Taping For Achilles Tendonitis that works!
Everybody loves to use K-tape, but what if I told you there was a better taping for Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles pain can be debilitating; however, taping can reduce pain in certain populations, helping to relieve some symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis immediately.
This article will take you all through two separate taping techniques that you can try to reduce the pressure on your Achilles tendon and decrease your symptoms, including any lumps on the Achilles tendon.
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These taping techniques can help in the short term like massage, but keep in mind the only way to help Achilles pain is correct load management. If you want to get on top of your Achilles pain quickly then check out our FREE Achilles tendinopathy guide.
Or consider enrolling in our Online Achilles Tendinopathy Course!
The video below will take you through two Achilles tendonitis taping techniques. If you prefer to read, the topics covered are listed below:
- What is Achilles Tendonitis?
- Low-dye taping
- Dorsiflexion-blocking taping
- How long should you leave tape on for?
- What type of tape should you buy?
- Why Rigid over K-Tape for Achilles Tendonitis?
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Tendons attach muscles to bone, the Achilles tendon is the largest of these in our body. It attaches your calf muscle to your heel.
Achilles Tendonitis is a term used to describe a process where the tendon begins to degenerate. The most notable problem is pain in the tendon, but there can also be swelling and clicking.
The cause of Achilles Tendonitis is usually a sudden increase in load to the tendon. This could vary for different people, but it might be because you hiked for a day, when you don’t usually walk very far.
There are two types of Achilles Tendonitis – mid-substance and insertional. Insertional Achilles Tendonitis can also be cause due to a Haglund’s Deformity.
The mainstay treatment for Achilles Tendonitis is exercises that will increase the load through the tendon. However, there are other treatment options that can provide temporary relief such as taping or heel lifts.
If the condition is managed well you should be able to recover from Achilles Tendonitis. Usual recovery time will vary as it really depends how long you have had the condition for. You should see some results within 3 months of loading the tendon well.
Which technique should I use when taping for Achilles Tendonitis?
The first one called a low-dye tape works well if your foot caves in when you walk, as it is designed to help support the arch of your foot. This can also be helpful to use during running for Achilles Tendonitis. The other condition this taping can be used to help is Plantar Fasciitis.
The second tape for Achilles tendonitis is there to help prevent the foot from bending up too much, we call this dorsiflexion. This movement of the foot is often what will aggravate insertional Achilles tendinopathy. (Make sure you’re heel pain is not resulting from other causes of heel pain before diagnosing insertional Achilles Tendonitis)
We would recommend that you try both techniques to see if either helps with your pain. You will know in a day or two if the taping is helping, if not, then feel free to remove it.
Considerations before Taping for Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles taping should not be applied if there is a chance you could be allergic to the tape. We have covered how to test this in one of the sections below.
It’s also important that you have full sensation around your foot. If you do not have sensation, you may not recognise if your skin reacts to the tape. This can result in unnecessary complications like skin coming off when the tape is removed.
Keep in mind these taping techniques are not long-term fixes. They are there to provide some pain-relief as you continue with your exercise program. The thing that will improve this problem is load through the tendon which gradually increases as the tendon adapts.
If you need instant relief, another technique worth looking into is heel lifts or bracing to change the load through your Achilles tendon. Another idea is looking into the best shoes for Achilles Tendonitis – as these will have an impact on recovery!
Low-Dye Taping For Achilles Tendonitis:
Measure a piece of tape that will fit all the way around your foot in this manner. When you have the right length, cut or rip the tape and use this piece first.
Start on the top of your foot near the knuckle of the big toe. As you wrap the tape around the inside of your foot, gently increase the arch of the foot with your free hand. You don’t want to overdo this part, just a subtle increase in arch – otherwise it will be painful to walk on.
Continue to wrap that first piece behind the heel and all the way up the outside of the foot, finishing near the knuckle of your little toe.
Once the first piece is done, measure three little pieces that will span the bottom of the foot.
Start the first little piece near the 5th knuckle, on your first strip of tape. You are going to pull the tape under your foot and gently pull up as you connect the tape on the other side.
Repeat this process with the next tape but start further down the foot. I usually overlap the tape by about half. You repeat this process again with the third piece of tape.
Sometimes if you may need a fourth piece, depending on how much you have overlapped and the size of your foot. You finish the under pieces when you begin to reach the heel of the foot.
Now repeat the first tape going the whole way around the foot from inside to out.
