As strength sports have evolved, so has the equipment we use to support the body and enhance performance. One of the many pieces of supportive strength gear that’s evolved with lifting is kinesiology tape. In the last decade, we’ve seen growth of multiple types and brands of kinesiology tapes used for a variety of purposes.
Before kinesiology tape there was cotton tape, which was used to provide support, but also produced some performance limiting factors such as decreased blood flow and mobility. Today, kinesiology is promoted to be used for many purposes including: reduced fatigue, joint support, promotion of blood flow, and enhanced recovery and performance.
There are multiple reasons strength athletes enlist kinesiology tape in their supportive arsenal. One of the best parts of tape is that it’s not limited to one type of athlete. In fact, with so many styles of tape, multiple athletes can benefit from it, if used properly. Below are a few of the major reasons why strength athletes use tape.
At BarBend, we were so interested in finding a versatile tape that we designed and manufactured our own: The BarBend Multi-Sport Kinesiology/Muscle Tape. Obviously, we think this tape is great, but in order to help maintain objectivity, we haven’t included it in our rankings of other brands below.
Best Kinesiology Tape Picks
Best Kinesiology Tape for Lifters: TheraBand Kinesiology Tape
Best Kinesiology Tape for Knee: FlexU Supreme Kinesiology Tape
Best Kinesiology Tape for Swimming: Nordic Lifting Prime Tape
Best Kinesiology Tape for Sensitive Skin: Kinesio Tex Gold 100% Kinesiology Tape
Best Kinesiology Tape for CrossFit® Style Workouts: StrengthTape Kinesiology Tape
Read further below for even more categories and picks!
Why Kinesiology Tape?
One of the biggest reasons athletes use tape is for joint support. Kinesiology tape is designed to move with the skin, so its adhesive will stick and support the joint in a way that moves with the body, as opposed to against it. Will it completely stabilize the joint? No, but it could be a useful tool for those who experience limitations due to instabilities caused by injury and fatigue.
In terms of recovery, kinesiology tape is often said to promote the flow of both blood and lymphatic fluid (though more research is generally needed in this regard). The tape works to lift and pull the skin in a way that increases the natural flow of both of these around taped areas. After workouts, the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid is one of the many keys to recovery.
First, the increased blood flow may help transport oxygen and nutrients to the surrounding taped area. Second, the movement of lymph could help support recovery by moving unwanted fluids and preventing pooling, this can help limit inflammation of the joints/muscles.
Kinesiology tape may also enhance athletic performance. This point ties in with the above aspects of support and recovery. With an additional layer of support that moves with the body, you may be able to perform longer. This becomes especially important for athletes who have prolonged bouts of activity, and may need extra stability when fatigue kicks in.
If you can utilize better mechanics for extended bouts of exercise, then you’ll be able to perform longer by targeting the proper musculature.
Different Types of Kinesiology Tape
There are a lot of different kinesiology tapes out there, and finding the perfect tape can be a daunting task, especially for new tape users. Fortunately, of all the types of tapes there are two base options: cotton and synthetic. From these two choices, we can further break down aspects of tape that will help you further choose your best fit.
Cotton tapes have a few callouts that will make them different from their counter synthetic tapes. First, cotton tapes are softer on the skin and body. These tapes will be less noticeable when applied, so they’re typically a go-to for athletes in need of light support.
Second, these tapes tend to be better for sensitive skin users. Tape can cause skin irritation, so a cotton, or cotton nylon blend, may be the best choice for those with sensitive skin issues.
Synthetic tapes are more supportive due to the material they use. They’re often stiffer than cotton tapes and utilize materials designed to provide the joint and musculature with an increased feeling of rigidity. These tapes will be best for athletes who need increased support for prolonged periods of exercise.
One thing to keep in mind with synthetic tapes is the possible skin irritation. Most tapes avoid using latex and zinc, but some synthetic tapes do. If you know your skin is prone to irritation by adhesives and other materials, then this should be accounted for.
Duration of Use
Each tape has their own guidelines on suggested use. This factor can impact an athlete’s tape choice due to their activity of choosing. For athletes undergoing multiple workouts in a span of a few days, they may reach for a tape that lasts longer and doesn’t need to be reapplied frequently.
