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Quick tip: Field-friendly Leukotape strips for foot care & first aid

From a field-friendly strip of Leukotape, I cut a custom patch for a hot spot that a group member was getting on their heel.

From a field-friendly strip of Leukotape, I cut a custom patch for a hot spot that a group member was getting on their heel.

A core item in my backpacking first aid kit and foot care kit is Leukotape P, a non-elastic strapping tape. I most often use it for hot spots, blisters, and other skin irritations; and on a few group trips I have made custom bandages and protected injured body parts with it.

Leukotape P should not be confused with Leukotape K, which stretches. I’m uncertain about its differences with Leukotape Classic; it may be a re-brand, since I no longer see Leukotape P on the manufacturer website. I have made an inquiry with BSN Medical for clarification.

Leukotape P comes in a 15-yard roll. This works well for stabilizing an ankle, and so I take it on group trips when such injuries are more likely to occur. But for foot care, it’s an unfriendly form factor; it’s also more tape (and more weight) than I need on a solo trip.

Quick tip

Make field-friendly Leukotape strips using discarded mailing label paper, rather than or in addition to carrying the full roll.

The advantages:

  • Create patches that are precisely sized and shaped, with rounded edges that are less likely to curl under pressure;
  • Maintain the tape’s full adhesiveness, which is compromised when it is touched or when it is re-rolled into smaller rolls; and,
  • Carry only the amount you are likely to need, thereby reducing pack weight and volume.

Instructions

1. Find a discarded sheet of mailing label paper. I find address label paper to be convenient: the paper is pre-cut into strips that are about the same width as Leukotape.

2. Place a strip of Leukotape on the waxy side of the label paper, where the labels used to be. Leave about 1 inch of extra tape on each end.

leukotape-strip-1

3. Adhere the overflow sections to the other side of the label paper, to hold the strip in place. Unfortunately, these sections of tape are now trash. Remove the paper margins.

leukotape-strip-2

Final product

A finished strip is 11.5 inches long. I fold them into fourths to make them more packable, and store them in a plastic bag along with Band-Aids, Steri-Strips, and moleskin.

leukotape-strip-storage


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28 Responses to Quick tip: Field-friendly Leukotape strips for foot care & first aid

  1. Walter Underwood October 4, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    This is exactly what I do, and it works great.

    Please credit Philip Werner, who I learned this from. He posted about it in April 2015.

    • Andrew Skurka October 4, 2016 at 11:37 am #

      Since I have been doing this since 2010-ish and since Philip observed multiple foot care clinics of mine on the guided trips we ran together, I am reluctant to credit him with the idea. But indeed he is an excellent source of knowledge.

  2. Eli October 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

    Man this is such a good idea. I’ve been using Luekotape for awhile but it’s such a pain to tear by hand, especially if your hands are cold or wet.

  3. Walter Underwood October 4, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Well, that makes sense. I’ll suggest that he credit you, then. Regardless, I’ll teach the Scout leaders about it next Thursday.

    I’m trying to figure out the changes in Leukotape. It looks like they have changed from rayon to cotton. That could increase friction.

    • Andrew Skurka October 4, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

      I won’t claim credit, either — I’m not that creative. I think I was told by a client about it, as he watched me futz with the big roll during a foot care session. Phil Barton or Pat Starich (both BSA guys, and both active BPL forum members back in the day) would be a likely source, but I don’t recall exactly.

      I noticed the cotton component in the Leukotape Classic, too. I hope BSN’s website is just mistaken. Cotton would increase water absorption, too.

  4. Roleigh Martin October 4, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    Is there anything else that would work as well for what you put the Leukotape on, such as wax paper?

    • Andrew Skurka October 4, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      You probably could. The key thing is applying it to a surface that will not absorb or activate the tape adhesive. It does not take much — even the “back” side of label paper (usually where there is some product branding) is paper-ish enough that the tape will stick to it some and be compromised.

      • Bill October 4, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

        I wonder if freezer paper would work? It has a slick side and a paper side.

        • Walter Underwood October 4, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

          Any silicone release paper should work. Give it a try.

          Here is one example, though I have not tried it. We had some label release paper I could use.

          https://www.amazon.com/Silicone-Release-Paper-10-Pkg/dp/1607052008

          • Bill October 6, 2016 at 10:03 am #

            Freezer paper is an unqualified failure. The bond between the Leukotape P and the shiny side is stronger than the bond between the shiny side and the backing paper.

            Parchment paper, which is silicone treated throughout, appears to work, at least in the short term. I stuck a six inch long piece of Leukotape P to some parchment paper and it came right off. I’ll leave it there for a few days and try it again.

            I’m just looking for something that I might have around the house or be able to source locally. I don’t have any old label sheets, or I would use them. I’ll try to keep it in mind if I use some labels.