Important to test!
Finally, test the tape out. Step on your foot and see if it’s too tight. You may feel different, but if it’s pulling painfully then this may indicate the tape is too tight. Often the start of the tape near your big toe is where it will pull.
If you are happy the final strip of tape goes along the top of your foot, securing the beginning and end of the first strips of tape.
Remember this tape will feel like its pulling a little and this is ok, as long as its not painful.
The mechanism for this tape working with Achilles tendinopathy is that we are changing the forces going up through the foot as you walk. As a result, the forces going through the Achilles can be different as well and sometimes helpful.
Dorsiflexion-blocking taping for Achilles tendonitis:
You want to start by looping the tape around your lower calf muscle, about 20cm up from the heel. Make sure this first piece isn’t tight as you will cut off circulation. Also, if you have big calves, then you can slightly angle the tape as you wrap around to help get a good line.
The next strip will go around the end of your foot, just before the balls of your feet start. Again, make sure this bit of tape is not too tight. If you are finding the toes are going red or white, you will know that the tape is much too tight!
The important part of this technique is to make sure you tape the foot in a neutral position. What I mean by this, is you want to tape the foot so you can still put your foot flat on the ground. Otherwise your walking will be affected.
Start a strip from the bottom of your foot on the outside. Run in a diagonal line over the heel and up the leg to finish on the inside of the leg. The next piece of tape will start on the inside of the foot and cross in a diagonal line finishing on the outside of the leg.
The reason for this slight crossing is to try and avoid direct pressure over the heel where the Achilles tendon inserts.
This tape will help the foot not to bend too far forwards and overstretch the Achilles tendon.
How long can you keep the Achilles Tendonitis Taping on for?
This will be dependent on factors including which tape you are using, and how irritable your skin is.
In general it is always wise to test a little patch of tape on your skin first. You could place a square patch on you arm for 10-15 minutes, then remove it. If this results in red welts, you are allergic to that tape.
It’s recommended not to leave tape for more than 3 days. After this time, take it off for a day to allow the skin to breath before re-applying more tape.
If you notice any itchiness or redness, remove the tape immediately. This is a sign the tape is reacting with your skin.
So, take it off after three days and let the skin breath for a day. If it was beneficial you can re-apply it after this.
What tape should you use for the Achilles Tendon?
Different tape may react differently with peoples skin. If you have had any reactions before to band aids then its recommended that you apply Fixomull tape first – which is hypoallergenic.
Fixomull is great as a base, but it stretches, and Fixomull alone won’t provide the support needed. For this reason you should apply rigid tape over the top of this, something like below should do the job.
Why rigid tape over kinesiology tape (K-tape) for Achilles Tendonitis?
K-tape has definitely become popular over the last couple of years, thrust into the spotlight via different athletes sporting the bright colours.
Unfortunately research has shown no effects on pain or hop distance when they trialled K-tape on people with Achilles Tendinopathy.
The reason rigid tape works is it prevents the bending of the ankle, this same effect doesn’t happen with K-tape as its too flexible.
In saying this, if K-tape does work for you, then continue with it. Nothing is certain, even with research.
I hope one of these two techniques work for decreasing the pain you are experiencing. If not, do not lose hope as there are many other pieces of advice and exercise available in our free Achilles tendinopathy guide!
If you need results quickly another solution is our online Achilles Course where you can sign up today and receive a discounted price for a limited time only!
Firth, Bridget L BSc; Dingley, Paul BSc; Davies, Elizabeth R BSc; Lewis, Jeremy S PhD; Alexander, Caroline M PhD The Effect of Kinesiotape on Function, Pain, and Motoneuronal Excitability in Healthy People and People With Achilles Tendinopathy, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: November 2010 – Volume 20 – Issue 6 – p 416-421 doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181f479b0
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles Tendonitis describes a process where there is damage in the Achilles Tendon usually due to overuse. This damage can vary depending on how long the pain is experienced.
Does taping help Achilles Tendonitis
Evidence shows taping can be helpful for Achilles Tendonitis however it will not help everyone. It is beneficial to try as tape is cheap and there is minimal risk for trying to tape.
Are there risks for Achilles Taping?
The major risk is having an allergic reaction to the tape. This can be avoided by trialling a small patch on your skin for 5 minutes, and taking it off. See if there is a rash that develops. Also don't keep the tape applied for more than 2 days at a time.
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