Many active people have found themselves in need of using an ankle brace at some period in their life. Have you ever rolled or twisted your ankle? You’re not alone. Ankle injuries are extremely common and not just among athletes. It is easy to twist or sprain your ankle while simply walking down the street or exercising at home.
In fact, in the United States alone, an estimated 23,000 people seek medical attention for an ankle injury every single day! One of the ways to help an ankle injury heal or prevent a new ankle injury is to support your ankle by wearing an ankle brace.
There are many different types of ankle braces. To get the best protection and support for your particular injury or problem you need to understand what options are available to you. In this article we will review and recommend an ankle stabilizer brace, a neoprene ankle support, and a compression ankle brace. We will also provide everything you need to know to choose an ankle foot brace that is right for you.
#1 – Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer
#2 – Ankle Support Brace, Breathable Neoprene Sleeve, Adjustable Wrap
- One size fits both feet and up to 11" in feet arch circumference.
- Protect the ankle and minimize the risk of injury. Perfect for chronic and acute ankle injury symptoms. Helps...
- Open heel design allows wide range of motion during activity and still provide support for the ankle tendons...
This compression ankle brace is our favorite of all of the neoprene ankle braces. Neoprene is a type of material that provides just the right level of compression. It is comfortable enough to wear during everyday activities or athletics. Compression speeds healing(1). This brace is perfect for those who need to support the ankle without compromising blood circulation. Instead of using ankle wraps, you can use neoprene ankle supports.
Reasons to Buy:
- Material allows you to maintain natural movement of the ankle.
- It works for any sport or personal exercise.
- Compression helps aid in healing to get over ankle injuries faster.
- Lightweight enough to wear with athletic shoes.
What We Liked:
- The fabric is perforated so it’s more breathable.
- It’s easy to hand wash to keep it fresh and clean.
- The brace is open in the heel so your foot can move more freely.
- Can be used on a daily basis and won’t wear out.
What We Didn’t Like:
- This brace is a bit bulky so you have to tie shoes loosely to make it fit.
- May have to order or size or two up as it tends to run small.
#3 – Ankle Brace Compression Support Sleeve
- Instant Support and Relief – You will feel the difference immediately with the Crucial Compression Ankle...
- Lightweight and Breathable – Some foot and ankle braces are too hot, too bulky, or impossible to get on. Why...
- Premium Quality – With unmatched support and durability, our ankle compression sleeves will take you...
If you are looking for an ankle brace that can provide support for a wide variety of injuries and ailments, look no further. This ankle support sleeve by Crucial Compression is for you. This ankle support brace works great for those recovering from an injury. It is also the best ankle brace for anyone suffering from heel spurs, tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis(2) or those who need arch support.
Reasons to Buy:
- This brace provides the support you need without slowing down healing.
- It relieves pain and swelling immediately so you can get back to normal activities sooner.
- The material is thin and breathable so it can be worn all day with virtually any shoe.
- It is built to last so it won’t lose its compression ability over time.
What We Liked:
- Some braces can make your feet get wet with sweat; this one allows air to flow through for a more comfortable feel.
- It offers more than just support. It delivers healing therapy to your entire ankle.
- Crucial Compression believes in this product so much that they offer a 100% guarantee for a full refund if you don’t like it for any reason.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Doesn’t compress enough for people with really thin ankles.
- May not deliver even compression to all body shapes and sizes.
Benefits of Using an Ankle Brace
Before medical technology allowed ankle braces to be widely available at an affordable price, doctors and physical therapists would use ace bandage ankle wraps to support athletes’ ankles. Although the ease of use has changed, the reasons for wearing a tight, supportive wrap around your ankle have stayed the same.
There are many benefits you can expect to enjoy from wearing an ankle brace. Some of the benefits of using an ankle brace, support, or stabilizer include:
- Recovery from Injury: An ankle brace allows you to control how much pressure or weight you place on an injured ankle. During the recovery period, you can continue to practice your sport or exercise in a more stable and controlled way by using an ankle brace. The brace prevents further damage and reduces the chances of developing arthritis or chronic pain at the injury site.
- Reduce Swelling and Pain: The compression therapy delivered by an ankle brace helps increase circulation around the site of an injury. This helps to reduce swelling and pain as well as improve healing times. Heal faster with less pain by using an ankle brace.
- Prevent New Injury: If you have experienced a litany of injuries to the ankle over the course of your athletic career, you may want to consider using an ankle brace regularly. An ankle brace will provide the support you need to prevent aggravating an old injury(3) or risking a new injury to your ankle. Stay in the game by preventing injury with an ankle brace.
