The ankle brace is an important tool doctors use to help patients recover from ankle injuries. Just as important, they can supply the additional joint strength needed to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
Unfortunately, ankle sprains are an all-too-common occurrence. They can happen anywhere at any time and – due to the extraordinary stresses brought to bear on the ankle joint – recovery can sometimes be a long drawn-out process.
But strains aren’t the only thing that can go wrong with an ankle. Over time, ankle joints can be weakened by osteo or rheumatoid arthritis. And it’s not unusual for athletes to dislocate their ankle during the heat of competition. Below we’ve brought together the 10 best ankle braces for 2020.
1. BioSkin Trilok Ankle Brace
The BioSkin Trilok Ankle Brace provides robust plantar fascia support coupled with rock-solid ankle support. The combination protects you from a wide variety of potential injuries including ankle turns and repetitive stress injuries, including plantar fasciitis.
What we like: This is a great choice if you have repetitive stress issues and an equally good choice for those with arthritis. We appreciate how easy and intuitive the brace is to use. We also appreciate the outstanding arch support.
The band envelopes your arch providing uplift and ensuring the plantar fascia has the support needed to do its job. The upper portion of the brace envelops your ankle with wide, Velcro-secured straps. And the whole mechanism slips into a standard pair of dress or running shoes.
Flaws: It’s pretty expensive. And though it’s an outstanding all-around ankle brace it’s still difficult to justify that price point.
2. McDavid Ankle Brace
Similar in appearance to the BioSkin brace the McDavid Ankle Brace is actually a tad more involved. It’s intended for those who’ve experienced ankle injuries or who have notable issues related to degenerative conditions like arthritis. Unraveling the McDavid brace reveals just how seriously the company takes the issue of ankle support.
What we like: If you have issues with Achilles tendinitis this is certainly a brace you’ll want to consider. The figure 6 strapping configuration is intended to mimic that of athletic tape.
We like that the front of the brace laces from top to bottom so you can achieve just the right fit and comfort level. And that the brace completely envelopes the Achilles and heel.
Flaws: It’s not an ankle brace for the athletically inclined. By that we mean that if you wear it playing tennis several times a week it will start to lose its composure after a couple of weeks.
3. Bracoo Ankle Brace w/Dual Spring Stabilizers
The Bracoo Ankle Brace embraces a simple ‘H’ pattern that folds up around your ankle at one end and envelopes your arch at the other. Once the arch support is in place two straps are pulled up tight and connected to the upper half with sturdy Velcro attachments.
What we like: The neoprene/nylon/spandex weave is comfortable and forgiving. While the discreet metal splints integrated into each side of the upper ensure joint stability.
We also appreciate the open heel that allows for a generous range of motion. On the whole the brace is very breathable, light and durable.
Flaws: That open heel indicates this is not a brace for those dealing with Achilles tendinitis. That’s not so much a flaw as it is a simple fact.
4. RiptGear Ankle Brace for Men and Women
The major difference between this and the just-profiled Bracoo Ankle Brace is that this brace foregoes the integrated metal ankle supports in favor of slightly more robust Velcro strapping. Other than that, they both sport the ‘H’-shaped design that makes putting them on and taking them off so simple.
What we like: You can strap up this puppy and hit the gym with a high degree of confidence. Or put it on before you hit the trail with the kids or grandkids and you won’t have to worry about turning an ankle.
There is no denying this brace provides a comfortable, rock-solid hold while still allowing for plenty of range of motion. It’s also reasonably priced.
Flaws: This one also features that open heel, which means it’s not for those with Achilles issues. Also, it can be a little trickier than some other braces when it comes to finding a comfort zone.
5. OrthoSleeve FS6 Compression Foot Sleeve
Those who suffer from plantar fasciitis know the shooting pain that often accompanies it. Fortunately, the OrthoSleeve FS6 Compression Foot Sleeve exists to save the day. The support here is truly outstanding. You can feel the upward motion in your arch the minute you slip it on. And that support doesn’t waver even after hours on your feet.
What we like: The FS6 is a true compression sleeve that fits neatly into any standard pair of shoes and can disappear under your dress or athletic socks if you wish. The moisture wicking fabric also keeps your feet cool and dry while discouraging odors.
Flaws: Be careful to keep them out of the washer and dryer unless you want to ruin them. Hand wash and air dry only.
