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How to Strap Your Ankle

Almost every sport and exercise relies heavily on a healthy, strong pair of ankles. Due to this, the ankle joint is a vulnerable area that often requires preventative or therapeutic support via taping and strapping with sports tape to achieve and maintain peak performance.

Getting your taping technique right is critical, and many different methods are used when applying sports tape for ankle injury prevention or pain management. Whether you’re a curious sports fan, committed athlete, or dedicated sports physio, if you want to learn how to strap an ankle with sports tape, you’re in the right place. 

We’re passionate about safety in sports and have a wealth of experience providing leading sports physios and professionals with premium quality products to keep their athletes fit, healthy, and ready for action. In this article, we’ll take you through the best sports tape for ankles and how to use sports tape on ankle joints safely and effectively, offering a range of techniques and essential tips. 


Benefits of Sports Tape: Ankle Stability, Protection, and Healing

The practice of taping ankle for sports injuries and injury prevention is common for a reason. Ankle strapping is similar to an ankle support sleeve or ankle lace. However, taping techniques offer a less bulky, more supportive solution that a physio can customise for each client to ensure functionality and comfort. 

Having the proper knowledge about how to put sports tape on ankle joints safely will help you unpack many benefits. When applied correctly, using sports tape on ankle joints can:

  • Provide ankle stability and a controlled range of motion
  • Reduce pain symptoms
  • Protect against ankle sprains and other injuries during high-risk sports
  • Reduce the risk of reinjury
  • Promote the healing of ankle injuries
  • Support the immediate treatment of ankle injuries and longer-term rehabilitation
  • Speed up the recovery process and enable an earlier return to activity following injury

The ankle joints carry the entire body’s weight and are constantly in motion during physical activity, stretching, flexing, straining and bending. Applying sports tape on ankle joints can help prevent the ankle from rolling too far in the wrong direction and provide a solid foundation for moving. 

Athletes who play sports requiring a lot of lateral movements, such as basketball, netball, and hockey, often learn how to use sports tape for ankle stability to strengthen and protect their joints during play. 

Ankle wrapping with sports tape is critical to injury treatment and prevention. Ankle sprains are unfortunately common in a trip or fall, and using sports tape for sprained ankles can be highly effective in helping the joint recover. Sports taping for anterior ankle impingement is also common among sports physios, with rigid zinc-oxide or kinesiology tape offering benefits to alleviate pain symptoms.

Did you know that we have online sports taping classes? Learn essential skills for sports taping and kinesiology taping from expert sports rehabilitation professionals, Dr Allan Munro and Mike Carolan.

Indications for Ankle Taping

Before you learn how to apply sports tape to ankle joints, it’s essential that you know when it’s required and when it’s not the best solution. Many people just assume that sport tape ankle strapping techniques are required whenever someone is experiencing ankle pain; however, this is not necessarily the case. Determining why the ankle is painful is most important before applying sports tape.

When to Tape an Ankle

Some instances in which you could benefit from sports tape ankle wrapping or strapping include:

  • When the ankle is painful, unstable, or feels loose.  
  • Following certain ankle injuries (such as sprains) during activities that could aggravate the existing ankle issues.
  • When the ankle is at risk of injury during high-risk sports or activities 

Ankle injuries, though common, should always be assessed with the specific patient in mind. For this reason, always seek the advice of a medical professional or qualified sports physiotherapist before strapping an ankle. Your doctor or physiotherapist may teach you how to strap an ankle with sports tape so you can use trusted techniques to manage ankle pain and prevent future injuries. 

When to Avoid Ankle Taping

Though applying sports tape to an ankle can offer many benefits, there are several instances in which you should refrain from using ankle strapping techniques. These include:

  • Taping certain ankle injuries (such as some types of fractures)
  • If the wearer is allergic to adhesives or sports tape
  • If the wearer has sensory or circulatory conditions
  • If the taping application increases symptoms like pain, discolouration, aches, swelling, excessive redness, numbness, or pins and needles in the foot or ankle. If these symptoms arise or persist, remove the tape immediately.
man holding ankle in pain
Remember: ankle taping techniques should reduce painful symptoms, not worsen them. If in doubt, always seek professional medical attention.