When you apply kinesiology tape it’s recommended you rub them in to produce heat. This heat will promote the adhesive’s stick to the skin. If you need a tape to last multiple days, then it’s recommended having someone help apply heat to the targeted area.
Average Cotton Tape Days of Wear
Every tape will have different guidelines, but from the tapes we reviewed, the average cotton tape will stay on the body for 1-3 days. Some cotton tapes may last longer, but we felt after three days most of these tapes lost their effectiveness.
One factor we found that influenced the cotton tapes use was the amount of moisture you’re exposed to. Cotton tapes are not nearly as water resistant as synthetics, so athletes who sweat a lot, workout in hot climates, and partake in water-sports should keep this mind.
Average Synthetic Tape Days of Wear
The average synthetic tape will remain on the body for 4-7 days (some tapes boast 8-10 days). These tapes have a more rigid feeling, so they do a better job at providing support over extended bouts of time.
Additionally, synthetic’s material is typically designed to resist water, so moisture is less likely to get into the creases of the joints and muscles.
Best Tape for Lifters
A best kinesiology tape for lifters will be dependent on an athlete’s strength sport. With so many styles of tapes and levels of support, there’s no one-size-fits-all tape. We broke our best tape for lifters into three different categories, which include: light support (with no limit in mobility), moderate support, and the most support.
Our favorite tape for all around lifting is the TheraBand Kinesiology Tape. This tape earned our top spot due to its well-made adhesive, easy application, prolonged light support, and ease on the wallet. Additionally, we thought this tape was great for providing support without limiting mobility.
For moderate support, Nordic Lifting’s Prime Tape does an exceptional job. This is a synthetic based tape that provides support and was decently mobile throughout compound movements. The adhesive was the star player for this tape’s ability to support the body during workouts.
The most supportive tape for lifting is the KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape. KT’s synthetic based tape supported the joints best out of the tapes we tried for lifting. One possible issue for lifters may be the limited mobility when the tape is first applied, but in terms of stability this tape is our top choice.
Best Tape for Knee
We judged a kinesiology tape for the knee in three different categories. First, how much support does it provide this joint? Second, how well does the tape move with the body? Third, how effective is the tape’s adhesive, and did it remain in the same spot?
Our favorite tape for the knee is FlexU Supreme Kinesiology Tape. This tape offered an exceptional amount of support, while remaining in one place for a prolonged period of time. The adhesive moved well with the knee, even when walking for prolonged periods.
The second tape that makes our list for the knee was KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape. This tape provided possibly the most support of our top knee picks, but somewhat lacked the maneuverability with the joint. If you’re someone who needs more knee support, then this tape will be beneficial.
Nordic Lifting Prime Tape is also one of our top choices for knee support. Unlike the above two options, this tape is a little more maneuverable with the joint, which is why it makes our list. Plus, the adhesive on Prime Tape was resistant to water.
Best Tape for Swimming
Most kinesiology tapes are designed to be water resistant, but we found synthetic tapes to fair much better with excessive moisture. When it comes to swimming, the application of the tape is the key to long-lasting in-water effects.
Our favorite tape for swimming is Nordic Lifting’s Prime Tape. We liked this tape’s softer synthetic build, and its ability to resist water. One of its main purposes listed on the box was swimming, so this tape lived up to its functions.
KT Tape Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape is also a viable option for water sports. This synthetic tape provided great support and resisted water pretty well. If you’re using KT Tape for swimming, then make sure it’s the synthetic version, and not cotton, as the cotton isn’t water resistant.
Our final swimming pick is StrengthTape Kinesiology Tape. This tape is formulated to be long-lasting for long duration activities. We found this tape to do a pretty good job at providing support while in the water.
Best Tape for Sensitive Skin
A common issue that sometimes arises with kinesiology tape is skin irritation. In most cases with skin sensitivity, it’s the environment (hot & humid) or synthetic tapes that are the irritants. This is when cotton tapes can be useful for a strength athlete.
