As strength sports have evolved, so has the equipment used to support the body and enhance performance. Kinesiology tape is a prime example of this with the growth of multiple types and brands.
Before kinesiology tape, there was cotton tape, which provided support and produced some performance limiting factors, such as decreased blood flow and mobility. Now, kinesiology tape promotes reduced fatigue, joint support, increased blood flow, and enhanced recovery. A lot of people assume kinesiology provides traditional “support,” whereas it’s actually about enhancing proprioception, changing pain pathway signals, and potentially improved blood and lymphatic fluid flow.
Kinesiology tape is not limited to one type of athlete. Below are our top kinesiology tape picks on the market and where they are best suited:
Best Kinesiology Tape
- Best Tape for Lifters: TheraBand Kinesiology Tape
- Best Sensitive Tape: Kinesio Tex Gold Cotton Tape
- Best Swimming Tape: Nordic Lifting Kinesiology Tape
- Best Knee Tape: FlexU Supreme Kinesiology Tape
- Best Tape for CrossFit: StrengthTape Kinesiology Tape
- Best Foot Tape: KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended to diagnose, prevent, and/or treat health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. Individual needs for vitamins and minerals will vary.
Best Tape for Lifters
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 support, and ease on the wallet. Additionally, we thought this tape was great for providing support without limiting mobility.
For both powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters, that support without any mobility limitations means that they can be more confident about their squat, their deadlift, their snatch, and even their clean & jerk without changing their mechanics due to the tape. We appreciate a tape that can do its job without the constant reminder that it is there.
This kinesiology tape is designed to last for multiple hours and form fit the skin with its strong adhesive.
Who Should Buy TheraBand Kinesiology Tape
- Powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, gym-goers who lift.
- Those who need an easy application tape.
- Anyone on a tighter budget.
Who Shouldn’t Buy TheraBand Kinesiology Tape
- Anyone with higher skin sensitivity.
- Those who prefer a thicker tape.
The stretch design helps ensure a better fit around the area getting support. It can be wasteful to improperly measure a length of tape that doesn’t cover your needs and have to use more. The XActStretch system used in this tape aims to limit that kind of waste.
[Related: Kinesiology Taping The Rotator Cuff]
Best Sensitive Tape
Kinesio Tex Gold Cotton Tape is made of a 100 percent 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.
A common issue that sometimes arises with kinesiology tape is skin irritation. In most cases with skin sensitivity, the environment (hot and humid) or synthetic tapes are the irritants. This is when cotton tapes can be useful for a strength athlete.
A cotton based tape that will last through sweaty work outs, and will be forgiving on the skin when removing.
Who Should Buy Kinesio Tex Gold Cotton Tape
- Anyone with easily irritated skin.
- Those who need hypoallergenic tape that is free of latex.
- People who train in hotter temperatures.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Kinesio Tex Gold Cotton Tape
- Those who prefer synthetic tape.
- Anyone who needs a longer-lasting adhesive tape.
Not all tapes are hypoallergenic. Many are made with latex or other materials that can cause unpleasant reactions for those with sensitive skin. If you fall into that category, it is unlikely to matter how good a kinesiology tape is if you feel discomfort while wearing it. Kinesio’s tape is fully hypoallergenic and a great option for those with more sensitive skin.
[Related: The Lifter’s Guide To Magnesium: What This Nutrient Does For Strength]
Best Swimming Tape
Nordic Lifting’s Prime Tape has a softer synthetic build and its ability to resist water. It is designed to be used by swimmers while they are training in the pool. Most kinesiology tapes are designed to be water-resistant, but synthetic tapes perform better with excessive moisture. When it comes to swimming for strength athletes, the tape’s application is the key to long-lasting in-water effects.
Most synthetic tapes will have some ability to perform well in the water, unlike cotton counterparts. Some synthetic tapes maintain their adhesive better than others, and at the top of the list is Nordic.
A 100% synthetic based tape that is designed to move with the body and provide ample support.
Who Should Buy Nordic Lifting Kinesiology Tape
- Those who need added support while swimming.
- Anyone who must have a tape that can still function when wet.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Nordic Lifting Kinesiology Tape
- People who want a cotton tape option.
- Those who don’t plan on training in an aquatic environment.
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Best Knee Tape
FlexU Supreme Kinesiology 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 extended distances.
We judged a kinesiology tape meant for the knee on three different metrics. First, how much support it provides the knee joint. Second, how well the tape moves with the body. Third, the effectiveness of the tape’s adhesive and how well it remained in the same spot.
A synethic tape that's designed to last for multiple hours of sweaty workouts.
Who Should Buy FlexU Supreme Kinesiology Tape
- Anyone who requires a tape that doesn’t shift.