Sports Tape For Ankle Support: What Kinds To Go For

Always remember the primary goal of using sports tape – ankle support. Several types of tapes and bandages are suitable for different ankle strapping methods. In most cases, any kind of rigid, adhesive athletic tape is suitable for short-term support, whereas elasticated, stretchy kinesiology tape offers longer-term benefits.

Rigid Sports Tape

Sometimes referred to as athletic or zinc oxide tape, rigid sports tape is designed to restrict movement. Quality sports tapes feature a robust, long-lasting adhesive and a rigid, non-stretch material for strength and control. Sterotape Premium is the ideal type of sports tape for ankle stability and support. 

Zinc oxide tape should only be worn for short periods — less than a day unless a medical professional instructs otherwise.

Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape, also called K-tape, kinesio tape or elasticated sports tape, is stretchy and flexible and is best suited for athletes who require a range of motion in the ankle joint while retaining some extra support. It’s ideal for those with generally unstable ankles or those returning to sport after an injury. We stock a premium quality K-tape, Sterotape-K, trusted by sports physios across the industry. You can find out all about how kinesiology tape works on our blog.

Kinesiology tape is designed to mimic the weight and thickness of skin, doesn’t affect circulation and is generally comfortable to wear. It can be worn for up to five days, longer than rigid sports tape, and Sterotape-K is waterproof, so it is safe to keep on when showering. 

Sterosport supplies sports professionals with premium ankle strapping tapes and bandages: 

A thin foam material can be applied as a protective layer over the ankle’s surface before applying zinc oxide tape. This also makes removing adhesive sports tape much more straightforward. 

This professional support bandage adheres to the body’s contours to provide support and comfort, while the elastic properties allow for flexibility and give.

A cohesive bandage offers gentle, consistent compression and sticks to itself. In circumstances where gentle ankle support is required rather than rigid sports tape, no underwrap is needed. 

More quality sports tapes and accessories from Sterosport:

How to Tape an Ankle for Sports Using Rigid Athletic Tape

Zinc oxide tape is called ‘sports tape’ or ‘athletic tape’ for a reason. Trusted by athletes for decades, athletic tape provides strength, stability and last adhesion to ensure strained, sprained, or unstable joints are held in a safe position during physical activity.

Read through the step-by-step guides below to learn safe, standard practice methods for how to wrap an ankle with sports tape for better stability or to promote recovery from an ankle sprain.

How to Wrap Ankle with Sports Tape for Stability: Step-by-Step Guide

You will need the following:

✔ Underwrap
✔ A roll of wide rigid sports tape
✔ Scissors (optional)

Application process:

  1. Wrap the underwrap around the top two thirds of the foot closely but not too tightly, carrying on up the ankle until you reach the middle of the calf. This will protect the exposed skin from the tape’s adhesive.
  2. Begin applying the sports tape in an anchor strip around the upper ankle — be careful with your positioning, placing the tape above the Achilles tendon but below the shin area where the calf muscle curves outward. 
  3. Ensure the ankle joint is positioned at the correct angle, aiming for the foot to be in a neutral position, held at a 90-degree angle from the direction of the leg as if the athlete is standing flat on the ground. 
  4. Next, apply a ‘stirrup’ with the sports tape, adhering the first part of the strip to the inner side of the anchor strip, pulling it down and around the base of the foot, avoiding the heel bone, and pulling it back up to adhering it to the opposite side of the anchor strip. 
  5. Repeat this step twice more, aiming to cover around half the width of the previous stirrup strip as you wrap it underneath the foot. Ensure all ends have adhered well to the anchor strip.
  6. Next, apply the tape in a figure-of-six. Start the tape off at the inner side of the anchor strip, and pull it down and around the base of the heel, holding tension as you adhere it. Pull it across the front of the ankle this time, not too low down on the ankle, and adhere it to the inner side of the anchor strip again. 
  7. Repeat this step, but starting from the outer side of the anchor strip this time, pulling the Figure-of-Six shape around towards the inside of the ankle.

