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How Do I Choose the Best Athletic Tape?

By T. Webster
Updated May 23, 2024
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Athletic tape is typically used to prevent or protect bone, joint and muscle injuries. It comes in a range of widths, lengths, materials, colors and prices. Some are best suited for use on particular parts of the body. Determining what you want or need from each of these features can make it fairly easy to find an athletic tape to best meet your specific needs.

One of the first things to consider is where you will apply the tape. A finger injury, for example, likely will require something much narrower than tape intended for use on a wrist. In contrast, a durable, non-elastic tape is likely a good choice for supporting or preventing an ankle injury.

Two common types of athletic tape are elastic and non-elastic. Elastic tape often has a self-adhesive back that makes it easy to apply. The flexibility and bigger width of elastic tape makes it easy to use on larger areas of the body, such as the hamstring muscles on the back of the leg. Elastic athletic tape also allows for better movement and circulation around an injury.

Again, depending on where it will be used, low-quality elastic tape can tend to wrinkle and bunch, though higher-quality elastic tape will mold smoothly to the body and retain its shape. Non-elastic athletic tape is sometimes used to stabilize or prevent bone and joint injuries. This kind of tape is not as flexible, but it is still able to mold to the contours of the body. It is often highly durable and is commonly used on areas that need a lot of support, such as the ankles.

Some athletic tapes are significant for the way in which they are intended to be wrapped. Certain tapes may be designed for specific uses, in which case the packaging may indicate this. Other tapes may be both flexible and strong — and suited to a range of uses, depending on how it is applied. If you have a specific injury, especially if it is a recurring injury that you will be taping on a regular basis, then a tape designed especially for that purpose may be best. If you’re more likely to suffer — or need to prevent — a range of injuries at one time or another, then a multi-purpose tape may be a better choice.

Professional athletes and others sometimes prefer to wear athletic tape in a specific color. Competitive gymnasts, for example, sometimes wear skin-toned tape to keep it from being as noticeable during competition. Other types of colored tape might be worn for aesthetic reasons — some athletes prefer team colors — or to blend in with equipment or athletic shoes.

Healthcare professionals and athletic trainers can answer detailed questions you might have about athletic tape. They also can teach you how to apply it properly, which can be as important as the particular type of tape used, if not more so. Failure to apply tape properly could worsen an existing injury.

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