Well, it’s certainly not there to make a fashion statement and no, the complexity of the design and tape color have no bearing on its effectiveness.
Whereas Kinesio ® brand first brought this concept into sports, kinesiology tape now refers to viscoelastic tape produced by a handful of different companies. Initially, the thought was that the stretch of the tape reduced pain, improved circulation, and mechanically lengthened soft tissue (e.g. muscle, fascia).
Since then, peer-reviewed published research suggests that kinesiology taping:
Reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following exercise leading to faster recovery (Lee YS et al, 2015).
Reduces pain and increases active range of motion in elderly patients with knee osteoarthritis (Cho, HY et al, 2015).
Does not improve endurance of back muscles in patients with low back pain (Hagen L et al, 2015).
Does not decrease ankle swelling when applied for 3 days following the sprains Nunes GS et al, 2015
Is as effective as steroid injection for shoulder impingement when combined with a 90 day exercise program (Subsas V et al, 2014).
Immediately improves rounded shoulder posture in desk workers (Han JT et al, 2015).
Appears to reduce calf pain when applied prior to a duathalon sprint (Merino-Marban R et al, 2014).
So it’s pretty common that research produces results like this that are only applicable to specific populations -- basically, there's not enough published information to draw a conclusion. However, a web search will demonstrate a slew of results that suggest both the benefits and ineffectiveness of kinesiology tape -- so, what do you believe>!?
Personally, I see a mixed response in my clinic with about 60-70% of patients noticing benefits to having the tape applied. So similar to what I tell my athletes about braces, compression sleeves or, necklaces -- if you feel better with it on and it’s doing no harm, then do it.
We don’t necessarily know how kinesiology tape may decrease pain but, we know that it decreases muscle soreness and time to recover from exercise. We certainly know that it’s not doing any harm and that the neurology of movement varies between individuals … so, if you feel that it makes your muscles looser or decreases your pain, then it’s most likely not your own hallucination and there’s something to it for you!
It certainly helps me when my calf is tight or my back muscles ache after exercise ...