Rock climbing is notoriously hard on your fingers – it strains your skin, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and even your finger bones. Your fingers and toes are often your only points of contact with the wall, so a huge amount of force and pressure is exerted on them. Fortunately, tape can be used to help prevent and treat certain finger injuries.
So, how do you tape your fingers for rock climbing?
The best taping method depends on what you are trying to accomplish – whether you are taping over cuts or broken skin to protect it from further damage, preventatively taping your fingers to support your tendons and muscles, or proactively protecting your hands and fingers for crack climbing.
In this article, we’ll discuss what type of tape is best for this purpose and how to tape different parts of your fingers for different reasons.
Choose the Right Tape
The most important part of taping your fingers for rock climbing is choosing the proper tape. Many new climbers will attempt to use regular athletic or medical tape, which soon falls off or turns into a globby ring around your finger and ultimately does nothing. Look for a tape that is specifically made for climbers – it will be very sticky (to your skin and to itself), non-stretchy, and durable but still tearable so you can rip off small pieces and strips.
Taping for Cuts or Broken Skin
Chances are high that at some point while you are climbing, you will get a flapper (where a flap of skin rips almost-but-not-completely off), a crack or cut in your finger skin, an abrasion from the rough surface of the wall or rock, or some other kind of skin injury.
These injuries are generally minor, but you still likely won’t want to continue climbing with a bleeding finger (seriously, please don’t) or make the injury hurt worse than it already does by grinding in a bunch of sweat/chalk/grime from a climbing hold.
That’s where tape comes in! You can tape over these minor injuries to keep the area at least somewhat sanitary and prevent it from getting any worse or stinging like heck when you get back on the wall to finish up your climbing sesh. Be sure to stop any bleeding before you apply tape, or you will still smear blood all over the holds which is both gross and unsafe. You can tape gauze over the site if you are worried that it’ll open back up during a climb.
To tape over broken finger skin, you can either make a simple ring (wrap the tape around your finger once or twice so it overlaps) or do more of a candy cane style wrap to cover a bigger area (wrap the tape around at an angle, overlapping a little each time to cover a larger area).
It may be tempting to preemptively tape your fingers in an effort to avoid such injuries. While this can be useful in moderation, too much taping can actually prevent your finger skin from toughening up naturally, which is generally the best defense against skin injuries.
Taping for Structural Support
Another reason for taping your fingers is to provide structural support for your tendons, muscles, pulleys, and bones. A flexor tendon runs along the length of each finger, and pulleys are sheath-like structures that essentially hold the tendon tight against your finger bones and knuckles.
One of the most common finger injuries in climbing is a torn or ruptured pulley, which allows the tendon to pull away from the bones mid-finger in a sort of bowstring effect. This is particularly common on climbs that have tiny holds and features, necessitating ‘crimping’ or essentially supporting a significant portion of your bodyweight with your fingertips, which are curved over to meet the tip of your thumb.
Taping over an already-ruptured pulley is, unfortunately, unlikely to help, and the best solution in that case is to rest – admittedly a hard pill for most climbers to swallow. However, if you feel your fingers starting to get sore, you may be able to stave off a serious pulley injury in the short term by taping your finger for structural support.
There are several different ways to tape your fingers for this purpose, including rings of tape around either the joints of your fingers or the spaces between the joints or creating an X of tape between two rings. Basically, tape over where it hurts.
Less commonly, you may sprain or otherwise injure a finger and wish to biologically splint it by taping it to the next finger. Again, if you’ve injured your finger, it’s always best to simply rest until it gets better. But, if you are in the middle of a multi-pitch climb and it’s do-or-die, this type of taping may be helpful.
Taping for Crack Climbing
Finally, many climbers tape essentially their entire hands for crack climbing, which involves stuffing your hand into a crack and then flexing it or balling it into a fist, essentially locking you in place. This is obviously quite hard on your hand skin, so most people create something that resembles a boxing glove out of tape to protect both sides of their hands and their knuckles. Occasionally extra tape will be wrapped around each finger for even more protection.
What is finger tape used for in climbing?
Finger tape is used to bandage and protect broken skin, provide structural support for sore tendons and muscles, and to protect your hand and finger skin while crack climbing.
Does taping a finger help climbing?
Taping your fingers certainly isn’t going to magically make you a better climber, but it can help you push through minor skin injuries, prevent sore pulleys from becoming ruptured pulleys, and make crack climbing much more comfortable and fun!