Anyone who watched beach volleyball in the 2016 Olympic Games likely noticed the multi-colored tape that Kerri Walsh Jennings was wearing on her shoulder. That tape, which has become popular in the last few decades, is known as kinesio tape (aka- kinesiology therapeutic tape or KT Tape). According to the KT Tape website, the official use of the device is as follows:
"KT Tape helps reduce pressure to the tissue and may reduce discomfort or pain. Correct taping also provides support to muscles by improving the muscle's ability to contract, even when it is weak, and helps the muscle to not over-extend or over-contract."
Essentially, when a region of tissue is injured, KT Tape helps support that area and alleviates pain.
Thousands of athletes each year utilize KT Tape. Some go as far as to swear that the support it delivers allows them to perform at their peak levels. The science behind KT Tape, though, is uncertain at best when it comes to proving that the tape has any effect on the body. Many studies found that there was not substantial evidence to prove that KT Tape was any better at preventing or rehabilitating an injury than any other elastic tape. Even when I visited the official KT Tape website and clicked on the tab labelled "KT Tape Clinical Information," the page was blank aside from a message alerting you that this information will be coming soon.
Despite the findings of many researchers, there has been some evidence to show that KT Tape can be useful. Several studies, for example, indicate that when dealing with musculoskeletal disorders, KT Tape may provide a moderate reduction in immediate pain, though there was no long-term advantage to using the tape. One study even found that KT tape reduced pain and improved range of motion in elderly patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. While perhaps this doesn't prove that it can help runners, it does indicate that KT Tape can be useful for certain individuals and perhaps further research will find that it is useful for endurance athletes as well.
So, should a runner use KT Tape? The answer is that if you feel it helps then of course you should. Just because there hasn't been a plethora of high quality research completed up to this point doesn't mean there won't ever be. If KT Tape makes your muscles feel more supported, then go ahead and wear it. Just know that KT Tape is not a cure-all. If you are struggling with injury, you can't simply throw some tape on it and expect it to be cured. Make sure you are also taking other steps to fix your injury such as improving flexibility and building strength. Do what you believe will make you healthy so you can get back to training as soon as possible.