Through regular training indoors or simply the impact of climbing on rock, climbers are often left with raw fingers, cuts, calluses or split fingertips. Taping your fingers for rock climbing is therefore a common practice among climbers.
It can help to protect the skin from this wear and tear, prevent injuries, but also support and stabilize your fingers, allowing you to grip the rock better in certain situations.
This article will show you how to tape your fingers for rock climbing. We will discuss the different types of tape, the techniques for taping, and the benefits of taping your fingers.
Why Tape Your Fingers And Hands For Rock Climbing
There are three main reasons to tape your fingers and hands for rock climbing:
- Support the joints
- Protect the skin (especially when crack climbing)
- Cover cuts and blisters
Taping between the finger joints acts like a miniature weight-lifting belt. This can support the underlying tendons or relieve the strain on your finger pulleys, which can often be injured leading to Climbers Finger.
Climbing on rocks or abrasive gym holds will often lead to blisters, callouses, and tears in the skin. If you tape up before these happen, you can often avoid injuries that would end a training session and require longer recovery periods.
Plus, if you want to continue training when you have an open sore, such as when you tear a callus off, then taping over the wound will allow you to do so.
As rock climbers, we tend to be obsessive about our sport. Since climbing is so hard on the hands, it isn’t uncommon for climbers to train with cracked fingers or cut skin. Taping can allow you to train without worsening these minor injuries.
Types of Tape
There are different types of tape that you can use for taping your fingers for rock climbing. Some of the most common ones include:
- Athletic tape – Athletes commonly use athletic tape to prevent or support injuries. It is cotton and has a strong adhesive that sticks well to the skin. It is also flexible and allows for movement. This is most commonly used to tape up an ankle or wrist that has been hurt for extra support.
- Climbing tape – This type is specifically designed for rock climbers. It is made of a stretchy and durable material that can withstand the wear and tear of climbing. It is also breathable, allowing your skin to breathe.
- Kinesiology tape – This type of tape is often used by physiotherapists to treat injuries. It is made of a thin, stretchy material that mimics the elasticity of human skin. It provides support and stability to your fingers without restricting movement.
For most applications, we recommend using climbing-specific tape as it is designed for climbing, but there are times when the other two types would do the trick.
If you are really in a bind for example, you can use the other two types for climbing and they will get the job done. Kinesiology tape is designed for injuries and as a result is much more expensive. It also tends to be much wider, means you will have to cut it down to tape your fingers.
Taping For Crack Climbing
Crack climbing is a popular and challenging climbing disciple, involving ascending narrow cracks in the rock face. It is a test of strength, endurance, and technique and can be incredibly rewarding for those up for the challenge.
It can also be much more uncomfortable than other types of climbing. You often end up with scraped-up knuckles and the back of your hands as those parts aren’t as abrasion resistant or tough as the skin of the fingers.
All of this can be very tough on the skin of your hands, which will take a beating as you work up the crack. That’s where taping comes in.
Proper taping techniques can help protect your hands and make crack climbing more comfortable and enjoyable.
In addition to taping your hands, you can also use crack climbing gloves like those from Black Diamond. A mix of crack climbing gloves with tape can provide the most secure and sticky hand for those jams that make your thumbs cramp up.
The Benefits of Taping for Crack Climbing
Taping your hands for crack climbing can provide several benefits.
First and foremost, it will protect your skin from the rough rock surface. As you climb, your hands will likely encounter sharp edges, rough textures, and other abrasive surfaces that can quickly wear down your skin. Taping can help create a barrier between your skin and the rock, reducing the risk of cuts, scrapes, and other injuries.
In addition to skin protection, taping can also help improve your grip and reduce fatigue. When you’re crack climbing, your hands constantly flex and squeeze to maintain your position on the rock. This can quickly tire out your muscles and make it harder to maintain your grip.
Taping can distribute the pressure evenly across your hand, reducing fatigue and allowing you to climb longer.
Finally, taping can help improve your overall technique. By providing a more secure grip on the rock, taping can help you make smaller movements and use less energy as you climb. This can help you conserve your strength and make more efficient progress up the crack.
Different Taping Techniques
There are a variety of taping techniques that can be used for crack climbing, depending on your preferences and the specific requirements of the climb.
Here are a few of the most common techniques:
- Full Hand Taping – This technique involves wrapping tape around your entire hand, covering the palm, fingers, and back of the hand. This provides maximum protection and grip but can also be bulky and restrict movement.
- Finger Taping – This technique involves wrapping tape around each finger, providing targeted protection and grip. This can be more comfortable and allow for greater mobility, but it may not provide as much protection as full-hand taping.
- Combination Taping – This technique combines full hand and finger taping elements, providing targeted protection where you need it most while allowing greater mobility.