The above stages achieve a basic ankle-taping solution for stability and support to protect against overextension. If the ankle joint requires more stability and security, continue with the following steps:

  1. Aiming for an ‘ankle lock’, start the tape from the front of the anchor strip, pulling the taping around the outside of the ankle, pulling it around the back end of the heel at a 45-degree angle. Continue pulling the tape around and underneath the foot, around the bottom of the heel bone, and secure the end back at the point you started. 
  2. Repeat the same process again, starting the tape at a 45-degree angle on the inner side of the ankle.
  3. Finally, apply an anchor strap over the top of the adhered strips to ensure no loose ends. 

How to Tape a Sprained Ankle for Sports

Ankle sprains are common sports injuries and occur when the ligament is stretched, torn, or twisted and becomes inflamed and painful. Using a combination of compression and sports tape can help to relieve pain symptoms and promote recovery when approached correctly. 

If you suffer from an ankle sprain, the first step is to reduce the swelling; this will reduce pain symptoms and promote faster healing.

Ice pack on Ankle pain

Follow the RICE therapy method:

R: Rest

I: Ice

C: Compression

E: Elevation

Sprains require rest, so keep off your feet and prioritise the reduction of the swelling so the healing process can begin. Apply cold therapy using an instant ice pack, and elevating the limb will help to reduce the swelling. Compressing the tissues around the joint using cohesive bandage or wrap effectively reduces inflammation before using other strapping methods with rigid sports tape. Ankle sprain injuries need time to recover before other strapping techniques are used. 

How to Wrap a Sprained Ankle with Sports Tape and Cohesive Bandage: Step-by-Step Guide

You will need the following: 

Application process:

  1. Holding the ankle at a 90-degree angle, begin wrapping the bandage or compression wrap around the ball of your foot and arch twice with moderate compression. Keep the wrap taut but not too tight.
  2. Starting at the top of the foot, pull the bandage to circle around the ankle and cross back over to the opposite side of the foot.
  3. Continue in a Figure-of-Eight pattern, pulling in around the arch of the foot after each loop of the ankle.
  4. Once the ankle is covered, secure the end of the bandage neatly with adhesive zinc oxide tape to ensure that any loose ends won’t irritate the skin or be pulled loose. 
  5. Covering the foot with a sock will help keep everything in place.

Check on the wearer regularly, checking for new or persistent pain symptoms. Also, make sure to monitor the colour of the toes to ensure circulation isn’t affected.

someone with cohesive bandage wrapped around their ankle

Kinesiology Taping Ankle for Sports 

Kinesiology tape offers different benefits to rigid sports taping and can be an effective method for supporting an ankle that’s unstable or still recovering from injury. Kinesiology tape’s flexibility, elasticity and strong adhesive allow for a wider range of motion and is comfortable to wear for longer periods. Some sports physios prefer to use kinesiology tape as the best sports tape for sprained ankle injuries, and other methods provide stability and support.

physio holding kinesiology tape strips

How to Tape an Ankle for Sports with Kinesiology Tape: Step-by-Step Guide

There are many different methods for applying kinesiology tape to the ankle joint. The technique below offers a simple option to ensure ankle stability and support during physical activity that could put a strain on the ankle. 

You will need the following:

Application process:

  1. Take a strip of kinesiology tape, expose the adhesive and secure it on the outside of the ankle (around 4-6 inches up the calf). Pull the tape around the underneath of the heel to create a stirrup, pulling it around to the inner ankle and wrap in a figure-of-six, with the end of the tape stopping where the first part started. 
  2. Place a second strip across the back of the foot (in line with the Achilles tendon) and pull each tail around the front of the foot at around 30-40% tension. 
  3. Check that the wearer can still bend their ankle.
  4. For extra support, take a third strip, expose the centre part of the adhesive and secure it underneath the arch of the foot, pulling one tail at a time at 50% tension up and across the front of the upper ankle to form an X shape. 

How to Tape a Sprained Ankle for Sports with Kinesiology Tape: Step-by-Step Guide

Once swelling and inflammation in a sprained ankle have subsided, kinesiology tape can be a great option for ensuring stability and maintaining support while the tendons recover. Try the following process. 

