Written by: Taylor Post CAT(C) Athletic Therapist
Ankle Tape: a step-by-step guide
Knowing how to tape an ankle is a useful skill for coaches, first aiders and really any active person to learn. Ankle injuries are one of the most common injuries seen in sports. This is a step by step guide to a basic ankle tape job.
Before you begin it is important to note the importance of consulting a professional before returning to play after an ankle injury. This taping technique is only designed to support an ankle injury that is almost fully recovered or to help avoid problems in someone who is prone to ankle sprains. In any case, the tape job will never fully protect the ankle and will never replace the benefit of proper strengthening and rehabilitation programs.
Position the foot at a ninety-degree angle. This is the strongest and most neutral position for the joint to be in. The ankle should remain like this for the entire tape job.
Check the skin and ensure the person has no allergies to adhesives. Make sure to cover any open wounds or blisters.
Apply heel (Achilles tendon) and lace (top of ankle) pads and pre wrap to protect the skin. You only need a small, thin amount, covering from the middle/base of the calf to the arch of the foot.
Apply two anchors. Tape sticks best when attached to tape rather than skin, so it is essential to create anchors. One will go around the foot. Take care to position it far enough into the mid foot so the tape job will be secure, but also not too close to the toes. Taping too far into the arch will prevent the bottom of the foot and the toes from spreading properly when bearing weight and can cause cramping/discomfort.
The other will go around the base of the calf. Again, it is important to avoid taping into the belly of the muscle, as this will be uncomfortable to run/walk when the muscle contracts.
Apply three stirrup strips. Place a stirrup of athletic tape starting from the inside of the ankle (on the top anchor around the calf), passing under the heel and attaching to the other side of the same anchor (outside). Repeat three times, starting in different spots so that each stirrup overlaps the others by half a width of tape. Make sure the stirrups are tight enough to prevent the ankle from moving from side to side
Note - This is the best technique for a lateral ankle sprain, where the pain is mostly on the outside. If you have a medial ankle sprain (inside pain), it is best to place the tape on the bottom of the heel and pull it up evenly to attach at the anchors on either side. Your family doctor or athletic therapist can identify the severity and type of ankle sprain you have, which is essential to taping the injury effectively.
Close up the tape. This step is important for a solid tape job. Simply secure the stirrup strips by repeating the same type of anchor around the base of the calf. Begin by covering over the initial anchor and then moving down, overlapping the tape by half its width, and continuing the anchors towards the ankle joint.
Apply 3 horseshoe strips. This time you will begin at the distal anchor (around the foot). Start on one side, and pass the tape in behind the heel to the other side of the anchor. Again, repeat three times, overlapping the strips by about half of their width.
Tape around the heel for a “heel lock”. You can alternate either inside or outside, but make sure to do two “heel locks” for each side. Start on the top of the ankle/foot with the tape angled slightly toward the toes. Then pass the tape under the foot, continuing up along the side of the heel (just under the bony part), around the Achilles tendon and ending around where you started (top of the ankle). You should be able to continue the tape and repeat the same pattern around the other side of the heel. However it may be easier to rip the tape and begin the second “heel lock” with a new strip of tape. This means you will have four individual heel locks, versus two continuous ones. Either way is acceptable.
Apply two “figure 8” strips. Create a “figure 8” by starting on the top of the ankle and wrapping around foot, then crossing over the top of the ankle again and continuing to wrap around the lower leg. When the full “figure 8” is complete, there should be an x shaped pattern over the top of the ankle.
Close you tape job. Make sure to cover any windows or thin areas in your tape, as leaving them will increase the risk of blisters and tape cuts in those areas. Feel free to repeat anchors around the base of the calf or the foot to secure any loose ends. Take care not to overdo this step, as the tape job can quickly become bulky. Only place strips where they are needed to cover gaps or secure the ends of tape strips.
Now your tape job is complete! Make sure to have the person test out how it feels before attempting any activity. Common problems may be the tape is too tight or too loose, or pinches in certain areas. Do not become discouraged if your first few attempts aren’t perfect, as this is a difficult skill that takes practice to perfect.