Tips for Taping Success
To get the most out of your taping, it’s essential to use the right technique and follow a few key tips:
- Use High-Quality Tape – Not all tape is created equal. Look for a high-quality cotton blend athletic tape that is designed to withstand the rigours of rock climbing. Black Diamond or Metolius tape is specifically designed for climbing and works well whether you need to tape up your fingers and thumb for nasty ring locks or your whole hand for hand and fist jams.
- Experiment with Different Techniques – Everyone’s hands are different, so finding the taping technique that works best for you is important. Experiment with different techniques to find the one that provides the best combination of protection and mobility.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – Taping can be an art. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at wrapping and securing the tape, which can make a big difference in its effectiveness on the rock.
- Don’t Overdo It – While taping can provide many benefits, it’s important not to overdo it. Too much tape can be bulky and restrict movement, making climbing harder. Most crack climbing, for example, is very hand-size specific, so you can have too much tape making fitting your hand into the crack impossible.
Taping your hands for crack climbing can be a game-changer, providing essential protection, improved grip, and reduced fatigue. Using the right technique and following key tips, you can get the most out of your tape and take your crack climbing to the next level. So next time you hit Indian Creek or Yosemite, don’t forget to bring your tape!
Techniques for Taping
Taping your fingers for rock climbing requires skill and practice.
Firstly, when taping your fingers or hands, ensure your skin is clean and dry. Wash your hands first to remove any body oils or skin creams that would limit the tape’s adhesion.
Following on from that, here are some techniques that you can use.
This methods gives full protection and support over the whole finger but limits the range of motion. Make sure to try to get the seams of tape over the creases where you finger bend to allow maximum flexibility.
- Anchor the tape – Start by anchoring the tape to your wrist or hand. This will prevent it from slipping off while you climb. Make sure that the tape is snug but not too tight.
- Wrap the tape – Wrap the tape around your finger in a spiral pattern. Start at the base of your finger and work your way up toward the tip. Make sure that the tape overlaps each layer by about half its width.
- Secure the tape – Once you reach the tip of your finger, wrap the tape around it a few times to secure it. You can also create a loop at the end of the tape to make it easier to remove.
- Repeat the process for each finger you want to tape. Make sure that the tape is snug but not too tight. You should be able to move your fingers freely.
Tendon and Pulley Support
If you are looking to support the tendons in your fingers or if you have an injured pulley then two full wraps of tape between the joints of the target area can provide good support.
This can often be needed in the first three fingers as these are the most susceptible to taking the majority of the load and therefore getting injured.
Since many tapes can be about an inch in diameter and between our finger joints isn’t, you often need to cut your tape in half to wrap between the joints properly. If the full thickness of the tape crosses the joint, it can be hard to bend your fingers.
Peel a little of the tape and cut a slit in the middle. Now when you continue unreeling it, it will rip evenly down the middle lengthways.
This type of tapping can give some extra support to your fingers, especially if the routes you are climbing have a lot of hard crimps.
If your finger tips are torn-up but you still want to climb then tape will be your saviour. Wrapping around the tips of your fingers with the half thickness tape outlined above will help protect your burning finger tips and pads.
Just make sure to have the finish of the tape on the top of your finger so the friction of climbing doesn’t make the tape unravel.
Full Hand Crack Taping
When taping for crack climbing you will want to have the back of the hand, side and thumb wrapped to maximize friction and minimize skin abrasion.
The easiest way to understand how to wrap your hand for crack climbing is to see it. Metolious has a great video with crack climbing legend Beth Rodden:
A Note For Hairy People
If you have a more than average amount of hair on your hands, fingers, and forearms and are taping regularly, then shaving can be helpful. Not only will smooth skin be more comfortable when removing the tape it will also lead to better adhesion.
Removing tape from hairy knuckles can feel like you are getting waxed. If you know you must tape up, giving your hands or fingers a quick run with the hair clippers can save you the unpleasantness!
Benefits of Taping
Taping your fingers for rock climbing has several benefits. Here are some of them:
- Protection – Taping your fingers can protect your skin and prevent superficial injuries such as blisters, cuts, calluses or split fingertips.
- Support – Taping your fingers can provide support for common climbing finger injuries such as pulley tears or collateral ligament sprains.
- Comfort – Taping your fingers can make climbing more comfortable by reducing the friction between your skin and the rock.
- Performance – Taping your fingers can improve your performance by allowing you to grip the rock better and climb more efficiently such as when finger-jamming.
Departing Thoughts on Finger Taping for Climbing
Taping your fingers for rock climbing is a simple and effective way to protect your skin, provide support for finger injuries and improve your performance.
You can use the right tape and techniques to protect and comfort your fingers while climbing making all those finger-jams less uncomfortable. It can also be useful for injury prevention or to allow you to continue to climb with minor injuries to the tendons or skin.
Remember to practice and experiment with different taping techniques to find the one that works best for you. Happy climbing!