Trail Runner Product Review: KT Tape Pro

KT Tape Pro reviewed by American Trail Running Association (ATRA) advisory board member and Wisconsin trail runner Susan Kendrick. Susan is the Director of Sponsorship for the American Birkebeiner® Ski Foundation and was featured in our View from the Pack series of articles. This product was provided at no charge by KT Tape for this review.

Hot pink quads, lime green hamstrings, sky blue knees and shoulders. I’ve seen my fair share of kinesiology tape on trail runners at races, but had never tried to use it myself. I thought maybe KT Tape was just for elite runners in the lead pack. Even so, I was up for the chance to spend time using KT Tape (Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape) to see how it works for a non-elite trail runner.

There are a lot of different brands of kinesiology tape out there, but KT Tape has clearly made an impact on athletes as it is the largest kinesiology tape manufacturer in stores, available in 42,000+ domestic retail locations and 40 countries.

The Pro package contains 20 pre-cut, 10-inch pieces. Details on the box say that KT Tape Original can be worn 1-3 days and this KT TAPE Pro can be worn 4-7 days. Being able to wear each piece for up to seven days at a time definitely makes KT Tape Pro a budget-friendly addition to your trail running gear.

What’s the summary from my experience? This little pink tub is now a regular part of how I take care of myself as a trail runner. Below is the story of how I used KT Tape for my shoulder.

My questions going into this experiment were:

  1. How does KT Tape work (and does it work)?
  2. How easy is KT Tape to apply correctly?
  3. How can I tell if KT Tape working?

Because my only first-hand experience was seeing runners getting taped up at expos and wearing it for races, I assumed that kinesiology tape is for performance purposes only, for “getting through” a hard effort when you have a persistent injury and want to keep moving. What I first learned from a physical therapist and have now personally experienced, has expanded the whole idea of what this KT Tape can do. Here’s the biggest takeaway; KT Tape is not a solution for what ails you.

I had been seeing a physical therapist for help with my hamstring. She said she would get me running again and she did, so I now trust her with my life – my running life! When I told her I would be trying KT Tape she said it can help not just when you are working out or racing, but as a support in general, between efforts. This is exactly what I discovered from using it on a tweaked shoulder, below, and then on other areas that were fine but could just use a little love. This tape is not just remedial, something you use to address a problem. It is proactive as well, a way to stay healthy, something any trail runner can benefit from adding their gear and to their running lifestyle.

How does KT Tape Work?
What I learned from my physical therapist, the KT Tape website, and through reading a range of independent articles is this: Kinesiology tape supports the body’s natural healing process by microscopically lifting layers of skin and underlying tissue. This helps your lymph system drain excess fluid and reduce swelling caused by injury or even overuse. The tape can also enhance your range of motion because it serves as a sort of tactile cue for the muscles to fire. To answer the big question, yes, KT Tape can help reduce or eliminate pain as part of this process.

For this review I’d be putting my shoulder to the test. I had started weight lifting to strengthen my upper body and address those T-Rex arms (runners and their upper bodies, right?) We all overdo it at times, running hard or long or working out. In my case, my left upper bicep and shoulder felt strained beyond just ordinary muscle soreness.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not see my physical therapist. I make that disclaimer because ordinarily oversight from a professional is the best first step when you experience pain or injury. I had, however, learned a lot of key principles from my physical therapist and now also had the instructions on the KT Tape website to guide me.

How Easy is KT Tape to Apply Correctly?
Very! The “How to Apply KT Tape” page on their website covers every aspect of taping.

In addition to 8 simple start-up tips, there is a complete series of easy-to-follow videos divided into the categories of legs, feet, knees, back, neck, shoulders, and arms/hands. The legs section alone includes 9 separate videos based on application, from hamstrings, to glutes, to hip flexors. Each includes a write-up as well about common issues for this particular area, potential causes, and how KT Tape can help.

In less than two minutes, the video on rotator cuff application showed me how to apply KT Tape to my shoulder and upper arm, including where to place and raise my arm during application to create the correct stretch in the tape. I applied the tape and wore it for a several days. As promised, it outlasted runs, workouts, and showers.

It’s easy to take off, too! I have talked to some triathlete friends about kinesiology tape in general, and a few of them complained about it being hard to get off or hard on their skin, so I was prepared for a struggle. However, I experienced no issues or discomfort at all with the KT Tape. There is a video that shows how to hold your skin as you gently peel off the tape. And, like the rest of the videos on the website, the instructions worked. I can confidently use this product start to finish.

How Can You Tell if KT Tape is Working?
In my case, I experienced improvement the first day. The greatest relief came from the feeling of freedom and support as I was able to lift my arm without restriction or pain. This relief continued even after I stopped using the tape several days later. Yes, I could tell it was working, and I am so relieved and grateful.

For the most part, I did not notice the KT Tape was there. Right after I applied it and every so often I did have a sensation of warmth. Or, I would simply notice a sense of support along parts of the taped area. It was helpful to understand how the tape works, as described above, that “lift.”

This is the same reason my physical therapist had me use a hard foam roller on my hamstring, to direct blood flow to the area, because this is part of what facilitates healing in the body. My sense is that KT Tape does same thing, continuously.

Because of this initial success, and as part of this review, I went on to use the various videos on website to experiment with KT Tape in a proactive way, again to promote this same healthy response in other areas. I experienced that same sense of “internal” support each time.

Thanks, KT Tape, for helping me stay healthy, on my feet, and on the trails!

Disclaimer: Scientific research has shown that kinesiology tape can be effective at reducing pain. However it is not clinically proven for all injuries. Discontinue use if skin becomes irritated or sore. Application instructions are provided for educational purposes only. KT TAPE products are not a replacement for professional medical attention and care. Cancer patients should not use KT TAPE products as they my interfere with treatment.

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