You will need the following:

Application process:

  1. Position to foot over the edge of a bed or bench at a neutral 90-degree angle to the extended leg. 
  2. Take your first strip of kinesiology tape and remove its backing from the centre of the strip, exposing around 3 inches of the adhesive.
  3. Place the adhesive part over the base of the heel (on the sole of the foot) as if you were going to create a stirrup. Stretch and rub the adhered tape over the heel’s surface to ensure it remains secure. 
  4. Take the tail that’s on the outside of the ankle joint and stretch it upwards at 50-60% elasticity peeling off the backing as you go. Pull that tail up and over the front of the ankle joint, keeping the tension, and pull it across the joint to reach the upper inside of the ankle. Secure in place and rub to activate the adhesive. 
  5. Repeat this process with the other tail on the inner side, pulling it across the first tail and securing it around the back of the ankle, above the outer side of the joint.
  6. Take a second strip, expose the adhesive in the middle as before and secure over the first strip of tape at the base of the heel, angled so the tape can be pulled around the back of the ankle rather than the front. 
  7. Pull the outer tail round over the back of the heel at 100% stretch until you reach the inner ankle, then reduce all tension and secure around the bottom of the calf. 
  8. Repeat the same process with the other tail, pulling around the back of the ankle at 100% tension and pulling it to the outer side of the ankle joint, wrapping over the existing tape. 
  9. Take a third strip, secure it over the existing tape at the base of the heel, a little closer to the arch, and pull each tail across the front of the ankle with 40-50% tension and secure the adhesive higher up than the previous strips, covering up the ankle joint a little more with each strip. 
  10. Take the final strip and repeat steps 6 and 7, reaching the tape a little further up the back of the ankle this time. Rub over the surface of all the tape to ensure it adheres fully.
  11. Ask the wearer to stand and walk on the ankle, checking for comfort and stability and that the arch feels supported. 

When and How to Stop Taping an Ankle for Sports

Learning the different methods for how to apply sports tape to ankle joints can provide many benefits when recovering from an injury or preventing damage in the first place. However, it should not be a permanent long-term solution despite the many advantages of taping an ankle for sports. 

Experts recommend weaning off using ankle strapping techniques as a range of motion, strength, and balance improves in day-to-day activities but continuing to strap the ankle during sports and other high-risk activities as a precaution.

Removing Sport Tape: Ankle Safety

Removing any kind of adhesive sports tape requires caution and care to maintain the ankle’s integrity and avoid hurting the skin. 

Removing Zinc Oxide Tape:

Zinc oxide tape has a strong adhesive, and removal can sometimes be painful. If you’ve used an underwrap, the process is relatively easy; simply use scissors to carefully cut the tape off and gently pull it away from the ankle, removing the underwrap or cohesive bandage afterwards. 

If zinc oxide tape has adhered directly to the skin, the only real option is to carefully peel it away from the skin slowly but firmly, holding onto the exposed skin to avoid stretching it. Scissors may make this process easier. Clean any residue from the adhesive off the skin with warm soapy water, sports tape remover or lotion. 

Removing Kinesiology Tape:

To comfortably remove kinesiology tape without disturbing the ankle, apply oil (such as olive oil or baby oil) over the surface and edges of the tape. Rub the oil in to reduce the adhesion and leave it on for 15-20 minutes. After this, the tape should easily pull away from the skin when rubbed with warm soapy water or in the shower. When pulling the tape directly off the skin, take care to avoid stretching or irritating the skin, pressing the exposed surface away from the tape as you roll it back on itself. 

Taping Resources from Sterosport

We’re committed to providing athletes and sports professionals with the products and knowledge they need to keep themselves and their teams fit, healthy and safe from injury. If you’re keen to learn more about sports taping techniques, check out our professional sports taping and kinesiology online courses, and take a look through these essential taping guides on our blog:

Man and woman with kinesiological tape

With our expertise in sports injuries and rehabilitation, we’ve also put together these detailed guides to support you in understanding how to treat some of the most common sports injuries, check out these articles to learn more: