I’ve got plenty of problems when it comes to martial arts. My thai kicks are lame, I get asthma attacks, and I can’t wear glasses with a sparring helmet on (plus, I don’t have contacts), so for me, sparring’s like that scene from Star Wars with Luke and Obi-Wan.
But the most frustrating thing ever is getting cracks in the balls of my feet. Because even when I ace my thai kicks, remember to use my inhaler before class, and am doing drills without a helmet (and therefore, with eyesight!) — damaged skin on the bottoms of my feet hurts like a mofo and makes the mats look like some kind of crime scene, with blood splatters tracked around everywhere. (True story, the other day I had my glasses off for clinch rounds, and unknowingly tracked blood from one side of the room to the other. Then, to add insult to injury, one of my classmates slipped and fell on the puddle of antibacterial cleaner used to wipe the mess up.)
I hear this is pretty common, both for martial artists who rotate on the balls of their feet for kicks (thai kicks, roundhouse kicks, hook kicks, wheel kicks) and for dancers. And yet it still took me like two years to find a solution that worked for me.
Until my coach mentioned… tape adherent!
So let me show you an excellent method for taping the balls of your feet for sports that require pivoting on the balls of your feet.
- Acquire Leukotape, Compound Tincture of Benzoin, and rubbing alcohol. (The compound tincture is a different product than straight tincture of benzoin; the compound includes a sticky resin that helps tape adhere.)
- For the absolute best result, start this process the night before. Clean your feet. I take a shower and scrub them well with a scrubby cloth and soap, but you could also use some rubbing alcohol to get any crud off your skin.
- Apply the compound tincture of benzoin to the entire area you’ll be taping, past the edges of where the tape will go. For the balls of my feet, I like to do one long strip that goes from the big toe side of my foot to the pinky toe side of my foot. It’s ok to apply the benzoin to damaged skin (one of its labeled uses is to protect cold sores), but if you’ve got a doozy (or a blister) you probably want to use a littleNeosporin and a small strip non-stick gauze to go underneath the tape layer.
- Wait a couple minutes for the benzoin to get tacky. If it’s not tacky enough, you can dab a little more on there, but be careful not to wipe the existing layer benzoin off with fresh benzoin. And yes, it does smell pretty terrible, but it’s worth it for great roundhouse kicks.
- Once it’s tacked up, apply your strip of tape.Leukotape is slightly stretchy, sotry and get good, smooth edges. You should cut the edges to be round, rather than square. These edges should go just slightly south of your big toe and pinky toe, respectively — you want as few edges as possible to be exposed to pivoting forces.
- On the ball edge of your foot, you can make one or more creases in the tape, then just trim the creased tape so it’s flush with your foot. Like so:
- After this is applied, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove anytackiness around the edges of your tape (so your foot doesn’t stick to the mat). Optionally, you can use a wee bit of Body Glide or a similar product on the edges of the tape that tend to roll the most — but not too much, or you’ll slip-n-slide all over the place.
- Important! Leukotape’s adherence improves with body temperature. So rub the tape on good with your hands, put on fuzzy socks, sleep in the tape, wear shoes for a little bit before you go out. It makes a difference.
- KICK ASS, SEA BASS!
Here’s what my tape looked like after a 2-hour conditioning and kicking workout (where literally every kicking drill focused on the correct pivot/chamber combo for three different kicks), followed by walking through 2″ of snow inflip flops, followed by my red senior belt test.
And thus concludes my tutorial! Go forth and be awesome. Let me know if you have a taping technique that works for you, and I’d love to hear from you if you try my method out, too!