How to… Tape Your Own Ankle
Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have a club physio or trainer at their disposal to tape their ankles prior to training or on game day. Some of us have to rely on our parents, partners or even try attempt taping it ourselves. In today’s “How to” blog we are going to look at the do’s and don’ts of taping your own ankle.
Step 1 – Preparation
This is the step that most people forget and consequently their tape fails to adhere and/or causes skin irritation. Please ensure your skin is clean and dry prior to applying the tape. Skin that is greasy, sweaty, muddy or hairy will compromise the tape’s ability to adhere and stay adhered to the skin throughout your full activity.
If you have applied moisturiser and massage creams to your ankle prior to taping, the tape will inevitably come loose and fall off; sometimes the tape won’t stick on at all if your skin is too greasy! If this is the case, be sure to wash the skin off with warm soapy water or a wipe before starting the process. Similarly, if taping is required throughout a match and your skin has become sweaty or muddy, again wash and fully dry the skin. Sometimes taking that extra 30 seconds to clean the area can mean that you don’t have to return to re-tape your ankle 5 minutes later because it has come loose!
Secondly, tape and hair don’t mix well! Not only does tape not stick well to hair, the tape removal process can lead to some serious discomfort and skin irritation. Most people only make the mistake once and realise pre-shaving your ankle is a much better option than experiencing the waxing sensation of pulling of tape and your hair at the same time! When pre-shaving your ankles, if possible, try to do it 1-2 days ahead of taping. If done too soon before taping skin irritation can occur.
The last part of your preparation is not necessary for everyone; it involves under wrapping with a hypoallergenic tape e.g. Fixomull. If you are allergic to the adhesives on the rigid tape you use to tape your ankle, a layer of Fixomull under the whole area that the rigid tape will be applied, can avoid nasty skin reactions to the rigid tape. If you are unsure whether you are allergic, it may be worth applying a small test patch of rigid tape to the area and closely monitor any skin reaction. If it becomes itchy, warm or red, remove immediately as a more nasty reaction may occur if left on.
For a small percentage of people, using Fixomull might still lead to a skin reaction. If you are unsure or suspect your skin might react even when using the Fixomull, be sure to closely monitor any signs or symptoms of skin irritation and remove immediately. Fixomull can not only be used to avoid skin irritation – many people find it actually helps prevent the rigid tape from coming loose, especially if you are prone to excessive sweating! There are some adhesive sprays on the market too that can be used to help the tape adhere if you are prone to excessive sweating. These include Skin Prep and Tensospray.
Step 2 – Anchor
The anchor is simply 1 strip of tape applied approximately 5cm (2 inches) above the ankle bones (malleoli). The anchor is used to give the rest of the tape something to grip onto. We are using 38mm rigid tape on the ankle pictured, this width tape will suit most ankles. If you have a larger than average ankle, 50mm tape might work better for you!
Step 3 – Stirrups
Depending on the size of your ankle, you normally have to do 2 to 3 strips, starting from the inside of the ankle and bringing around to the opposite, outer side of your ankle. This helps prevent the ankle from rolling inwards. Remember with each strip, overlap each time by a half. Try to keep the same tension and pull on the tape the whole time. This will not only feel more comfortable but also help avoid skin irritation and tears. Ensure the foot remains still and the ankle is at a 90 degree bend as seen in the picture.
Step 4 – Figure of 6
This is often the stage where most people have trouble. Again to provide extra support for the lateral or outer side of your ankle, you need to start your figure of six on the inside of your ankle. This is the same location where you started the stirrups. Then, as seen in the picture, you wrap the tape under the inside of your ankle and then up across the front, before again attaching it to the inside. This gives it the figure of six shape. You can repeat the process 2-3 times depending on the amount of support required. Again, overlapping each layer by a half.
Step 5 – Anchors
To finish off, repeat step 2. This holds all the strips of tape down and should prevent it from coming loose!
NB. The above process is used to provide support for ankle inversion sprains (ankle rolling inwards). These sprains are the most common ankle sprain and involve damage to the lateral ankle ligaments. If you are unsure what sort of ankle injury you have sustained or whether this taping method is right for you, we advise first seeking the opinion of your Physiotherapist to fully assess your ankle and recommend the appropriate treatment plan for your injury.