Among the most common -- and most debilitating and nagging -- kinds of injuries anybody has to deal with are those involving the ankle. If you're searching for an ankle brace you probably know this already.
When it's sprained, twisted, or just banged up, chances are it hurts like hell. A year ago I sprained my ankle playing soccer, and although minor, the swelling and pain was intense. Athletes -- and active people in general -- are especially susceptible to ankle problems, whether from running, jumping, or kicking a football incorrectly, which happens to be what happened to me!
And when that happens, you will probably end up looking for a sturdy ankle brace to alleviate some of the pain. Ankle braces can help avoid injuries such as sprained or twisted ankles, they keep the foot and ankle straight and supported.
These are not to be confused with other ankle gear come in many different configurations, from ankles sleeves made from stretchy neoprene, to ankle wraps made from fabric. These are designed to lower the risk of hurting your ankle, but are not strong enough to help you recover from an ankle injury.
Should you find yourself already suffering from an ankle injury, ankle braces, NOT ankle sleeves or wraps provide some stability and support as you recuperate. You may find yourself wearing one for several weeks to keep you from re-injuring yourself, especially as you try to stay active and mobile and wait for swelling to go down.
The Best Ankle Braces for Sport Injuries
Quick Top 5 Ankle Brace Cheat Sheet
ASO Ankle Stabilizer (Best Budget Pick)
Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace (Editor's Choice)
Why Not Ankle Wrap?
A more well-known method to sport enthusiasts comparing to ankle brace is ankle wrap. But why should we choose ankle brace over ankle wrap? What is the difference?
An ankle wrap works as a tape around your ankle. It fits your body perfectly with many ways for customization, and can be used with various different strengths. However, there are several flaws to this customized support that an ankle wrap is believed to be able to give:
Firstly, the wrapping needs to be done by a professional – preferably an athletic trainer. There are many people who claim they know how to do it, or have seen it done many times, or even have been wrapped themselves, but do not know exactly why we use different strips and which is the right one for each situation, how to apply them or in which order.
Secondly, the wrap only stays tight on your ankle for a short time. After a while, with sweat and movements, the wrap will be loosened, leading to reduction on its support.
Thirdly, an ankle wrap used for unstable joint without proper rehabilitation does little to no help for people to strengthen their body to full potential, not to mention it is quite common to have allergic reactions to the skin with these wraps.
You can read about the difference between a sleeve, wrap and brace in this comparison. The comparison was based on knee sleeves, but the same science applies to ankles 🙂
The Traits You Should Look For
Not much different from what an ankle wrap is said to provide, an ankle brace helps accelerate healing and prevent unwanted movement, as well as reduce the risk of reinjury. However, wearing an ankle brace has its own pros and cons, too:
- Easy to fit
- Washable: can be worn frequently
- Easy to be pulled tight
- Convenient: doesn’t require professional knowledge
- Continuous compression and warm joint
- Hardly prevent unusual movements
- When used improperly, may cause damage
- Less customizable (can’t be used with thumbs, fingers…)
- Can only work on specific joints and not large areas of the body
Choosing an ankle brace that fits your body perfectly is very important, since wearing loosely fitted ones may cause more harm than good.
To measure your ankle size, you can use a tape measure. Place it about 5 cm above of your medical malleolus, the following measurements correspond to size:
- 20 – 22 cm: size 1
- 22 – 23.5 cm: size 2
- 23.5 – 25 cm: size 3
- 25 – 26.5 cm: size 4
You should also contact a professional (preferably a trainer or a doctor) before buying these braces, just so you can make sure the product is the right type for you.
Types Of Ankle Brace
There are more than just one type of ankle braces, to make it more versatile for people to use. The most popular ones are lace-up, post-injury and rigid braces. Rigid braces offer the highest level of preventative and post injury support while maintaining the full range of motion to perform at the most competitive level.
The type of ankle brace will also depend on the type of sport you play, and what feels comfortable.
- Runnning Sprain - Lace Up gives the most flexibility and comfort
- Volleyball or Basketball Sprain - Rigid Stirrup Braces are a recommended
Lace-up braces are the most affordable preventative support without sacrificing comfort or freedom of movement for athletes at all levels. The prices also range from low-end to high-end, in which the low-end types can be easily found at sporting stores, while high-end types needs to be ordered online or through medical supply companies. With severe cases, you can order for a custom fit made by a physician.
Lace-up braces provides inversion and eversion control without conceding comfort. They are often used by patients with sub-acute ankle sprains, chronic ankle instabilities or prophylactic use. Lace-up braces are made mostly from a nylon-vinyl material, and are designed to be tightened to the user’s comfort level. Their structure gives more flexibility than rigid braces.
On the contrary, post-injury type of braces are very rigid. They are most usually used to help drive out swelling and prevent inversion and eversion. These are only used with relatively severe injuries and aren’t designed for functional activities. Post-injury braces have two plastic air-filled or gel-filled panels that hug each side of the leg. There is a hinge that allows plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.
There are two types of rigid braces, namely stirrup and lace-up. These braces are most commonly used in unification with rehabilitation of an injury.
Rigid stirrup braces has anatomically designed shells that help prevent the ankle from rolling in or out, while still allow the ankle to move up and down. The stirrup type has a high level of protection and is often used in volleyball and basketball, since these two sports require lots of jumping.
Rigid lace-up braces also have two plastic inserts on each side of the ankle, which help preventing inversion and eversion. These braces may come with or without straps to wrap around the ankle for extra support.
