How to Choose An Ankle Brace For Sports Or Recovery?

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Ankle injuries are common. And they can happen fast and in many different ways. Luckily, an ankle brace helps support your ankle throughout your recovery. But what kind of brace do you need? There’s lace-up, sleeves, higher ankle braces, and lower ankle braces. Choosing a brace can be very confusing.

Here’s the lowdown on how to figure out what type of ankle brace you need for your condition or injury.

Ankle injuries are common. And they can happen fast and in many different ways. Luckily, an ankle brace helps support your ankle throughout recovery. But what kind of brace do you need? There’s lace-up, sleeves, higher ankle braces, and lower ankle braces. Choosing a brace can be very confusing.

Here’s the lowdown on how to figure out what type of ankle brace you need for your condition or injury.

The Function of an Ankle Brace

First, what can an ankle brace offer you during your recovery? Benefits and functions of ankle braces include:

  • Supporting the ankle joint via compression, stabilization, and warmth.
  • Preventing the ankle from rolling to either side during activity.
  • Preventing further injury or damage.
  • Improving performance.
  • Increasing your awareness of the injured or previously injured joint.

What Should I Consider Before Buying an Ankle Brace?

Ankle braces have many benefits (as outlined above) following an injury. They help protect the area while it heals. Once you have a clear view of what function you want your brace to offer, you will need to consider a few more things before committing to an ankle brace purchase

What type of brace do you need?

  • What size is right for you?
  • Is certain material better than others? Or do you have a preference on material type?
  • What is your budget?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to buy. And if you’re unsure of the answer to these questions, keep on reading!

Type of Ankle Braces

Sleeves or Elastic Support

These are light variations of braces and are better used for minor aches or pains. Elastic supports, or criss-cross style braces are ideal for stiff, weak, or sore ankles. These types of braces can be used on and off - or as needed for sport and activities. They provide slight support, while allowing the ankle to move through its full range.

These braces are ideal to prevent injury or to provide a light support while recovering.

Straps Or Wraps

These ankle braces are similar to sleeves but provide an extra level of support as they are usually adjustable. They all use some sort of criss-cross figure-8 strapping style, reproducing the most common ankle taping technique. This type of braces provide compression, fully adjustable by playing with the tension in the straps, without being too bulky. These braces require to spend some time finding the perfect adjustment.

Lace Up

These types of ankle braces are designed for individual athletes - meaning you can adjust the lacings to your individual preference or need. In other words, they have more of a custom feel to them. They are also convenient to remove and put on. Lace-ups are also convenient to wear with any footwear. If you’ve suffered a sprain or strain, this type is an excellent choice.

Post Injury

While lace-up can also be a post-injury brace, this style has more support immediately following an injury. Usually, plastic panels line either side - offering you ample support and stabilization. Some varieties may include a hinge to allow for dorsiflexion (backward motion) and plantarflexion (forward motion) movements of the foot.

However, most of the time these types of braces are used to guide healing. They aren’t necessarily a good option for getting back to sport or other activities. These types of braces essentially help guide recovery and are often very rigid.

Rigid

And types come even more rigid than post-injury styles. Although, most of these brace styles overlap with one another. These types of braces include lace-up variations, stirrup types, and air casts.

What Type of Ankle Brace Do You Need?

For A More Custom Fit Ankle Brace

If you desire a more custom fit, go for a lace-up style. This style may further be used when easing back into your regular activities and sports. And as aforementioned, it’s great for sprains and strains in and around the ankle joint.

For Severe Ankle Injuries

If you desire a more custom fit, go for a lace-up style. This style may further be used when easing back into your regular activities and sports. And as aforementioned, it’s great for sprains and strains in and around the ankle joint.

For more severe ankle injuries, consider a more rigid or post-injury style and fit. You’ll want more support and stabilization - which is offered by a more solid brace. Some styles are adjustable or come with inserts and have panels along the sides of them. These may also be preferred immediately after an injury.

For Healed or Mostly Healed Ankle Injuries

Elastic supports or wraps offer support after an injury has healed or mostly healed. If you’re concerned about re-injury during activity, you may choose to wear this type of brace.

Thus, the elastic supports, wraps, or sleeve may be ideal for prevention of a recurring injury as well. They support a weak ankle. In the meantime, you can work on building up strength off the playing field. Slowly you may wean yourself off of using a brace at all (which would be ideal in a healthy and active joint).

For Chronic conditions

We should note that for more chronic conditions, braces or sleeves may need to be worn frequently to ease pain levels or prevent increased pain levels and problems.

Sleeves, wraps, or elastic brace styles may further help alleviate swelling and fluid build-up via compression. It all comes down to what you need. Consider asking your doctor or physical therapist what type is best for you and your specific condition. They can help you narrow it down and get you what you need.

Determining Your Size

For size, you want it to fit snug - but not so snug that you cut off circulation. The lace-up braces you can easily adjust. Yet, you should still check out the sizing chart to determine exactly what size to order. We also recommend conducting a little bit of research on how others found individual braces fit. For instance, does it run large? What do the reviews say?

Are Brand Name Ankle Braces Better?

This one may come down to your budget. Bigger brands tend to cost more. Yet, they have the research and experience behind them so you know you’re likely getting a brace that is durable and supportive.

Generic brands, on the other hand, cost less and sometimes, offer the same or similar functions. If you plan on wearing your ankle brace for a short period of time (such as a mild sprain), a generic and more affordable option may work best. If you need the support for a more chronic condition - like arthritis - you may want to invest a little more in your brace.

While protection and support are important after an injury, you don’t want to cause further decreased strength due to an external factor. How does this happen? The brace offers support when you need it. But when used for the long-term, a brace may create weak muscles. Instead of actively working these muscles through activities, they are restricted by the brace. Ultimately, you use them less. And this leads to decreased strength. Decreased strength may lead to a recurring injury - which is likely the last thing you want.

Ankle Brace Materials

Hydramesh Fabric

  • Breathable
  • Comfortable
  • Supportive

Neoprene Fabric

  • Flexible
  • Soft
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Retains body heat to keep the area warm

Lycra Fabric (Spandex)

  • Flexible
  • Stretchy
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable

When checking out braces from Back To Sport, look out for latex-free varieties if allergies are a concern.

FAQs

Is there a difference between buying at my local pharmacy versus buying from a more specialized store?

Many pharmacies offer reliable and durable brace options. However, their selection may be limited, and you may not find the exact brace you need. Specialized stores - like Back To Sport - offer more options, so you can find what you need and get the most suitable product for your injury or condition.

How tight should an ankle brace fit?

It should fit snugly. But it shouldn’t be uncomfortably tight. You want it tight enough that it provides some compression - but loose enough that it’s breathable.

Are ankle braces washable?

Yes, most ankle braces are washable. Many individuals wear their braces playing sports - thus hygiene is important. Most braces come with specific instructions on how to wash them. Often, you must remove the straps or fasteners. Many types can be washed with warm water and soap. Yet, most types can’t go in the dryer. Air dry is best, so make sure you leave the appropriate amount of time to allow it to fully dry before using again.

When should I wear my ankle brace?

If it’s for prevention, wear the ankle brace during your sport or activity. If it’s for a chronic condition, the ankle brace may be worn throughout your day-to-day - and the same goes for rehab after an injury.

Our Ankle Brace Collection

Back To Sport offers a wide variety of ankle braces to suit your needs and your budget. We work with some of the best brands in the industry, providing you with durable and supportive braces you can rely on. With any brace, we have a 30-day exchange policy. If sizing isn’t quite right, you can simply exchange for a better fit. We highly recommend you check out the descriptions and sizing charts of the brace before you order it.


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