However, in choosing an ankle brace, there are several factors to ponder. We provide some guidance on these questions below.
The essential role of an ankle support is to prevent ankle inversion or eversion movements that can place too much strain on ankle ligaments and tendons. If this happens, the result can be over-stretched, torn or even completely ruptured ligaments, or an ankle sprain.
Ankle braces can also be used by individuals with unstable or weak ankles. They will support the structures of the ankle and proactively help to prevent ankle sprains or other injuries.Ankle braces will function as back-up supports for the ankle ligaments by restricting ankle movement enough to reduce the risk of ankle inversion or eversion.
However, with all ankle supports, there is a trade off between the amount of support and protection for the ankle and the range of motion & wearing comfort that they offer. For the athlete (or anyone else wearing the brace) the trick is to find a brace that he or she can use to run or jump without too much interference while receiving adequate protection from ankle injuries.
Types Of Ankle Brace Design
There are essentially four types of ankle support design available on the market today.They are ankle sleeves, ankle braces with straps, stirrup braces and lace up braces. We will briefly discuss each of these designs and their respective pros and cons below. In general, the more comfortable the brace, the least support it will offer. We will start with the most comfortable design option and work from there.
This is the simplest and most comfortable ankle brace design. Unfortunately, it also offers the least support and will leave you relatively unprotected from possible ankle injuries.
Ankle sleeves will however provide some compression and warmth for your ankle. These may be useful if you have previously suffered an injury such as a sprain. Your concern will then be to keep your ankle ligaments warm and supple to mitigate the risk that they may be overstretched, torn or damaged in some other way.
An ankle sleeve may also be useful if you are suffering from generally sore and tired ankles. The compression from a sleeve will enhance blood flow through the joint and mitigate soreness and tiredness.
Avoid using a sleeve if you have severe ankle instability or have suffered a sprain (even a mild one). In addition, if you choose to wear an ankle sleeve, be careful not to wear one that is too tight.
Ankle Braces With Straps
These use cloth straps that you wrap around your ankle when donning the brace.The straps usually have a figure 8 design to lock the heel in a manner similar to a taping job.They will provide superior support to ankle sleeves at a generally reasonable price.
The drawbacks of ankle straps are:
They can sometimes be complex to put on;
You can easily fall into the trap of tightening the straps too much, which can restrict blood circulation.
If you can overcome the disadvantages noted above, the braces can be effective against mild to moderate ankle sprains and instability.
Stirrup Ankle Braces
With stirrup braces, your ankle is fixed between two plastic pads. The pads are then inflated to cushion your ankle and increase wearing comfort.
This type of brace is a step up from the ankle strap brace in terms of rigidity and are generally not used by athletes for prophylactic purposes (i.e. to prevent ankle sprains) during competition or training. Instead, they are usually used in similar situations as walking braces i.e. to stabilize the ankle in cases of grade 2 or 3 sprains or other severe ankle injuries.
Lace Up Ankle Braces
These are generally the most rigid and supportive ankle braces on the market today but are usually very uncomfortable to wear. They are appropriate for stabilizing the ankle to allow healing of severe ankle sprains. However, they restrict range of motion too much to be feasible for use in competition or training.
Hybrid Ankle Braces
We should note that, as with knee or wrist braces for example, many of the ankle braces you will encounter on the market are actually hybrids of one type or another. They will combine the features of two or more of the design alternatives above to get the optimal trade-off between comfort on the one hand and support/stability on the other.
Some General Tips On Choosing A Brace
If your ankle brace has laces, pay careful attention to the length of the laces. They should not be too long or short. Otherwise, you may not be able to tie the laces properly and the brace may not work as effectively as the manufacturers intended.
Your ankle brace will come with detailed sizing instructions, and charts in some cases. Please follow these carefully to ensure to choose the correct size. If the brace is too large, it may not provide sufficient support for your injury. If it is too small, you will not be able to wear it comfortably for long and as a result you will not receive the therapeutic benefit you are seeking.
When Should The Brace Be Worn?
You should wear your ankle support during everyday activities if possible (e.g. at work). If you have previously suffered an ankle injury and want to protect your ankle, you should also wear your brace during sports activity. This is especially the case when engaging in sports that require lateral movements and sharp changes in speed or direction.
If you have any questions about the features of any of the braces shown below, please ask and our customer service personnel will be happy to help.
However, if you have questions about the ankle injuries or ankle pain you may be experiencing, we would suggest consulting with your doctor or other healthcare advisor.