- Avoid Scar Tissue Build Up: Did you know that scar tissue build up at the site of an injury can lead to chronic pain? Keep your ankle mobile and improve the range of motion(4) you have by performing physical therapy exercises with the support of an ankle brace. Note that you should seek the advice of your doctor or physical therapist on specific exercises that are appropriate for you.
- Increase Bodily Awareness: One of the ways ankle braces can be beneficial is by bringing conscious attention to the ankle. You become more aware of your ankle and how it moves and can be more thoughtful of how you apply pressure or move the joint. This heightened awareness serves as protection against injury or overuse.
Common Ankle Injuries
Ankle Sprain: The most common injury of the ankle is an ankle sprain. This injury occurs when you twist or roll your ankle in an awkward way. The ligaments surrounding the joint are stretched or torn during the unnatural turn, twist, or weight bearing. This stretching or tearing of ligaments is called an ankle sprain. We noted earlier that around 23,000 people seek medical attention for an ankle sprain every single day. Many of those people seek help at an emergency room with an average cost of over $1000! It pays to prevent ankle sprain injury in more ways than one.
- Ankle Strain: The ankle is the part of your body where the tibia and fibula met the talus of your foot. Those bones are attached to muscles by tendons. If these tendons are stretched or torn it is called an ankle strain. Overuse or sudden force trauma(5)to the ankle can lead to inflammation and injury of the tendons.
- Tendinitis: When tendons are swollen or inflamed you have a condition called tendinitis. If you overuse or over stretch the tendons of your ankle repeatedly over time, you may develop tendinitis. Wearing an ankle stabilizer brace can help reduce swelling and reduce the risks of further damage to the tendons.
- Achilles Tendon Tear: This is one of the most painful injuries of all of the common injuries to the ankle. The achilles tendon attaches your calf bone to your heel. With a sudden movement after standing still, the achilles tendon(6) can be completely ripped away from the bone. This injury often requires surgery to reattach the tendon. Your doctor may recommend a variety of athletic ankle braces to support the ankle during the recovery period.
- Stress Fractures: Stress fractures of the ankle are tiny cracks in the bones around your ankles. When the muscles around your foot and ankle are continually under strain, they get worn out. The bones receive the pressure to relieve overworked muscles. Stress fractures result after repeated impact to the bones.
- Ankle Instability: If an ankle sprain does not heal properly it can lead to chronic ankle instability. This is when the ankle easily gives out or rolls over during simple tasks like walking or even standing still. The ligaments never properly healed so the ankle feels loose or wobbly. People with ankle instability can support their ankles and avoid pain or severe injury by using an ankle brace.
Different Types of Ankle Braces
There are many different types of ankle braces available. You and your medical provider will decide which type of brace is right for you. In general, ankle braces are either rigid or flexible. Within those main categories, there are different types of materials and ways that the ankle brace is fastened.
- Lace up Ankle Brace: This is a semi-flexible brace that conforms tightly to the ankle and surrounding area. The laces allow for greater control over how the brace fits over each part of the covered foot and ankle. Lace up ankle braces are considered the best ankle brace for basketball after a study concluded that they reduce the incident of ankle injury to highschool basketball players.
- Rigid Ankle Braces: This kind of ankle brace has a hard outer shell that prevents the sideways motion associated with ankle injury. It is a good choice as an sprained ankle brace immediately following the injury. It limits the range of motion during that critical healing period.
- Soft Ankle Braces: A good preventative ankle brace for running is soft and somewhat flexible. These braces allow you to experience a full range of movement with the extra support and awareness that a brace provides. Compression ankle braces and copper ankle braces are commonly used to support healing while maintaining normal activity. These are also the frequent go-to type of running ankle brace.
Where to Buy an Ankle Brace
If you have experienced an ankle injury or feel that your ankle is unstable, you should seek advice from a qualified medical professional. They can recommend the type of ankle brace that will be the best kind of support for your particular condition.
They may also recommend a specific supplier for the type of ankle brace that you need. However, ankle braces are readily available to consumers through various retail channels.
Features to Look For When Shopping for an Ankle Brace
Some braces are highly recommended by physical therapists, athletic trainers, and orthopedic surgeons. What features for experts look for when recommending an active ankle brace? They want to see a unique combination of support, durability, and comfort. Material choice and the quality of the manufacturing are highly important.
Often, braces are great at supporting the ankle but can be terribly uncomfortable to wear. Look for braces made of material that will perform and hold up over time, while still being comfortable.
For example, the tongue of the MedSpec Stabilizer is made of a lightweight material called CoolFlex. It contours perfectly to the ankle and surrounding area. This same material is used inside the boot at the back, which provides increased comfort to the achilles tendon.
