Ankle sprains are common sports injuries. Inadequate foot position awareness is thought to be the fundamental cause of these injuries. Ankle taping may decrease risk of injury through improving foot position awareness. The benefit of taping is thought to decrease with duration of exercise because of poor tape adherence to human skin. This study was a randomized, crossover, controlled comparison experiment that tested the hypothesis that ankle taping improves foot position awareness before and after exercise. A sample of 24 healthy young blindfolded volunteers, wearing their own athletic shoes, indicated perceived slope direction and estimated slope amplitude when bearing full body weight and standing on a series of blocks. The top slope of the blocks varied between 0 degree and 25 degrees, in 2.5 degrees increments, to orient the plantar surface with respect to the leg toward pronation, supination, plantarflexion, and dorsiflexion, relative to its position on a flat surface. Foot position awareness, which was considered the reciprocal of surface slope estimate error, varied with testing condition, particularly when surface slope was greater than 10 degrees, presumably the most important range considering ankle injuries. In this higher range absolute position error was 4.23 degrees taped, and 5.53 degrees untaped (P < 0.001). Following exercise, in the higher range absolute position error was 2.5% worse when taped and 35.5% worse when untaped (P < 0.001). These data support the hypothesis that ankle taping improves proprioception before and after exercise. They also indicate that foot position awareness declines with exercise. Compared to barefoot data (position error 1.97 degrees), foot position error was 107.5% poorer with athletic footwear when untaped (absolute position error 4.11 degrees), and 58.1% worse when taped (position error 3.13 degrees). This suggests that ankle taping partly corrects impaired proprioception caused by modern athletic footwear and exercise. Footwear could be optimized to reduce the incidence of these injuries.
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