BACKGROUND: Plantar heel pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders of the foot and ankle. Treatment of the condition is usually conservative, however the effectiveness of many treatments frequently used in clinical practice, including supportive taping of the foot, has not been established. We performed a participant-blinded randomised trial to assess the effectiveness of low-Dye taping, a commonly used short-term treatment for plantar heel pain. METHODS: Ninety-two participants with plantar heel pain (mean age 50 +/- 14 years; mean body mass index 30 +/- 6; and median self-reported duration of symptoms 10 months, range of 2 to 240 months) were recruited from the general public between February and June 2005. Participants were randomly allocated to (i) low-Dye taping and sham ultrasound or (ii) sham ultrasound alone. The duration of follow-up for each participant was one week. No participants were lost to follow-up. Outcome measures included 'first-step' pain (measured on a 100 mm Visual Analogue Scale) and the Foot Health Status Questionnaire domains of foot pain, foot function and general foot health. RESULTS: Participants treated with low-Dye taping reported a small improvement in 'first-step' pain after one week of treatment compared to those who did not receive taping. The estimate of effect on 'first-step' pain favoured the low-Dye tape (ANCOVA adjusted mean difference -12.3 mm; 95% CI -22.4 to -2.2; P = 0.017). There were no other statistically significant differences between groups. Thirteen participants in the taping group experienced an adverse event however most were mild to moderate and short-lived. CONCLUSION: When used for the short-term treatment of plantar heel pain, low-Dye taping provides a small improvement in 'first-step' pain compared with a sham intervention after a one-week period.