In many ways, kinesiology taping and foot orthotics share the same goals: to control and encourage proper movement patterns.
It only makes sense that they are often used together in the clinic. Here are a few ways to successfully incorporate taping into your orthotic evaluation and prescriptions.
Training wheels for orthotics
A tape application is not only a treatment but a pretest of how effective an orthotic will be at managing your patient. You can see if a patient has flat feet, but it is difficult to determine visually how much of your patient’s dysfunction can be corrected with a foot orthotic.
Tape offers you a great way to explore the need for foot orthotics. If a patient presents symptoms you determine are a result of excess pronation, taping the foot to control it (in all three planes with a spiral) is an easy and effective way to demonstrate to your- self and your patient that intervention is warranted (Figure 1). One of three scenarios usually ensues:
- The problem was temporary and is completely resolved by the tape. Your patient is given instructions to report back if the problem returns, and receive another tape trial (some- times it can take a few taping appli- cations). If the dysfunction doesn’t return, then the problem is resolved.
- The tape helps, but the problem returns even after repeated applications. Now you have a better idea of the pain mechanism and a prefabricated or custom orthotic is worth exploring to work in conjunction with the tape.
- The tape doesn’t help, at which time you have to determine if this is because the patient’s problem is severe and they need more control, or if you need to look elsewhere for the cause of your patient’s pain.
Even 10 years ago, taping the foot with standard athletic tape was used to guide orthotic prescriptions and predict its success. Given the advances in tape, taping techniques, and the neurologic effect of kinesiology tape, its application only makes more sense today.1
Biomechanical responses to taping have confirmed it predicts corresponding responses to foot orthotics. The amount that the midfoot splays from non-weight- bearing to weight-bearing has long been a indicator of success with an orthotic; therefore, using kinesiology tape to encourage proper speed and control of midfoot splay can be a good strategy.2
A biomechanical partner
As with other modalities such as instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM), taping can be a good adjunct during the orthotic break-in phase. Orthotics make changes to the foot, even when they are in the direction of correction, and this can result in growing pains (like braces for teeth).
Taping the foot with IASTM (scrape and tape) in conjunction with orthotics helps to mitigate any discomfort that occurs by giving the foot extra dermal stimulation. For increasing comfort during orthotic break-in, tape the plantar aspect of the foot in the same way as is done for plantar fasciitis (Figure 2).
Three-dimensional multi-segment foot biomechanical analysis has shown that orthotics and taping techniques can work together to control different parts of the foot, so these two options can be used in combination for multiplied effects.3
When versatility is key
There are some scenarios when orthotics or shoes aren’t practical for full-time wear. For times when shoes are not practical, or shoes are too constricting for an orthotic, tape can be an appropriate solution. Whether it’s summertime and your patient wants to hang out in flip flops for a day, or it’s an athlete whose competition footwear doesn’t accommodate an orthotic (e.g., gymnastics, martial arts, ballet)—tape works well as a temporary substitute.
In summary, tape and orthotics make a great pair, each one enhancing and complementing the other’s effects. Use them together for the benefit of your patients.
Stu Currie , DC, PhD, is a practicing chiropractor and researcher, holding a doctorate in engineering with a specialty in biomechanics and human movement. He owns and operates MojoFeet, a manufacturer of custom and prefabricated foot orthotics. He can be contacted through mojofeet.com.
1 Bishop C, Arnold JB, May T. Effects of Taping and Orthoses on Foot Biomechanics in Adults with Flat-Arched Feet. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(4):689-96.
2 Meier K, McPoil TG, Cornwall MW, Lyle T. Use of antipronation taping to determine foot orthoses prescription: a case series. Res Sports Med. 2008;16(4):257-71.
3 Vicenzino B, Collins N, Cleland J, McPoil. A clinical prediction rule for identifying patients with patellofemoral pain who
are likely to benefit from foot orthoses: a preliminary determination. Br J Sports Med. 2010;44(12):862-6.