Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
- Total or significant pain relief from soreness and injuries
- Long lasting
- Allows performing more like you could before injury
- Cost saving purchase options
- Full instructions for application and use
How obtained: Company samples
RBR advertiser: No
KT Tape’s Game-Changing Products for Pain Relief and Recovery
I can’t recall seeing the main items featured in this review used much if at all in pro cycling, maybe I’m not looking closely enough. But if you’ve watched the Olympics or soccer or tennis or other pro sports I bet you’ve spotted athletes with strips of tape on their legs, arms, shoulders and back (sometimes in such bright colors they’re almost impossible to miss). The generic name for what they’re wearing is kinesiology tape.
The company KT Tape makes many types of these tapes plus other sports injury and recovery products. A month ago at the Sea Otter Classic bicycle festival in Monterey they introduced their newest product Pro Oxygen tape and were passing out samples. After the show they sent me a package so that I could try some of their other items. In this review I’ll share how they performed for me, but if you’re reading closely you already spotted that I gave them our highest rating, so it goes without saying that I’m highly impressed.
We’re all an experiment
As RBR coach John Hughes says, “we’re all an experiment of one.” So I have no idea whether my experience with these products will be the same as yours. But I can tell you that I have a painful bone-on-bone condition in both knees. Some people with it have their knees replaced. Even as much as they hurt and limit me I’m not ready for that so I just ignore the pain and keep on keeping on.
This makes my knees a great test for KT products. And I believe that if they work so well for me, that they could help you if you’re suffering from a debilitating injury or need support for one. How they’re helping me is by significantly reducing pain during and after rides.
I tested four of their products, which I’ve listed below. In the main photo I show all the items they sent so you can see that they have a lot more than just tapes. If you visit their website you’ll find an even broader selection of KT Tapes. The tapes come in different packaging. The ones I used are in the boxes. Each includes a roll of 20 KT Tape strips.
Also on their site you’ll read about different ways to purchase their products such as with a subscription plan. It looks like they frequently offer discounts too. Which is great because if you’re dealing with chronic pain and you find like I have that their products work well at reducing or even eliminating it, you may decide to use a lot of it. I plan to keep using the tape.
How does their tape work?
According to the company, KT Tape is a stretchy therapeutic fitness tape designed to support muscles, ligaments and tendons as well as reduce or even alleviate pain or minor injury during sports and exercise. Regular sports tapes and wraps are rigid and designed to restrict movement (remember the white cloth tape coaches would use to tape your or a teammate’s ankle or wrist?). KT Tape stretches with you to support the body and allow full range of motion. It adheres to the skin with medical grade adhesive strong enough to remain on for multiple days even when showering.
KT says that their tapes lift the skin temporarily increasing local blood flow and reducing muscle inflammation. They also state that this is not clinically proven but “suggested by academic hypothesis.” And that, in order to experience reduced muscle soreness the tape must be worn during and after exercise up to 48 hours.
Applying the tape
There’s lots of online support for learning how to properly tape yourself on both the KT Tape website and also on their YouTube channel. For my issue I do a full knee wrap, which I found instructions for on their YouTube channel. For this tape job each knee requires 3 KT Tape strips. It’ll be easy and quick to understand how to do this and also how KT Tape can do what it says if you watch it being applied by an expert in this video. You’ll also be able to judge how long it takes to tape knees:
If you have a different injury be sure to search for a video to learn how to tape it.
Products I tested with my reviews. First I give KT Tape’s bullet points and then my reviews. For the tapes I put my review after both because I had almost the same experience with them.
KT Tape tapes
Colors: Jet Black, Rage Red, Sonic Blue, Stealth Beige, Solar Yellow, Epic Purple, Hero Pink, Blaze Orange
Ultra-Breathable Synthetic Fabric
Features & Benefits
Durable 100% synthetic fabric is highly breathable
Flexible support to maintain full range of motion
Remains on skin through sweat and moisture
Comfortable to wear for up to 7 days
“Pro Oxygen” tape
With Celliant® Infrared Technology to increase cellular oxygenation
Features & Benefits
Delivers more oxygen to cells to help unleash your muscles’ potential
Celliant® Infrared mineral powder converts body heat to infrared energy
High strength water resistant adhesive stays on through the toughest workouts
Ultra breathable synthetic fabric for up to 7 days of comfortable wear
I first tried the Pro tape for four days (four rides). Then since it is the new model said to perform even better, I tried the Pro Oxygen tape on two pretty tough climbs, a ride up California’s Mount Whitney and then a bit up the highway a week later I pedaled about 8 miles up Tioga Pass, which was still closed (snow blocked the road). For both tapes I left them on for multiple days and showered with them on too.
Note that these tapes performed the same for me as far as I can tell. But I think it’s entirely possible that if you’re a younger, stronger, fitter, faster, better rider than I am that you might feel something more from their Pro Oxygen than their Pro tape.
The Pro tape stuck fast to my knees and didn’t start coming off on its own for 5 days. I could have kept wearing it so I believe that it could stay on for up to 7 days like they say. I had a different experience with the Pro Oxygen tape on my first try. As I rode up Mount Whitney one tape strip started to come off. This was after 90 minutes of pedaling up about a 7% grade. By the top of the mountain this piece of tape had started flapping, which was annoying so I peeled off the tape.
Because the Pro tape worked so well and remained stuck fast, I went back and read the instructions and realized that I probably didn’t properly prepare my skin before applying the Pro Oxygen tape. KT recommends washing and even using rubbing alcohol for cleaning the skin of any oils or sunscreens, etc. We had been hiking and were using sunscreen so I may have still had some on my legs which compromised the tape’s adhesive.
On my second test I washed up before applying and had no issues with the Pro Oxygen tape peeling. So it was my fault it came off. I thought about not even mentioning this but wanted to explain to make it clear that cleanliness is important to ensure KT Tape works as promised. KT makes a product for this called Skin Prep Wipes, 24 wipes for $4.99.
The reason I’m so impressed with KT tape is because as soon as I put it on my knees feel better. The tape seems to stabilize the kneecaps and support the knees. I think the strips beneath the kneecaps hold them up and the strips on either side keep them from moving sideways. That’s the best way I can describe the sensation. I can’t feel that there’s any additional blood flow or body heat but both the Pro and Pro Oxygen tapes are definitely doing something that makes my knees feel better. And the feeling lasts as long as the tape is on.
On the bike the tape greatly decreases my knee pain. I can still feel pain pushing hard enough but it’s not as severe as without the tape. So KT Tape allows me to push harder than I can without it which is a great thing because the exercise effect is better when you can push more or longer.
After rides KT Tape keeps working. For example, when walking our dogs, which is normally pretty painful, especially downhill or on stairs. Here too the knees feel much better and there’s far less pain.
Overall, as I said in the title I think KT Tape is a game-changer because it helps me enjoy the things I like to do plus lets me do them more like I was accustomed to before the injury. That’s a wonderful thing.
My only caveat, which you may or may not care about is that when wearing KT Tape people may notice and ask you about it.
KT HEALTH Ice Sleeve
Direct 360° Cooling
Sizes: Small/Medium & Large/Extra-Large
Features & Benefits
Reduces swelling and keeps you moving
Effectively ices sore muscles and joints with direct 360° cooling
Provides comfortable & flexible compression
Insulated travel pouch (included) keeps sleeve cool while on-the-go
Use on knees, elbows, and other joints for maximum comfort
I know that some experts now dispute that ice helps with injuries. I’ll let you make up your own mind about that. For me, KT’s Ice Sleeve does help. If my knee aches, I slip it on, wait for 20 minutes, remove it and the pain’s gone because my knee is ice cold. I’ve had some relief from icing with ice in a cup, strap-on ice wraps and just bags of cubes from a hotel ice machine.
KT’s Ice Sleeve is much easier to use and much more effective than those methods because it’s made of neoprene to simply slip over whatever joint is hurting. It also covers the full area. It’s stretchy to stay in place and allow a full range of motion to keep doing what you want while it’s easing the pain.
Once the 20 minutes is up you simply place the Ice Sleeve in the special zip-lock pouch it comes with (which also keeps it cold for up to 90 minutes) and pop it in the freezer for up to 4 hours to get it ready for use again.
The ease-of-use and effectiveness make KT’s Ice Sleeve a winner. It’s more effective than what I’ve used because it surrounds the entire knee and it’s great to be able to get up and walk around with it on.
KT HEALTH Pain Relief Gel
Penetrating Pain Relief
Tube: 3.4 ounces (100ml)
Features & Benefits
Made with naturally derived ingredients for safe & effective pain relief from aches in muscles and joints
Two active ingredients create a powerful and long-lasting hot/cold sensation
Non-oily formula that dries clear
Water-based formula to allow use with KT Tape kinesiology tape
Apply to body areas prone to overuse and pain such as the feet, calves, quads/hamstrings, back, shoulders and forearms
While KT says the scent vanishes quickly, for me this pain relief gel has such a powerful and lasting smell that I think you may not want to apply it if you’re going to be indoors. It’s a menthol smell. And, even with jeans covering my knees after riding you could smell it. I did use a lot of it though since it went on both knees.
That’s the bad news especially if the odor bothers you. The good news is that the gel once rubbed in starts cool and then gets warm and as it penetrates it does relieve pain. It lasts too, for about 4 hours my knees felt pain-free. I didn’t notice any side effects.
According to KT the gel temporarily relieves pain associated with body aches, strains, sprains, arthritis (my knee condition) and bruising. It has an exclusive micro-encapsulated menthol that allows relief to last several hours, while the Arnica Montana ingredient aggressively targets inflammation to help ease pain quickly. It’s also non-toxic, paraben free and is safe and effective for repeated daily use. The formula is made from naturally derived ingredients menthol and camphor. It’s a water based formula.
Here’s the ingredients from the back of the tube:
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
KT tape is nothing but a rip off. This was invented by a chiropractor in Japan, who really had no idea what he was doing, except creating an expensive product that he hoped people would buy. The idea that applying something to the skin and that it would affect the muscles below is ludicrous. At the very most it has a placebo effect. This is according to studies done by major universities and the Mayo Clinic. It is used in the Olympics, for example, because the athletes get it for free, or get paid to wear it, and that is the way that it’s been promoted. Don’t waste your money on this dubious product with no legitimate medical studies to support it.
Pete Royer says
My wife is a PT, she went to a class about how to use this. It has worked great as I tweaked a calf muscle, the KT tape provided additional support so I could do a triathlon. My wetsuit kept the tape in place. We put on two layers as we were worried about the water cutting down the stretch of the material. It does not solve the issue but rather it grabs other muscles, etc to help the injured area feel less stress/pain.
It is worth mentioning there are great videos online from KT and others (PT’s) that will show you how to apply for your particular injury. I looked at 3-5 before I found one that seemed to help me the most.
No solid, non-biased, evidence-based studies or reviews show benefits of KT, besides placebo and marketing.
Pete Royer says
I will say it worked for me, but my wife was trained in it and we tried a few methods before we found would that alleviated the pain when I ran. It certainly did not hurt. The mentioned article has case studies and it does seem rather inconclusive.