Achilles tendonitis is most often an overuse injury that’s often aggravated by exercise. But an easy way to get back into working out is by taping or wrapping your foot.
There are specific ways to tape your Achilles tendon for maximum effectiveness. Once you learn how to tape and wrap for Achilles tendonitis, you should be able to continue exercising with minimal pain and reduced inflammation.
Let’s have a look at this painful condition, how taping can help, and the right ways to tape or wrap…
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed.
It’s a common overuse injury. Inflammation is often triggered by repetitive or intense strain on the Achilles tendon. This often happens by increasing walking or running distance or speed too quickly.
But you can also develop Achilles tendonitis if you don’t warm up properly before working out. It can also occur by stopping quickly and changing direction—like during tennis or soccer. Or if you strained your calf muscles while participating in physical activity.
Wearing old shoes that don’t support your feet adequately or that fit poorly will increase the amount of strain that’s placed on the Achilles.
To make matters worse, women who wear high heel shoes every day may have a higher risk of developing Achilles tendonitis. High heels don’t allow the tendon to fully extend, and over time the tendon can shorten. This can lead to the tendon being overstretched and possibly torn.
Individuals who have severe overpronation are also at a high risk of developing Achilles tendonitis. This is especially true if you’re not wearing shoes to help control overpronation, as this places the tendon under constant stress.
Exercising on uneven surfaces, stair climbing, or running up hills can cause your calves to tighten, which can lead to Achilles tendonitis.
Our Achilles tendon becomes weaker as we get older, and this can make us more susceptible to Achilles tendonitis and possible Achilles tendon ruptures. Braces for Achilles tendonitis can help but many people find them too bulky.
How Does Taping Help Achilles Tendonitis?
Taping the Achilles tendon and the ankle helps to reduce the pain as it reduces movement of the joint, which allows the tendon to rest.
It will also promote healing, provide support and prevent further injury.
How Long Can You Keep the Achilles Tendonitis Taping On For?
There are a few factors that will influence how long you will be able to keep the tape on.
One of these factors is the type of tape you’re using. The sensitivity of your skin will also play a role in how long you’re able to keep it on.
You may want to cut a small piece of tape and test it on a patch of skin for about 15 minutes to see if it causes any irritation to your skin. If the tape leaves red welts, then you’re having an allergic reaction to it. You may have to try a few different brands of tape to see which ones won’t irritate your skin.
If the tape didn’t cause a reaction or you found a brand that works for you, then it’s advisable that you don’t leave the tape on for more than 3 days.
After 3 days, remove the tape and allow your skin to breathe for at least a day before taping your Achilles again.
Types of Taping
There are two different types of tape you can use to wrap your Achilles tendon.
While most people use athletic tape and Kinesiology tape interchangeably, they are different and provide different levels of support.
When we look at athletic tape, it’s noticeably thicker, more rigid, and non-elastic.
The tape doesn’t breathe and it’s able to retain moisture, which can cause skin irritation. Athletic tape has been used for many years in therapy offices and has always been a “must-have” in the first aid kits of coaches and athletes.
Athletic tape is often wrapped around the injured muscle or joint in overlapping layers, limiting or immobilizing the area.
While this helps to create compression—which stimulates circulation and can help speed up recovery—it also helps to provide additional support and stability to the area and reduces the risk of further injury.
Kinesiology tape is thinner and has more stretch and flexibility to it.
The tape is breathable and can wick moisture away effectively, drying quickly. Kinesiology tape uses a gentle, acrylic adhesive that is less likely to cause skin irritation. Many people can use it for 3 to 5 days before removing it.
Instead of being wrapped around an injury, Kinesiology tape is used to border an injured joint or muscle.
The tape lifts the skin slightly, which increases blood flow to the area while allowing lymphatic fluid to be removed. However, due to its stretch and flexibility, this tape doesn’t provide significant joint support.
While Kinesiology tape is relatively new to the sports medicine world, it’s earned a place in the medical kits of trainers, coaches, and athletes.
How To Tape for Achilles Tendonitis
Low-Dye Taping Technique
This technique helps to support the arch of your foot especially if your foot rolls in as you walk.
To start, measure a piece of athletic tape that will be able to fit all the way around your foot. Then place one end of the piece of tape near the joint at the base of the big toe—knuckle of the big toe—and wrap the tape around the inside of your foot.
Use your free hand to increase the arch of your foot by bending it slightly upwards. You don’t need to increase the arch too much, just create a subtle increase in the arch. If you increase the arch too much before taping, then you’ll find it difficult and painful to walk on.
Continue to wrap the tape behind the heel, then all the way up the outside of the foot until the tape meets the knuckle of your little toe—fifth toe.
Then measure four pieces of tape that are the length of the bottom of your foot. Take the first piece of tape and place it at the base of the big toe—just below the forefoot pad—and pull it under the foot, while gently pulling up and connecting the tape on the other side.
Now that both of your tape anchor points are done, you’re going to reinforce the center of your foot.
Take a piece of tape and place it from the center of your heel until it reaches the anchor point that runs across—horizontally—your foot. To complete this “fanning” of the tape, your next two pieces will fan out from the center of the heel on either side of the center piece of tape, up to the anchor point at the base of your toes.
When you look at the bottom of your foot, the arch of your foot should be covered in tape, while your forefoot and toes can still be seen.
Cut another three strips of tape that will run the length of your foot.
Take the first piece of tape and place it just under your foot, just below the forefoot, and wrap it around your foot horizontally.
You can increase the tension on these strips to increase your support. Place the second piece of tape just below the first piece and wrap it around your foot, and repeat this step with your third piece of tape.
Once all three pieces of tape are wrapped horizontally around the arch of your foot, you can cut another piece of tape that can wrap around your foot.
Then starting at the base of your big toe, wrap the tape on the inside of your foot, behind your heel, and then up to the base of your little toe.
This final piece of tape just helps to reinforce the layers of tape and ensure that they maintain the support.
Dorsiflexion-Blocking Athletic Taping Technique
Dorsiflexion—extension of the foot or pointing of the toes—can aggravate Achilles tendinitis or tendinopathy. This method of taping aims to prevent that movement.
Start by wrapping your under-wrap around the foot and ankle. You want to make two loops of tape to begin—anchor points—one around your calf muscle about 20 cm above the heel and the other around the foot just below the metatarsals.
Make sure neither of these tape anchor points are too tight. They should not cause pain or cause the toes or the skin above or below the tape to go red or white. You should still be able to stand flat on the ground like you normally would when the tape is applied around the foot.
Cut another piece of tape that’s long enough to run from one anchor point to another. Stick this piece of tape down on the anchor point underneath the fifth toe—on the outside of the foot. Then, run it down to the heel and up the inside of the ankle to meet the calf anchor point.
Then, do the same from the other side of the foot—underneath the big toe—over the heel and up the outside of the ankle. These two pieces of tape should make an “X” shape that crosses at the heel. Try not to overlap the sections that run over the heel completely, to reduce pressure on the heel.
You can place another piece of tape in the middle of the anchor point on the foot and run it directly straight down the foot, over the heel and up to meet the anchor point on the calf.
How to Tape With Kinesio Tape
To begin taping your Achilles tendon with Kinesiology tape, cut a piece of tape that reaches from the top of your calf—just below the knee—to the bottom of your heel. It may be easiest to do this with someone else’s help.
Before you remove the backing from the tape, flex your foot upwards. Place one end of the tape under your heel and hold it against the ground. Move your thumb up the tape until it reaches the top of your Achilles—a few inches above the ankle.
You can either keep the tape held against your leg and ask someone else to help you with the next step, or mark the tape with a marker and do it yourself. You’ll need to start at the top of the strip of tape—under your knee—and cut it down the middle until you reach your thumb or the mark you’ve made.
Flex your foot again and this time, remove the backing off the bottom—uncut—section of the tape and place it under your heel. Stick the tape up the back of your heel and over your Achilles tendon, keeping your foot flexed the entire time.
Then carefully remove the backing from one side of the cut tape and stick it over the side of the calf muscle, running from back to front.
Do the same with the other side. These two pieces should form a “V” shape on the back of your leg. Don’t stretch the tape while sticking it down.
Are There Risks for Achilles Taping?
The biggest risk of Achilles taping is experiencing an allergic reaction to the tape. This is why it’s recommended to test a small strip of the tape on your arm or leg for 5 minutes before wrapping your whole foot.
When we look at wrapping the foot, the only other risk is possibly strapping it too tight and cutting off circulation.
This could lead to discomfort and possibly tingling or numbness, as well as taking the body longer to heal as oxygen-rich blood isn’t getting to the affected area.
When Should I Avoid Taping?
While taping can provide much-needed support, there are certain individuals who should avoid Achilles taping.
If you’ve experienced a previous serious injury to the Achilles—a tear or rupture—then avoid taping unless you’ve been given the green light by a doctor.
If you’ve had a bone fracture in the heel or back of the ankle, then they should avoid using tape as it may put pressure on the area and cause pain.
Those with open wounds in the area in which the tape needs to be used should avoid using tape as it can aggravate the skin and reopen wounds.
Individuals with circulation problems should also not use tape, as incorrect taping can cause worsen circulation problems.
People with sensitive skin who have an allergy to other adhesives such as band-aids may also want to avoid taping.