Our favorite tape for sensitive skin is Kinesio Tex Gold 100% Cotton Kinesiology Tape. First off, this tape is made of a 100% cotton material, so it’s an easier feel on the skin. Second, the adhesive is hypoallergenic and latex free, which are often two contributing factors to possible irritation.
In our opinion, another solid tape for sensitive skin is TheraBand’s Kinesiology Tape. Their tape is latex free and provided a comfortable fit on multiple joints. Additionally, the adhesive was pretty forgiving on the skin over prolonged periods of time.
The last pick for sensitive skin is Master of Muscle Beast Tape. This tape is made of 97% cotton and 3% nylon, so it provides a soft and comfortable fit. It wasn’t the best tape for resisting moisture, but it provided a snug fit for sensitive skin.
Best Kinesiology Tape for CrossFit®-Style Workouts
A great tape for CrossFit®-style workouts is a tape that’s versatile, provides support, and doesn’t lose its adhesive very easily. Synthetic and cotton tapes can be useful for this style of workout, and should be selected by athlete’s discretion and needs.
Our top pick for functional fitness workouts was StrengthTape Kinesiology Tape. This tape is the official tape of Ironman, so it’s designed with versatility in mind. It wasn’t the strongest tape in terms of stability, but it moved well trough a variety of exercises.
RockTape Kinesiology Tape is our second pick for this type of workout. This cotton based tape provided a light support, and has an adhesive that stuck well when applied correctly. The star player of this tape was its ability to move with the skin and not limit mobility.
FlexU Supreme is our final pick for this style of training. This tape has a synthetic base and is more supportive than the two tapes above. If you’re in need of ample support on the joint, or body, then FlexU will be a good choice for stability and versatility.
Still Looking for the Best Kinesiology Tape for Your Needs?
There are even more types and categories of tape on the market than what we’ve listed above. So we included even more options and picks below!
Best Kinesiology Tape for Plantar Fasciitis
A common issue some lifters have is Plantar Fasciitis, which is the tightening of the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Kinesiology tape is often used to relieve some of this pressure and provide the foot with support to avoid additional inflammation.
Symptoms vary significantly from person to person, and while some athletes report symptom relief from taping, others do not. Just something to keep in mind when looking to taping as an option here.
We found synthetic tapes often worked best for this relief, due to the foot getting excessively sweaty and cotton tapes losing adhesion quickly.
Our top pick for Plantar Fasciitis is KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape. This tape’s synthetic base provided ample support, while remaining in one spot on the foot. We also liked that this tape was able to provide tension, even as we moved around a lot in cardio based movements.
FlexU Supreme was also one of our top choices for Plantar Fasciitis relief. This tape’s adhesive wasn’t as strong compared to KT Pro’s, but it provided an ample amount of tension to the foot. The price point for this tape is also a little better compared to KT Pro Synthetic.
Our final pick for Plantar Fasciitis support was StrengthTape’s Kinesiology Tape. As mentioned above, this tape was designed for providing long-term support in multiple exercises. It’s the official tape of Ironman competitions, so it has a reputation of being used for cardio-based movements.
Best Tape for the Money
This category focuses around one premise, and that’s the best roll for the money. Kinesiology tape can be expensive, so we picked our top two tapes that provided support, but didn’t break the bank.
TheraBand’s Kinesiology Tape takes the number one spot in the best for the money. This tape starts at $11.99 for a 16-foot roll, which comes out to $.75 cents per foot. What sealed them as our number one pick besides their cost efficiency was how their tape performed. This was our favorite tape overall, plus the price point is great.
Master of Muscle’s Beast Tape is also an exceptional tape for the money. Their tape starts around $8.00 per 15-foot roll, so you’re looking at paying around $.50 cents per foot. This tape wasn’t the best for stability, but the price is definitely on the lower end.
Kinesiology tape is a piece of supportive strength equipment that has a variety of uses. If you’re new to tape, then it’s recommended to do research on both proper application and uses. Tape can be a great tool if used correctly, and with so many rolls, it’s nearly impossible to not find your perfect fit.
If you’re in need of light or heavy joint support, or enhanced recovery, then kinesiology tape may be a good addition to your gym bag.