How To Tape a Sprained Ankle

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on October 06, 2022
4 min read

Sprained ankles are common injuries among athletes but can happen to anyone. Typically, these injuries occur after a fall or if you twist your ankle, causing the ankle ligaments (the tissues connecting and supporting your ankle bones) to tear or stretch. Most sprains heal independently without medical intervention, but treatment can help speed up recovery and prevent future sprains. One such treatment is known as ankle taping. Read on to learn how to tape a sprained ankle and whether doing so will benefit you.

Ankle taping involves wrapping adhesive tape around ankles that have sustained an injury, theoretically promoting healing and preventing further damage from occurring. In fact, taping your ankles can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. 

There are a few ways of taping ankles, and the method used is usually left up to personal preference, superstition, or anecdote. 

Ankle Taping vs. Ankle Bracing 

Another form of preventative treatment is called ankle bracing. While the two may sound similar, they have their differences. The main difference between bracing and taping is the ability to adjust protective gear. Bracing allows an individual to apply a protective brace to their ankle and adjust it during activity. Ankle tape, once applied, cannot be moved or changed.

Braces are also typically bulkier than tape. Due to their size, it can be harder to wear braces with uniforms and shoes, and they don’t often fit perfectly. Braces are also more costly upfront but can be cheaper than tape in the long run since braces are reusable and tape isn’t. 

There are a few ways you can tape your ankle. The way you tape your ankle will depend on the materials you use and what you find most comfortable. The following example is one example of an ankle taping method. 

What Supplies Do I Need?

To properly tape your ankles, gathering the appropriate materials is essential. 

You’ll need: 

  • Athletic tape (1½”)
  • Adhesive tape (quick-drying) 
  • Two non-adhesive pads (2” x 2”)
  • Pre-wrap 

How to Tape a Sprained Ankle

The following is a step-by-step guide on tapping your ankle.

Step One: Gather Your Materials 

Once you have gathered the above materials, you can begin preparing and pre-wrapping the ankle.

Step Two: Prepare Your Ankle 

Use one of the non-adhesive pads and place it on the top of your ankle, then place the second non-adhesive pad under the bottom of your ankle. These pads are there to help prevent blisters.  

Use the pre-wrap material to wrap your foot and ankle with the pads in place. Start at your foot’s arch and cover until you reach the lower part of your shin.

The quick-drying adhesive can be applied to the pre-wrap to help secure it and should be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Be careful not to apply the spray higher than the point where the pre-wrap ends. 

Step Three: Anchor the Pre-Wrap 

To further secure your pre-wrap, apply two pieces of athletic tape where you started the wrap and finished it. These pieces will act as anchors. 

Use another piece of athletic tape to tape alongside the inside of the ankle, underneath the heel, and extending to the other side of the anchor you taped earlier.  Repeat this process so that you have three additional applications of tape. 

Step Four: Close Pre-Wrapped Areas

Using even more athletic tape, begin wrapping until you have covered all areas of the pre-wrap material. You can achieve this by creating a figure 8 with your athletic tape, starting on the inside and wrapping the tape around the lower leg, then crossing over the top of the ankle. Continue to tape around the arch. 

After making the figure 8, you’ll want to tape around the heel to secure the pre-wrap further. Wrap around the heel, either from the inside or outside, twice. Make another figure 8 with the athletic tape. Ensure that all pre-wrap areas are tapped with the athletic tape. 

All done! You’ve successfully taped your ankle. 

No matter which method of taping you choose, whether you follow the one mentioned above or another, it’s vital that you keep in mind some essential pointers that will make any taping more effective. 

For starters, the ankle should be kept clean and dry before and after. Ensure that the area is shaved and that any lotion or oils have been wiped away. 

You’ll also want to position your ankle in the toes-toward-face position. You can use the end of a table to support your ankle during the wrapping process. 

Finally, your tape must be tight but not too tight. Essentially, you’ll want your tape to be tight enough to offer adequate support but not so tight that your movements are restricted. 

The primary benefit of using sprained ankle tape is preventing injuries during the performance of certain sports where twisting your ankle or falling on it is a frequent occurrence. However, taping ankles also comes with other benefits, such as promoting the healing of minor injuries. In fact, ankle taping has even been used in chiropractic settings to help heal specific injuries. 

Additionally, ankle taping has been shown to help treat instability and promote postural control. 

Whether sprained ankle taping helps or not is debatable. Since there are many variables surrounding ankle injuries, studies are inconclusive. Some research suggests taping is less effective than braces but more effective than an absence of added protection. Other studies have shown that wearing high-quality sneakers is important. One study indicated that wearing a high-top sneaker and tape resulted in a more than 50% decrease in ankle injuries compared to wearing other shoes with tape.