Our Top Picks
ASO Ankle Stabilizer (Editor's Choice)
Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace (Price/Performance Choice)
Shock Doctor 851 Ultra Wrap Laced Ankle Brace
Shock Doctor 851 Ultra Wrap Laced Ankle Brace provides medium stability and support for moderate to major ligament sprains, muscle strains and unstable joints. It works with a multi-directional adjustable strap stability system that provides lateral and medial support without taping. This product also provides maximum protection with 3 performance levels.
This product comes with comfortable low profile lacing loops and pre-curved tongue, with anatomical foot bed and no-slip gripping pattern. The convenient finger tabs offer easy grip pull when fitting, and last but not least, the product possess an adjustable compression fit for therapeutic warmth and healing.
ASO Ankle Stabilizer
The ASO Ankle Stabilizer is the most often recommended of all ankle braces, and there are enough reasons for it to be loved by that many. The stabilizing straps form complete figure-8 helps protect and support your ankle, no matter how it’s shaped. The ballistic nylon boot also provides superior durability and strength, while the elastic cuff closure enhances support and keeps laces and stabilizing straps secured. The design is also bilateral, which allows each size to fit left or right foot, and any type of shoe.
The middle of the laces are stitched onto the front part of the brace. This helps keep the laces even and help keep things lined up. When you lace up the brace, you can see the first layer of protection is pretty firm and comfortable. This lace up part of the brace prevents over flexing your foot up towards the sky and down to the ground.
The figure-8 straps reinforce the up/down resistance that is originally provided for by the lace up part of the brace. The velcro on the side for the straps is on the brace in a way that helps you align the straps to the proper position and same way every time. Not only do these straps greatly reinforce the up/down resistance, because of the way the straps wrap around your foot and back to the same side, these straps will work to resist the "rolling" or eversion/ inversion action that leads sprains.
Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace
Zamst A2-DX is made with a dual molded exterior support structure called Exo-Grid (Xternal) which provides enhanced, anatomically correct medial and lateral stability for all ankle sprains, especially high ankle sprains by preventing the ankle from rolling in and out.
The i-Fit also helps the product fit perfectly on your left or right foot. The manufacturer enhanced the overall comfort of this product by designing the rear entry system within the individualized fit. There are two adjustable fasteners in the rear that allow you to tighten or loosen to your personal preference.
The individualized fit can be enhanced through the two additional buffers provided with the product. These buffers can be placed around the high ankle or the inner and outer anklebone to enhance overall comfort.The X-Strap stabilizer provide a figure-8 taping technique that secures the ankle in place, much like the ASO ankle stabilizer.
This strapping technique is designed to help prevent the ankle from rolling medially, laterally, and anteriorly. The plantar strap and cross straps are made of an anti-migration material that prevents the foot from slipping while in the shoe. This anti-migration adds to the stabilization strength of the X Strap.
Liomor Ankle Support Breathable Ankle Brace
The Liomor Ankle Brace fits with crisscross reinforcement straps which offer strong support and stabilization for the ankle tendons and joints. The design is focused on minimizing the risk of injury especially during strenuous activities and relieving edema and symptoms associated with acute injuries, which is ideal for sprains, tendonitis and arthritis.
The product is made of high-elastic and moisture wicking material. The interlayer with perforation design allows oxygen circulation to eliminate odor and prevent bacteria from breeding, which keeps our feet dry and cool.The open heel design allows wide range of motion during activity, but still provide support for the ankle tendons and joints. Premium velcro do not fluff and loose easily when used repeatedly.
McDavid 199 Lace-up Ankle Brace with Support Stays
The McDavid #199 Lace-up Ankle Brace is one of McDavid’s top-selling laced ankle braces, with spring steel medical grade stays for solid and reliable support for your ankle. The product is made of highly breathable 2-layer polyester/vinyl mesh.
The #199 is extremely durable with its reduced-weight system that allows us to improve mobility. Its ventilated tongue and sewn-in arch support also adds comfort for wearing. It fits both feet and also provides maximum protection.There are many sizes so you need to measure your ankle carefully before placing your order. Choosing the wrong size may cause discomfort or damage when using the product.
Choose the ASO Ankle Stabilizer if you are looking for the best ankle brace. It sells at a reasonably cheap price and great performance that can rival professional taping, not to mention three ways to secure your ankle making it feel super stabilized.
If you have seriously sprained your ankle and really need that extra Support/Prevention while still wanting Comfort, choose Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace. It may seem a bit pricey for some people, but the money’s worth it. With the same figure-8 structure, Zamst's ankle brace fits snugly and securely over your ankle. It’s worth every penny you are going to spend on, period.
For jobs requiring more standing and less moving, the Shock Doctor 851 Ultra Wrap Laced Ankle Brace would be the perfect choice. It not only provides all necessary support that you need but it also eliminates chafing, due to the fact that it is intended to be worn over a sock.
The Liomor Ankle Support Breathable Ankle Brace is easiest to wash and put on. With injuries concerning the top/front more than the back/bottom, this ankle brace does better than any other and with a very nice price.
McDavid 199 Lace-up Ankle Brace with Support Stays is intended for weak ankles that needs firm support. We recommend you steer clear of the McDavid #199 as we found it cumbersome to adjust and it doesn't sit very tight.
A Summary And Wrap Up
A Summary And Wrap Up
Out of the five products, we can safely conclude that the ASO Ankle Stabilizer is the best choice in general. With a reasonably cheap price and great performance that can rival professional taping, it undoubtedly wins the race. There is only so much reasons that it got loved by many.
Choosing an ankle brace is as important as choosing shoes, so make sure you spend enough time and research as well as conduct professionals before buying one, for the best investment possible.