Thursday, May 3, 2012

Product Review: Rock Tape -- It Rocks!!

(Before I begin, let me state that I am in no way connected to Rock Tape and am not being paid in any way for this review. I am just really happy with their product and how it performed for me in the marathon last weekend.)

Last weekend I ran a trail marathon with an IT band that was very iffy. I had been rehabilitating it since the 50k at Dances with Dirt GreenSwamp and had unsuccessfully tried to run the Martian Half Marathon two weekends earlier, having to stop at 5.75 miles. I had been getting some really good therapy from Dr. Tom, but did not feel hopeful that I would make a full 26 miles, especially on such a hilly and uneven course. I had decided to start the marathon anyway, because I did need a long run to prepare for the 50k at Gnaw Bone, and just to go as far as my knee would allow.

Luckily for me, I came across a Facebook posting by my friend Janet, who had just finished her first marathon with a strain in her groin. She reported that the Rock Tape got her through the marathon with no pain and that it worked better than the more well known KT Tape, which she had also tried. I also remembered that my son had once mentioned tape for working with injuries in his water polo players.

Since I had not had experience with this type of tape, I looked it up on their web site. They had a pretty nice video explanation of it that I am including here.

I was impressed with how thorough they were, even including videos of how to apply the tape correctly . When I saw that they had an application for IT band problems I was intrigued. I went right out to my local running store, Playmakers, to pick some up. I wasn't sure if it would work or not, but for $20 a roll it was worth a try. I was kind of disappointed that they didn't carry any of the cool colors I had seen on Amazon. The next order will definitely be for something a little more stylish, maybe purple, electric blue, or if I am feeling particularly wild, the pink flying skulls, or maybe the cool tattoo pattern:


I brought the tape home the night before the race, showered and shaved my legs, and then waited until I was completely dry to apply the tape. It did not mention shaving the area, but I figured that would help the tape stick. I wasn't sure which taping method I needed from their site, because besides the IT band issue, I was also having knee pain. I decided, just to be on the safe side, to do the taping for general knee pain to hold the knee stable and also to do the IT band. I watched the videos a few times, looked over the full-color directions in the box, and felt ready to apply the tape.
The tape is cloth, a lightweight stretchy fabric. You can't really tell how stretchy until you remove the paper backing.  Application of the tape is fairly easy with the video directions, but if you are uncoordinated like me, you just need to be careful not to let the tape stick to itself while you are putting it on.

The key to the tape working correctly is in the application. First of all, the video tells you to round the edges to keep them from fraying and to help them stick. This step is absolutely essential. Do it for every piece you apply, whether the video specifically says it or not. I did not do it on the cross piece I put below my knee, and that was the only spot where I had a problem with sticking. When it started to come up, I pulled the edge up, rounded it, and restuck it. It then stuck tightly until I pulled it off.

The second key step has to do with the stretching of the tape. The tape is meant to stretch in the middle but NOT at the end where you stick it down. If you stretch the ends of the tape, they will not adhere correctly. They emphasize this in the videos and the directions, but since most people are used to pulling on tape or band-aids as they are sticking them down, it is worth repeating. The stretch that you apply is as you stick down the middle of the tape. Once the ends of the tape are put in place, you rub over them briskly to create a little heat to help the tape stick.

After I was taped up, it felt surprisingly lightweight. I slept with it on the night before and could not really feel it except in one spot below the knee. I was glad I had taped the night before because this let me know I had taped it too tight on the crosspiece under my knee. I was able to lift that piece, loosen it a little, round the edge, and stick it back down. I was worried it might not restick, so I took the roll of tape with me. I didn't need it.  It stuck down just fine.

My knee, with my Rock Tape
Now, I am including a picture of my taped up leg here, but I do want to say that if anyone from Rock Tape would see it they would probably say it was total overkill. I ended up running two strips down my IT band, just to be sure, and then I also had the thing around my knee. It looks like it would be super uncomfortable, but let me tell you, I would not have worn all that tape for the four days I eventually had it on if it was even a little bit uncomfortable.

The big question for me was "Is this going to work?" As I started running, I was pleased and surprised to find that I really did not feel the tape. I was afraid I was going to spend the whole race wishing I hadn't put it on, but not able to take it off because I was wearing tights. That did not happen. After that first half mile of thinking "How is this going to be," I was able to forget about it entirely, and I did for those first few miles of the race.

By mile 5 I was starting to wonder how long I was going to be pain-free and whether the tape was going to work when my muscles got fatigued. By the aid station at 6.5 I was cautiously optimistic; by the one at 9.5 I was amazed to be still running and feeling good. Miles 11-13 had lots of downhill, and I figured that would be the real test. At a steep, rocky downhill around mile 12 I had twinges in my knee and thought "uh-oh, here it comes," but it never did. I kept waiting for the weakness that precedes the knee giving out, but it never came.

By the time I got back around to the aid station where my friend Paula was which would have been around 19.5 on the course, I was ecstatic. I was telling everyone "This Rock Tape Rocks!! I can't believe I have made it this far!" I could not believe I was still running at that point. As I crossed the finish line, way ahead of schedule, Jerry was equally surprised to see me still running. Neither one of us would have believed it was possible. I still don't think it would have been without the Rock Tape.
Just for the purposes of this review, I kept the tape on for three more days. I showed it to Dr. Tom when I went in to see him, and he said that the taping technique I had gotten from the site was a good one for supporting the knee. I took several steaming hot showers, just to see if the tape would stay on. It definitely did.

I would recommend this tape to anyone who is suffering with IT band or knee issues. It is not a solution to the problem. The solution is to continue working on strengthening the muscles so that they don't need the extra support, but in the meantime, the extra help from the tape is wonderful.
It is not just for IT band and knee issues. As I said, Janet used hers for a groin problem. They also have applications for many other common running-related problems in their brochure and on their site, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon problems, and shin splints.

Also, in marathons and ultras, where there will be serious muscle fatigue, I think it would be a good preventative measure. I will probably keep taping for the  longer races, at least until I am positive that I have addressed those weaknesses in my glutes and hips that are causing my injury. The site also says that there are "performance enhancing" benefits to the tape in terms of increased blood flow to an area and improvements in form. I am not sure about performance enhancement, but I think the $20 for a box is worth the investment just for its possible injury prevention abilities in adding extra support when form breaks down late in a race.

In short, I would not  have believed that this product would work if I had not tried it myself, but I am now a convert. If you are struggling with an injury, especially one that is related to support, I really recommend that you give the tape a try.

Has anyone else tried it? I would love to hear your experiences. 

1 comment:

  1. Great review, I may have to give this a try. I have tried KT Tape in the past, but could not get it to stay on for the life of me. I even used rubbing alcohol on the area, and it still wouldn't work. I spoke with someone at the company, and they were very helpful. I seem to remember him suggesting a product that they had to put on the skin to help it stick, but I never purchased it and just gave up on the whole idea. I'll have to give Rock Tape a try to see if it will work for me! I'm not sure what it is about my skin that it won't stick to. I have pretty oily skin, but I don't think I would necessarily consider my legs "oily"! So, thanks for the review, hopefully I'll have as much luck as you did with it!


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