The shape of our hands is no accident. It came about as a result of millions of years of evolution. It was intended originally to give us a way to more effectively handle food items. Then to build rudimentary structures and manipulate tools. And finally to build better tools, type, create sign language and all the other things we do with our hands today.
Our hands were not designed, however, to grapple with other large, strong humans on the floor for extended periods of time, several times a week. Grappling creates unnatural stresses on the joints of our fingers. Stresses so extreme that they are almost guaranteed to produce joint problems over time, similar to those experienced by practitioners of judo. Enter BJJ finger tape.
BJJ tape is how you prevent joint problems. Taping your fingers buttresses the joints. It’s a simple but effective method for controlling the amount of movement in the joint, while simultaneously harnessing more power from each of those movements. In this article, I’m going to look at the best Jiu-Jitsu finger tape on the market right now.
Latex-free, highly adhesive and narrow enough for single joint or X taping, Armadillo Skin Finger Tape is a popular choice with BJJ grapplers. Much to their credit, the manufacturer hasn’t let this popularity go to their head. They continue to offer it at an affordable price and include 8 rolls in every package.
There’s no doubt that some sports tapes can produce allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. That’s not the case with Kuzushi Labs Black Finger Tape. It’s a plus that it’s also extremely versatile and effective.
Review: Hampton Premium Jiu Jitsu tape was designed with the grappler in mind. It has a nice slender width that lends itself to versatility and you get 8 (rather than the standard 6) rolls in a box. This tape is completely latex-free and won’t leave behind a bunch of sticky residue it will take half an hour to clean off. It’s particularly good at X-taping your joints to prevent lateral movement that can destroy cartilage.
Where a lot of other tapes will fray, Hampton Premium will retain its integrity no matter how hard you grind it into the mat. The cotton substrate underlying this tape also produces outstanding compression that won’t allow swelling to compromise movement. If you’re a budget-conscious grappler, you’ll also appreciate the low price of this tape. When you combine that low price with the high performance of the tape, you get what’s known as a great value.
Review: A lot of my grappler buddies swear by this tape. I find myself coming back to it time and again as well for a lot of good reasons. It provides a compelling combination of incredible durability, good compressibility, versatility, and adhesive strength. Because Armadillo tape is completely latex-free, clean up after your session is also fast and easy. The width of 3/8 inch also makes it a good choice for X taping or X taping prior to buddy taping.
If you’re looking for a sports tape that’s really flexible, this isn’t it. Flexibility is usually a function of having either latex or rubber or both added to the material. This tape uses a cotton substrate, like many of the other best Jiu-Jitsu tape products on this list, that enables it to produce outstanding compression. That prevents joints from swelling and impeding mobility. You won’t have to deal with any leftover residue and the price here is very reasonable.
Review: This tape is a solid choice for grapplers, rock climbers, Crossfitters, MMA fighters and anyone who needs to protect the integrity of their joints from occupational hazards. Each roll is 15 yards long and 3/8 inch wide. So it’s good for X taping, single joint taping and as an underlayer for buddy taping. The zinc oxide adhesive does a great job of keeping your wrap where you want it. And the limited stretchability of the tape makes for aggressive compression.
Because it’s completely free of latex or rubber, it won’t leave behind a nasty layer of residue that you’ll need to scrape off. And because it’s mostly cotton, it’s also hygienic and won’t abide any of the bacteria that’s waiting on the mat or in the locker room. Just for good measure, you get a couple of extra rolls in each canister and the per roll price makes it a truly outstanding value for the budget-conscious grappler.
Review: If you’re looking for something a bit wider to wrap your feet, wrap fingers together using the buddy method or holding splints firmly in place, I’d recommend Evolv Magic Finger Tape. It’s a beast when it comes to adhesion. Meaning you won’t have to be constantly rewrapping as is often the case when you use inferior sports tape.
Because it’s comprised of a latex and rubber hybrid weave, it’s also maybe the most flexible tape on my list. It also exhibits a high degree of breathability, which means that no matter how tight you wrap it (though you shouldn’t wrap it too tight), it won’t cause circulation problems or starve your skin of oxygen. Finally, although it’s 3/4 of an inch wide, the tape is very thin. So you don’t wind up with a tall pile protruding upward from your taped fingers or toes.
Review: This is classic white sports tape that’s 1/2 an inch wide, water/sweat resistant and very stubborn. By that, I mean it’s not going to come peeling off due to contact with the mat. Nor will you find it on the floor of the stall after taking a shower. That 1/2 inch width means it’s narrow enough for single joint taping (and if you have big hands, X taping as well) and it’s good for taping toes or using to hold a gauze in place over a blister or scrape.
