You have probably seen the climbers wearing tape on their fingers and forearms, may it be while jumping off the boulder wall or while finishing a top rope route. For beginners, once you wear tape you start to feel more legit as a climber. But what is athletic tape and its intended benefit? As per Poole Birrer: "athletic taping is the process of applying tape directly to the skin in order to maintain a stable position of bones and muscles during athletic activity". If the tape stabilizes a certain position, then why can climbers still perform routes while having tape on their fingers and limbs?
Our fingers were not meant to receive tremendous amounts of force. With holds like crimpers, the fingers are under stress at this position. You have to climb tens and hundreds of times to work on your finger strength. It is even recommended to be active in climbing a year before starting on campus training, to prevent injury.
What does the tape do?
Due to the unnatural force on the pulleys, they are bound to unleash from your bone. You feel the soreness on your fingers, especially the tips. Once you feel this soreness, maybe it's time to call it the day. If ever you need to continue climbing, you use the tape as an external form of pulley as support. Athletic tape is a special type of tape, it's not your ordinary 3M. It's adhesive is meant to stick despite being exposed to sweat and dirt. Now, we will explain the two ways in taping your fingers, namely the ring shape and the x-shape:
Its name is similar to the description. Starting on the top, you basically wrap the tape around your finger.
You start the same way as the ring shape, but then you work around, above, back, then over, creating an X-shape. See the illustration below to fully understand the process. Make sure that you are not putting too much pressure while doing this---the blood flow should not be interrupted and the joints should be able to properly work. The same goes when doing a ring shape.
You have seen climbers put tape on their wrists as well, which you can further read on here. Taping has been part of the climbers' culture for a long time, and physical therapists have been using it for various applications. Just don't forget to ease your way into training, so that you won't end up with an injury that a strip of tape can't cure!
About the author
Climbing Wall Designer and Admin
Vojtěch is a passionate sports climber and boulderer - actually he is one of the best climbers in Denmark with ascents up to 8a+ although he expects harder ascents coming soon. You can find him training or being a climbing instructor in Aarhus Climbing Club or climbing at many sport crags around Europe. Vojtěch is educated as an Architect from Czech Technica University in Prague and as a Building Engineer from Aarhus School of Science and Engineering. At Gubbies He combines his expertise in how climbing works with his architectural background.
You can contact Vojtěch on