        • Cheri October 10, 2016 at 10:29 am #

          I work at a hospital and I use the label sheets that we use to have people sign in on. I noticed my Dr and Dentist both use similar sign in sheets. If you have a local Dr or Dentist, maybe you could stop in and ask if they would save a few for you?

          Also, this time of year, we start getting pre printed mailing labels from non-profit groups wanting us to make donations. If you are so inclined, you could use the backs of those.

        • Bill March 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

          After around six months, parchment paper still appears to work. Since parchment paper comes in rolls, longer strips of Leukotape can be used.

          • Matt March 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

            Nice tip, thanks!

    • Brad R. October 4, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

      Wax paper doesn’t work well as I discovered around 2011. I tried to use some from my kit and it wouldn’t peel off the wax paper.

      I probably ought to change mine out as I have been carrying the same strips in my kit for the past few years and haven’t used them.

  5. Roleigh Martin October 4, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    Andrew, I find that OmniFix tape (which comes on non-stick paper out of the box) works nearly as well as LeuckoTape for a lot of situations. I think Leuckotape is still better for some spots of the foot such as the back of the ankle. https://www.amazon.com/Omnifix-Dressing-Retention-Tape-yards/dp/B001ANS1YS/

  6. Alan Richards October 4, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    I’ve traditonally used duct tape for this purpose… any thoughts on how it might compare to Leukotape?

    • Andrew Skurka October 4, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

      Leukotape is breathable and it is more adhesive. It is slick, but not as slick as duct tape.

  7. Roleigh Martin October 4, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    Buying printer labels is cheaper (3 times cheaper) than buying the silicone paper. https://www.amazon.com/EcoSwift-Shipping-Mailing-Inventory-Adhesive/dp/B00DOI8HPU/ — it might be interesting to compare the efficacy of the two options though. Thanks, Walter

    • Roleigh Martin October 6, 2016 at 10:39 am #

      I ordered from Amazon both address labels (to throw away and only use the label backing paper as well as the silicone paper), I’ll compare both to each other for doing the Leuckotape backing. I’ll report back later.

  8. Jake October 5, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    Andrew, having followed your advice on leukotape and completely eliminated blisters (thank you), I’ve noticed one issue: the the non-adhesive side of the tape sticks to my sock and leaves a sticky tape residue on the sock.

    It doesn’t seem to impact the blister-reducing function of the tape, but the residue collects dirt that’s difficult to clean off. And sticky dirt in my sock is obviously not a good thing for blisters. Have you noticed this issue and, if so, how do you address it, if at all? (I should note that I re-roll the tape around a shortened pen tube.)

    And, thanks for the wealth of information you’re providing–it’s revolutionized my backpacking trips.

    • Andrew Skurka October 5, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

      This can be an issue. It seems to be worse on furry socks and on the bottom of the foot.

      Two solutions. The best is to put some Bonnie’s Balm on the tape after it has adhered well. The other is to put some duct tape over it. I like this one less, since it is more work and since it reduces breathability.

    • Drew March 9, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

      Hello, I have found out that any time I re-roll Leukotape onto itself, the non-adhesive side ends up retaining a significant amount of adhesive when unrolled, and exibits the behavior Jake has described. This is strange because it doesn’t occur with the original, from factory roll, only if I re-roll it. My guess is that when re-rolling, the exposure to air (or something) causes the adhesive to change enough that it does 2 things: sticks to the non-adhesive side of itself and deposits an adhesive residue, and it also degrades the adhesive enough that it is no longer useful when applied to skin (even with tincture of benzoine). Because of this, I recommend only using the method Andrew describes in this article to make smaller, reusable sections of Leukotape. This has been my experience, YMMV.

      • Andrew Skurka March 9, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

        Your observation is correct. I do not know the precise cause (exposure to air is a good one) but the adhesive is compromised if it is re-rolled onto itself. Interestingly, the adhesive is fine when put on strips of mailing paper.

  9. Matt Swider October 7, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

    You really don’t need to buy label paper at all. Just go to the post office and take a handful of label paper people have already peeled off their mailing label from. Or just keep your eyes open, label paper without the labels on it is around. 5k runs, track meets, etc.

  10. Ron Geur October 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    I usually wrap a few feet of duct tape around my one of trekking poles, does Leukotape lend itself to re-wrapping like that

    • Andrew Skurka October 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm #

      No, it does not. It sticks to itself and is compromised. Also, you cannot handle it easily without touching the adhesive, which compromises it again. Finally, it gets dirty.

      I generally discourage attaching anything to your poles. It takes several times more effort to swing your poles than to simply carry it in your pack.

  11. Thomas Stock May 31, 2017 at 5:11 am #

    “Leukotape P should not be confused with Leukotape K, which stretches. I’m uncertain about its differences with Leukotape Classic; it may be a re-brand, since I no longer see Leukotape P on the manufacturer website. I have made an inquiry with BSN Medical for clarification.”

    Andrew, did you ever get a response?

    • Andrew Skurka May 31, 2017 at 7:48 am #

      No

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