Each roll contains 30 feet of tape as opposed to the 15 feet most brands provide. And due to recent upgrades in the formulation, it won’t leave behind a ton of residue like it used to. And that’s even if you take a nice hot shower with it on. The downside, if you can call it that, is that you’re going to have to work a bit to get it off. But that seems like small potatoes to me when weighed against the considerable upside.
Review: While a lot of sports tapes claim they’re made specifically for BJJ, such claims are often overblown. But that’s not the case with Absolute Grip Athletic Tape. This tape actually was developed for BJJ practitioners by BJJ practitioners. That it also happens to be a good choice for rock climbing, judo, and other sports is just gravy.
Absolute Grip tape is 3/8 of an inch wide, which makes it a great choice for X taping, single joint taping and taping together your smallest toes. It’s also hypoallergenic, which makes it a good choice for people with sensitive skin that’s susceptible to allergic reactions to latex and the like. It’s highly sweat-resistant, will stand up to the shower and won’t leave behind a ton of sticky residue. Finally, it’s available in 5 different colors, should that be important to you.
Review: Nextrino Athletic Finger Tape is durable, easy to work with, stays in place and can be cut easily without having to reach for the scissors. The tape is forgiving, in that it enables a bit of flexibility rather than producing a cast-like hold on your taped fingers. And, because it’s latex-free, it cleans up easily when you’re done.
This Jiu-Jitsu finger tape is half an inch wide, so it’s good for a variety of purposes from X taping your finger joints to buddy taping your toes. It’s also highly sweat-resistant and hypoallergenic, so it won’t pick up hitch-hiking microbes on the jiu jitsu mat. And, in what is pretty rare in the world of sports tape, the company also offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied with the product.
Review: Our last grapplers tape comes from PowerTrain. Their BJJ tape is 3/8 of an inch wide and each roll is 30 feet long. That narrow width makes it an ideal choice for X taping and single joint taping. It’s also 100 percent latex-free, so it won’t irritate sensitive skin and it won’t leave behind a ton of residue. Being cotton, it’s also highly breathable. So even though it produces outstanding compression, it won’t interfere with circulation.
The tape is highly resistant to sweat. Although it’s not the best at staying on in the shower. It is, however, great at keeping splints in place or holding fingers or toes together using the buddy method. Finally, it’s available in 4 different colors. So there’s bound to be one to fit your taste. It only comes 2 rolls to a package, however. So keep that in mind.
Review: Where would athletes be without those nifty blue gel cold packs?
The answer: in a lot more pain than they are currently. Penguin Fingers has found a way to bring the benefits of the blue gel cold pack to individual fingers with their Finger and Toe Gel Ice Pack. When I emerge from a session with achy, sore joints, few things provide as much short term relief as these puppies.
They’re a one-size-fits-all proposition. Which means they’re great for people with average-sized fingers, but will be a bit tight on big hands. Still, that’s a small price to pay for the relief they provide IMHO. There’s nothing complicated or revolutionary about these. The only question is why did it take someone so long to adapt the cold pack this way? I’ve got 4 in my freezer at all times. I recommend my friends do the same.
Patent-pending design stays on.
No phthalates, BPA, PVC or other chemicals.
One size fits all design.
Slip it on for immediate relief.
Durable and long-lasting.
FAQs About Jiu Jitsu Finger Tape
Why Do People Tape Their Fingers for BJJ?
As I mentioned at the outset, people tape their fingers for BJJ in order to fend off repetitive stress injuries. Because Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu involves continuous grabbing, gripping, pushing, pulling, lifting and throwing, the forces brought to bear on your finger joints – and in particular the cartilage in those joints – is enormous. BJJ tape serves to reinforce the natural structure of the fingers and bolster the integrity of the joints to prevent short term injuries that could morph into long term problems like osteoarthritis. So no other justification is needed when it comes to using BJJ tape. The questions on most people’s minds are how to tape fingers for BJJ and which tape to use?
What Tape Do You Use for BJJ?
The short answer to that question is “sports tape.” But that doesn’t tell you a whole lot. So let’s take a closer look at sports tape, what it is, what it does and why it’s important for any grappler concerned about the health of their hands and feet.
What Does Sports Tape Do?
The job of sports tape is to bolster the integrity of your joints, thereby protecting the cartilage in those joints from damage and excess wear and tear. Same as your bjj headgear protects your ear cartilage from damage. If it’s doing its job correctly, it also prevents muscle strains that can undermine joint integrity and your overall performance. If you require the use of a splint, sports tape is how you’ll hold it in place. The best athletic tape can also be used to prevent existing issues – like mat burn on your feet – from getting any worse.
