’s an example of a common kinesio ankle taping approach:

  1. Take a piece of kinesio tape, and start on the outside of the ankle, about 4 to 6 inches above the ankle. Create a stirrup-like effect as you take the piece of tape over the heel, pulling the tape to the opposite side, over the inner aspect of the ankle, and stopping at the same level as the first piece of tape.
  2. Put another piece of tape on the back of the foot, centering it with your Achilles (heel) tendon. Wrap the tape around the ankle to circle it around the foot. The tape should be tight enough so the foot bends, yet still feels supported.
  3. Some people don’t circle the tape around the ankle, but instead cross it like an X. This involves centering a piece of tape under the arch and bringing the two ends across the front of the lower leg to create an X. The ends of the tape are secured behind the leg.

Be sure to remove any tape you may have applied if at any time your toes appear discolored or swollen. This could indicate the tape is too tight and may be affecting your circulation.

According to an article in the journal Best Practice and Research: Clinical Rheumatology, 28 percent of people treated with tape report the most common adverse effects are discomfort from too-tight tape or an allergic reaction or sensitivity to the tape.

Steps for removing athletic tape

  1. Use a pair of bandage scissors (scissors with blunt ends and an extra blunt edge on the side) to slide the scissors under the tape.
  2. Cut the tape gently until you have made a large cut over most of the tape.
  3. Slowly peel the tape away from the skin.
  4. If the tape is especially persistent, consider using an adhesive remover wipe. These can dissolve the adhesive and are usually safe for skin as long as they’re labeled as such.

Shop for adhesive remover wipes online.

Steps for removing kinesio tape

Kinesio tape is intended to stay on for several days — therefore, it takes some extra effort to remove sometimes. Steps include the following:

  1. Apply an oil-based product, such as baby oil or cooking oil, to the tape.
  2. Allow this to sit for several minutes.
  3. Gently roll the edge of the tape downward, pulling the tape away in the direction of the hair growth.
  4. If you have residual glue from the tape after removal, you can apply the oil to further dissolve it.

Ankle taping can help prevent injuries and reduce discomfort following an injury. The approaches to taping depend on the type of tape you use.

If you’re having trouble taping your ankle, talk to your doctor or a sports medicine professional. They can recommend injury- or body-specific taping approaches that may help.