Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Bouldering one moment, on crutches the next. Two years ago, I was sessioning in Victoria, B.C. when my second major ankle sprain occurred. It hurt, but what hurt more was that, for the second time, my efforts to get back into competition-climbing shape were thwarted. Coming back from the clutches of King Sideline proved to be a real physical and mental ordeal. Things that had never even hurt before started swelling and crying for my attention, even as I attempted to surmount an increasingly rough training program in the face of looming comps.
The time had come to see a chiropractor, regularly.
In the course of his treatment, my chiropractor introduced something to me that I’ve used almost every day since: RockTape. It’s stretchy, sticky, supportive kinesiology tape, these days seen on athletes of every stripe. As a climber of 12 years, I find that few new climbing-related products grab my interest, but RockTape did after the first application.
The science behind kinesiology tape has been inconsistent. Many studies show that the tape increases blood flow by lifting the skin. The tape is said to decompress tissues, mitigate pain and swelling, and support weak zones. Because the tape disrupts our proprioception, it can purportedly also be used to “re-educate muscles” or increase athletic performance by reminding receptors to engage. Other studies show little to no difference in any of the aforementioned effects.
Still, based on my experiences, I believe the stuff works. My chiropractor placed it on my wrists to support my TFCC tears, my forearms to promote circulation, and my shoulders to support my labrum. It felt good. The most notable difference was on my wrists. I had previously been using normal athletic tape for a boost in support, but because athletic tape didn’t stretch, it wasn’t a great solution. RockTape gave my wrists both support and flexibility when needed.
Prior to going on a rock trip to the Cathedral, located near Saint George, I had my chiro give me a thorough tape job. He made my arms a fixture of fancy criss-cross art. I felt like a ninja ready to battle as I set off on the 18 hour drive from Dallas to Utah. Since I knew I wasn’t capable of replicating his intricate designs, I decided to leave the tape on as long as possible. Ten days later, when I was returning home, I finally unpeeled a wad of still-sticky adhesive. Not a single piece had come off.
At $24 a roll, RockTape Edge is comparable to the prices of other leading kinesiology tapes on the market. When I finally ran out of my RockTape Edge roll, I opted to try a competitor’s slightly cheaper roll. It curled up and off within a day. Similarly, RockTape Edge is $4 more than the company’s Standard RockTape, but it’s stickier and is water resistant.
The pre-cut rolls have 20 strips and are ideal for taping shoulders, knees, torso and back. The strips will last five to 10 applications, depending on the number of strips used at a time. For taping smaller joints or muscles or for more sophisticated work, go with a standard roll, and remember to pack some sharp scissors. The tape won’t tear.
Jongwon Chon, a South Korean crusher, is perhaps the best example of a climber who wears kinesiology tape at every World Cup, reportedly just because it feels good. Miho Nonaka, from Japan, wears it on her wrists and forearms. Russian boulderer Alexey Rubtsov tapes his shoulders. The list goes on. Despite the need for more research, kinesiology tape must do something. In my experience of the top brands, RockTape comes out on top.
Gym Climber vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Gym Climber. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.