Taping an ankle may look simple, but it is a rather tricky process that requires a lot of practice and patience to master. For anyone wanting to pursue a career in Kinesiology and get a job as either a physician, physical therapist, athletic trainer, or personal trainer, knowing how to correctly tape an injury for a client or athlete is essential to your success in that profession. Since I am majoring in exercise science and have some experience with taping I am going to explain in 10 simple steps how to tape an ankle. This tutorial serves as a guideline for those who have little to no knowledge on the process of taping from new exercise science students to those currently studying Kinesiology, or even for those who are just curious about how taping works.
Step 1: Gathering Materials
Before you get started, you will need to know what materials are needed for taping an ankle. The two essentials that you need are athletic tape, and prewrap (pictured above). Both of which are relatively inexpensive and can be found at almost any pharmacy or local convenience store. Once you have obtained these materials you are ready to begin the tape.
Step 2: Preparing the Injured Client or Athlete
Before you begin taping you are going to want to make sure that the person who is injured is in the proper position for the tape to be applied. To do this you will want to make sure they are seated on a flat, elevated surface with their leg straightened and the injured foot hanging off of the edge whatever surface they are resting on. The foot should be at about a 90-degree angle and remain like that for the duration of the tape.
Step 3: Pre Wrap
Now that the patient is in the correct position you can begin the taping process, which begins with applying pre wrap. Pre Wrap is a soft and stretchy foam that is applied to the injured area to protect the skin from the athletic tape that sticks and is painful to take off if applied by itself. When applying pre wrap, start at the base of the foot about an inch or two above the toes and work your way up the ankle until you get about 2-3 inches above the ankle. Make sure to cover the entire ankle and not to leave any skin showing. Keep the pre wrap as flat as possible to avoid wrinkles. Caution: Do not apply too tightly because it will cut off blood circulation, which can cause further injury.
Step 4: Anchor Strips
Once the pre wrap has been applied you can begin applying the athletic tape. The first step is to place 2-3 strips at the top and bottom of the pre wrap. These are called anchor strips and are used to hold the pre wrap in place.
Step 5: Stirrups
The next step is to apply stirrups, which involves making a loop shaped motion. To apply a stirrup you begin from the top anchor strip on the medial side of the ankle. Medial means towards the middle so the tape should start on the inside of the leg. The tape should then come under the base of the foot and end on the top anchor strip on the lateral side of the foot. Lateral is the opposite of medial and means the outer part of the leg. Each stirrup should slightly overlap the other stirrups and should three total. Note: Make sure to pull strips tightly towards lateral side of the foot.
Step 6: Horseshoes
After stirrups have been applied the next step is to apply horseshoe strips. Horseshoe strips look like the letter “U” and as the name implies are shaped similar to a horseshoe. For this tape you begin on the inside of the mid-foot, bring the tape around the back of the heel and end near the mid-foot on the outer side of the leg. Do three of these.
Step 7: Closure Strips
Once the horseshoes and stirrups have been place you want to cover the rest of the foot with closure strips, which are extra pieces of tape wrapped around the foot to ensure that no skin or prewrap is showing.
Step 8: Figure 8's
Figure 8’s are one of the harder steps in the ankle taping process. The motion of the tape is just like a number 8 (hence the name). To begin you place the tape at the medial side of the foot just above the ankle and at an angle. Next, bring the tape under the base of the foot and bring it back over the top of the foot, towards the inner ankle. Next, wrap it around the Achilles (located above the heel on the back of the foot) and back around the outer part of the ankle. This tape should finish on the top of the foot. Note: This step should only use one piece of tape.
Step 9: Heel Locks
Heel locks, which are just as tricky as figure 8’s are the next step in the ankle taping process. Heel locks wrap the tape around both sides of the heel to “lock” it in place and minimize movement of the ankle. To start a heel lock bring the tape over the top of the foot then under the outside of the foot. Make about a 45 degree angle then bring the tape back over the outside of the foot making sure to wrap the heel in the process. Do this same step but for the inside of the foot for a total of two heel locks. Note: The heel lock in the video wraps around both sides of the heel with just one piece of tape.
Step 10: Closure Strips (#2)
Closure strips are the last step in the ankle taping process. These are just like the closure strips you applied in step 7 but this time are used to finish off the tape. Once the closure strips have been applied the tape is complete Note: Taping is not something that will be mastered in one or two tries. It takes a lot of practice and repetitions so do not get frustrated!