If you are shopping for an ankle support sleeve, check out what kind of material is used. It should be thin enough to wear under shoes and socks. Some material is moisture wicking to help your feet stay dry and comfortable.
You should also take a close look at how the brace is constructed. Small details make a big difference in fit and comfort. With a lace up brace, make sure the lace is attached to the tongue to keep it centered at all times.
If the stabilizing straps have finger loops at the end, that will help to secure the straps for an optimal fit.
Look for a lace up ankle brace, compression ankle brace, or any other kind of ankle brace that is manufactured to the highest quality standards. Many athletes and everyday ankle brace users prefer ankle braces that are made in the United States of America.
Superior material choices and manufacturing standards ensure a higher quality product. Top quality double stitching means a compression sleeve or lace up ankle brace will last, even if you wear it every single day.
The Problem with Hard Shell Ankle Braces
One of the problems with hard shell ankle braces is that they don’t allow for natural movement. Although this does protect your ankle, it can lead to injuries or problems in other areas of the body.
When you cannot move your ankle naturally while playing sports or exercising, other areas of your body will compensate for that or be at increased risk for injury.
Research published in The Journal of Athletic Training showed that wearing an athletic ankle brace increases the twisting force on the knee by 10%. This added force raises the potential for knee ligament injuries.
One way to overcome that risk to the knees is to use an elastic ankle brace that allows your ankle to move more naturally. Thankfully, there are braces available that fit that description and the Bodyprox is one of the best ankle braces that allows for flexible movement.
The Benefits of Compression Therapy
Compression therapy has been shown to be effective in combating pain, swelling, and even deep vein thrombosis. How does it work? It may seem counter-intuitive, but applying pressure to veins increases blood flow. The improved circulation helps reduce swelling and pain and speed healing.
The American Venous Forum says that this type of therapy is usually delivered to the user with a sleeve, sock, or stocking that is worn on the affected area. A compression ankle brace like this one allows you to harness the power of compression therapy with ease, anytime.
You will feel immediate support and relief when you put a compression ankle support brace on your ankle. The elastic ankle brace stabilizes and protects quickly and effectively by utilizing compression technology. It provides ankle support where you need it but speeds healing so you won’t always need it.
How to Use an Ankle Brace
On the other hand, if you wrap it or wear the ankle brace too tightly, you may constrict blood flow and cause bruising or swelling.
How to Wrap an Ankle for Support: When wrapping your ankle with an ace bandage, keep the following tips from UPMC in mind.
- Begin the wrap several inches above the injured ankle.
- Start the wrap on the inside of the leg.
- Make two wraps around the ankle for stability.
- Continue wrapping around the foot and ankle in a figure eight pattern.
- Use Velcro or a fastener at the end to secure the wrap.
- When finished, the wrap should go above and below the joint.
- Make sure the wrap is tight but not too tight. If you feel numbness or tingling, unwrap it and try again.
How to Put on an Ankle Brace: These instructions are provided by an orthopedic brace supplier for a lace ankle brace but the same general principles apply to braces that do not have laces.
- Put on an athletic sock before wearing an ankle brace.
- Loosen all straps and/or laces.
- Insert foot inside the boot portion of the brace and make sure the tongue of the brace is on the top of your foot
- Put your ankle at a 90 degree angle and hold it there while you tighten the straps and laces.
- Bring the inside strap forward across the top of the foot and under the heel and secure it to the opposite side of the ankle.
- Repeat this process for the outside strap.
- Use the finger loops and pull up and away firmly on both straps and reapply straps if necessary.
- Secure the elastic cuff closure over the tied laces and secured straps.
How Long Should I Wear an Ankle Brace After a Sprain
Talk to your healthcare provider to determine how long you should wear an ankle brace following an injury. In the beginning, the main job of the ankle brace is to support the ankle from further injury and to promote healing.
Much like a cast holds a set broken bone in the correct place to heal correctly, an ankle brace can ensure that the ligaments of your ankle are not strained further in the period following the injury.
How long does healing take? That depends on the person and the extent of the injury. You may have to take it easy and wear the brace for a period of 2-8 weeks.
Once your ankle is healed and you are able to bear weight without a brace, it may be time to take it off completely. However, your doctor may encourage you to switch to a brace that is more conducive to your lifestyle and activity of choice.
Wearing a more flexible brace may allow you to continue participating in the activities of your choice with a reduced risk of re-injury to the ankle.
Ankle injuries are one of the most common sports or exercise-related occurrences that require medical attention. If you are like the millions of people before you who have experienced a debilitating ankle injury or pain, consider using an ankle brace. It may provide just the right relief and support you need to maintain your active lifestyle more securely.