It’s not at all uncommon to share the start line with runners who are sporting brightly coloured strips of tape. But what is KT tape, do you need to be fast to wear it and how could it benefit you?

Kinesiology tape is a strong, yet flexible tape that moves with your body. It was developed in the 1970’s by Japanese chiropractor, Dr Kenso Kase and thanks to its reported therapeutic benefits has become increasingly popular with athletes and physiotherapists. Here’s how KT tape can benefit runners:

Faster healing

Thanks to its elastic nature, kinesiology tape provides a vertical lift to the skin. This decompresses the space between the skin and the muscle (subcutaneous space), which improves blood flow to the area and allows the body’s lymphatic and venous drainage systems to drain waste products at a quicker rate, promoting healing.

Decreased pain

Although studies have some mixed results on this one, it is thought that kinesiology tape can also help to reduce pain. The presence of tape on the skin essentially creates a pain free stimulus, which in turn makes it more difficult for the nervous system to detect pain in that body area. The lifting effect that the tape has on the skin also reduces the pressure on the body’s pain receptors in that area so that fewer pain signals are fired off to the brain.

Increased muscle strength

Kinesiology tape is hypothesised to help small increases in muscle strength and is therefore particularly useful for body parts that may be affected by muscle inhibition.

The tape is thought to work by producing a pull on the fascia (the body’s connective tissue), which may stimulate increased muscle contraction. This, combined with improved muscle alignment may contribute to small increases in muscle strength.

Improved proprioception

Proprioception is your ability to sense the relative position and movement of your body parts and it’s believed to play a role in the prevention of acute injuries. The presence and stretching effect of the tape on the skin is thought to stimulate the mechanoreceptors in the skin (tiny receptors that detect changes in movement within the body). These receptors send information to the brain about the body’s movement and position which in theory enhances proprioception.

Improved posture

Thanks to modern lifestyle a lot of runners notoriously have poor posture and kinesiology tape can be a useful way to help counteract those bad postural habits . The tape is believed to improve muscle alignment and this, together with enhanced proprioception (better feedback from your brain as to your body position) can help you to become more aware of and hold better posture.

Essentially kinesiology tape can help runners in terms of both injury prevention and rehabilitation and is certainly worthwhile using if you are trying to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of a niggle in a certain area. However it’s worth remembering that whilst it’s a useful adjunct to help treat injuries you also need to address the root cause of the injury and not just the symptoms.