Are There Different Types of Sports Tape?
While there are numerous different kinds of sports tape on the market today, the most popular fall into one of two categories: elastic adhesive bandage (EAB) or rigid tape. When it comes to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, most grapplers use EAB for their fingers, hands, and toes. They will only occasionally use rigid tape to prop up shoulders, ankles or knees.
What Qualities Should You Look For in the Best Sports Tape?
Sports tape is a critical ingredient in any strategy for avoiding long term damage to the joints in your fingers. Some younger grapplers regard their swollen, misshapen finger joints as a badge of honor. But when they’re 50 and unable to make a fist or even cut their pork chop without pain and discomfort, that misplaced bravado quickly dissipates.
Here are some of the qualities you should look for in a good sports tape:
Flexibility – You’re taping your fingers after all, not placing them in a plaster cast.
Breathability – Your skin breathes every second of every day. The tape shouldn’t interfere with this natural process. If the tape you’re using is non-porous, it could eventually lead to circulation problems.
Support – While the tape should be flexible, there should be limits on that flexibility, otherwise, what’s the point? The goal, after all, is for the tape to provide support to the joints.
Ease of use – The tape shouldn’t be so sticky that it’s impossible to remove from the roll. It should also adhere quickly and easily to the skin.
Adhesion – Once in place, the grapplers tape should stay there until you’ve finished and you’re ready to take it off. Which brings us to our final quality…
Waterproof – One of the most common complaints grapplers have about Jiu-Jitsu finger tape is that it begins to come off when they begin to sweat. Cheap tape is rarely waterproof/sweatproof. So in order to get tape that is, you may need to spend an extra buck or two.
Does Taping Your Fingers Help?
Absolutely. The one thing I’ve heard from veteran grapplers probably more than anything else is that most wish they had started taping as soon as they got into the sport. Taping strengthens the joints and tendons and guards against unnatural bending or twisting of the joints. Taping can also help prevent joints from bending backward. A very painful experience that can have long term negative consequences.
How Do You Wrap a Finger With Tape?
There are different methods for taping your fingers:
Single joint control – This is pretty much the standard method for taping a joint. With the single joint control method, you simply place a ring of tape on each side of the joint. Check out this video to learn how it’s done.
X taping – X taping is similar to single-joint taping, but produces more robust support. When done properly, it should help protect the joint from lateral stress while still allowing for a high degree of flexibility. Here’s how it’s done:
What Does Buddy Taping Do?
With buddy taping, you’re using two fingers to support each other. This is often done if a person has experienced a severe sprain or fracture in one of their fingers. All you do is tape each finger individually using one of the above methods and then put additional tape over the top at the end of the process to ensure the two taped fingers always move in unison.
How Do You Tape Your Feet for BJJ?
In most cases, grapplers wind up taping their feet in response to serious strains or breaks, or because they’re experiencing serious mat burn on the skin of their feet that needs to be covered so that it can heal properly. Personally, once the injured toe has recovered or the mat burn has healed over properly, I won’t continue to tape. But it’s up to you.
Watch the following video to get a good idea of taping techniques for common toe injuries.
As far as taping your foot to allow mat burn to heal properly is concerned, check out this video.
What About Taping The Thumb?
Because of the complex way the thumb moves, it presents a real challenge when it comes to taping it effectively. First off, I would recommend not training immediately after a serious thumb injury. Be patient, give it some time to heal before you head back to the mat. Once it has healed sufficiently, you’ll want to make sure you tape it to prevent re-injury.
Hyper-extending the joint is one of the most common thumb injuries. And just about everybody has their own way of taping the thumb afterward to prevent it from happening again. This video is as good as any out there on the subject and should give you an idea of how to effectively wrap your thumb in the wake of a hyperextension.
A Cautionary Note
Keep in mind that if you don’t tape your fingers, chances are good that at some point your fingers will begin hurting when you’re at work or just lounging around watching Netflix. And that’s a sign you’ve done some serious damage to them. Walking back from that point won’t be easy. In fact, once chronic pain sets in, it may become a permanent fixture of your daily life. And who the hell needs that? Tape your fingers.
At one point or another over the past few years, I’ve had occasion to use every BJJ finger tape on the above list. And while they all have their strengths and relative weaknesses, I find myself returning to the Armadillo Skin Finger Tape more and more often. It has it all as far as I’m concerned. Strength, compressibility, broad applicability, incredible adhesive force, and a nice low price. It’s hypoallergenic, doesn’t leave behind a bunch of gunk I have to clean up and I’ve never experienced a major issue when I’ve had my joints taped with Armadillo Tape. So there it is. When it’s my money on the line, I reach for the Armadillo.