- Those who need flexible tape for prolonged periods.
- People with weak knees or coming off knee injuries.
Who Shouldn’t Buy FlexU Supreme Kinesiology Tape
- Folks whose training sessions are short.
- Anyone using tape for a non-joint area of the body.
Athletes must protect their knees from injury. Having the added support of a kinesiology tape can be a welcome aid in better ensuring that happens — assuming the taping for the knee is done correctly. FlexU leads the pack if you are specifically in need of a tape for one or both knees.
[Related: 3 Ways To Find Your 1-Rep Max (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced)]
Best Tape for CrossFit
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 through various exercises. A great tape for CrossFit®-style workouts should be versatile, provide support, and maintain its adhesiveness during intense training sessions.
Functional fitness training involves a lot of versatile movements. Someone who needs the added support of a kinesiology tape will need a tape to keep up with that versatility. We were pleased with how StrengthTape performed.
A pre-cut kinsiology tape designed to last multiple hours in both wet and dry settings.
Who Should Buy StrengthTape Kinesiology Tape
- Anyone who trains CrossFit or a similar style functional fitness.
- Those who are competing in endurance events or competitions.
- People who sweat a lot and need a tape with strong adhesive.
Who Shouldn’t Buy StrengthTape Kinesiology Tape
- Folks who have high skin sensitivity.
- Anyone who prefers the perforated tape for easier application.
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Best Foot Tape
KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape‘s synthetic base provided ample support while remaining in one spot. We also liked that this tape provided tension, even as we moved around a lot in cardio-based movements.
Some lifters have a common issue: plantar fasciitis, which is the tightening of the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. It may go without saying, but it is worth noting that taping the foot is different from taping the ankle. Kinesiology tape is often used to relieve some of this pressure and support the foot to avoid additional inflammation.
A 100% synthetic based tape that is designed to move with the body and provide ample support.
Who Should Buy KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape
- Anyone who needs a tape capable of staying in place through excessive sweat.
- Those who prefer added support on the foot when performing cardio.
- People who suffer from inflammation of the foot.
Who Shouldn’t Buy KT Pro Synthetic Kinesiology Tape
- Folks who need tape for non-foot joints.
- People who train primarily in humid environments.
It is worth noting that symptoms vary from person to person, and while some athletes report symptom relief from taping, others do not. We found synthetic tapes often worked best for this relief due to the foot getting excessively sweaty and cotton tapes losing adhesiveness quickly.
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Why Kinesiology Tape?
Joint support is one of the biggest reasons for athletes to use tape. Kinesiology tape is designed to move with the skin, so its adhesive will stick and support the joint as the body moves. 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/or fatigue.[Related: Kinesiology Taping for Hip Pain]
In terms of recovery, kinesiology tape promotes blood flow and lymphatic fluid flow (though more research is generally needed in this regard). The tape works to lift and pull the skin to increase the natural blood flow of both around taped areas. After workouts, the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid is one of the many keys to recovery.
The increased blood flow can help transport oxygen to the surrounding taped area. The movement of lymph could help support recovery by preventing the pooling of unwanted fluids. 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 might perform longer. This becomes especially important for athletes who have prolonged bouts of activity and need extra stability when fatigue sets in.
Different Types of Kinesiology Tape
There are many 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. Let’s further break down aspects of each kind of tape to help you choose the better fit.[Related: Kinesiology Taping for Posture]
Cotton tapes have a few callouts that will make them different from their counter synthetic tapes. First, cotton tapes are softer on the skin. 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, might be the best choice for those with sensitive skin issues.
Every tape will have different guidelines, but the average cotton tape will stay on the body for one to three 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 in mind.
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 increased 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.
The average synthetic tape will remain on the body for four to seven days (some tapes boast eight to 10 days). These tapes have a more rigid feeling, so they do a better job providing support over extended bouts of time.
Additionally, synthetic material is typically designed to resist water, so moisture is less likely to penetrate the joints and muscles’ creases.[Related: Kinesiology Taping for Tennis Elbow]
Duration of Use
Each tape has its own guidelines on suggested use. This can impact an athlete’s tape choice depending on the type of activity or training their performing. For athletes undergoing multiple workouts in 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 to have someone help apply heat to the targeted areas.
[Related: Kinesiology Taping for Low Back Pain and Stability]
Kinesiology tape is a piece of supportive strength equipment that has a variety of uses. If you’re new to tape, it’s recommended to research both proper application and uses. Tape can be a great tool if used correctly, and with so many roles, it’s very likely to find your best fit. If you need light or heavy joint support, or enhanced recovery, then kinesiology tape may be a good addition to your gym bag.