6. Med Spec ASO
If you’ve suffered from a high ankle sprain or are dealing with Achilles tendinitis consider the Med Spec ASO Ankle Brace. This brace is often recommended by physical therapists and trainers because of its intense ankle support, closed heel and comfortable figure 8 construction.
What we like: The lace is fixed to the tongue to ensure it remains centered at all times. While the stability straps have finger loops that help you take a firm grasp. It’s highly breathable, extremely durable and features a lace up design that enables you to fine tune the fit to your particular needs.
The Med Spec ASO slips easily into all standard footwear and has low visibility seams that prevent irritation. Overall, it’s well-made, compatible with either right or left feet and available in black or white.
Flaws: The downside of the lacing is that it takes a lot longer to find the right fit with laces than it does with Velcro.
7. Zamst A2-DX Strong Support Ankle Brace
Those suffering from recurring ankle problems or who have experienced a broken or dislocated ankle need real support. Like the kind supplied by the Zamst A2-DX Strong Support Ankle Brace. This aptly named brace provides twin stabilizers on each side of the ankle that keep things properly aligned. This allows the joint time to heal properly and prevents a recurrence of the injury.
What we like: This is an ankle brace after the heart of the active person. The A2-DX does not interfere with mobility to any significant degree. Which is quite a trick in its own right. The design also provides generous arch support.
The combination of support, comfort and flexibility is first-rate. So if you’re looking for an ankle brace that’s certain to keep everything properly aligned and can be worn to the gym, here it is.
Flaws: It’s too much for someone who just wants to bolster the strength of their ankle a bit. Not for those with Achilles tendinitis. It’s also pretty expensive.
8. Crucial Compression Foot & Ankle Compression Sleeves
Compression sleeve ankle braces slip on like a sock and take up residence between the arch and the upper ankle joint. They’re typically light, stretchy and provide just enough support to allow you to go about your business without worrying about a nuisance sprain. Many older folks wear these during any type of vigorous exercise or activity as a matter of course. And most doctors agree that’s a good idea.
What we like: The Crucial Compression Foot & Ankle Compression Sleeve is comfortable, highly breathable and provides arch and Achilles support. In addition, there’s plenty of ankle support and it’s available at a very agreeable price.
Flaws: While most people will find it more than adequate for everyday activities, if you’re recovering from a serious injury you may want something more formidable.
9. SNEINO Ankle Brace
The Sneino Ankle Brace is purpose-built to provide firm lateral support for ankles weakened by injury, repetitive use or degenerative conditions like arthritis. A weakened ankle is far more likely to twist and turn in an unnatural manner and the Sneino Ankle Brace can prevent that from happening.
What we like: This is a good brace for people who’ve experienced traumatic injury or whose ankle joints are under assault from age-related maladies.
So, if you’ve suffered ankle injuries in the past but want to stay active the Sneino Ankle Brace should help. Hiking, bike riding, aerobics or going for a jog with the dog are all back on the table. The reasonable price is also a plus.
Flaws: Our only quibble has more to do with the marketing for this brace than the brace itself. That quibble concerns company claims that this is a great brace for those suffering from Achilles tendinitis. With its open heel that’s not really the case.
10. SB Sox Compression Ankle Brace
Sometimes you don’t need rigid plates sandwiching your ankle joint. You just need a bit more support because the years are adding up and you’re not willing to forego your active lifestyle. And why should you? The SB Sox Compression Ankle Brace is a comfortable, lightweight piece of gear.
What we like: It slips on easily, provides arch, heel and ankle support and is fashioned from moisture wicking fabric that keeps you cool and dry. It also encourages proper blood circulation even when you’re inactive. You can also pop it in the washer when dirty.
All in all the SB Sox Compression Brace will allow you to engage in your favorite physical pursuits without the specter of painful ankle turns looming over the proceedings.
Flaws: Hard to find flaws here. It’s a simple device that works as advertised. If we were to nitpick we might point to the lack of color options.
Who Would Someone Need an Ankle Brace?
There are a lot of reasons why a person might need an ankle brace. Some are related to injury, others to chronic health conditions. The following are the most common reasons.
Sprained ankles – A sprained ankle (1) can occur when running, hiking or simply walking down the street and encountering an uneven piece of pavement. They’re one of the most common type of injury and happen to people of all ages. Typically an ankle sprain occurs when the foot lands awkwardly and rolls underneath the ankle joint. This type of injury can range from mildly annoying to extremely painful. Ankle braces can be very helpful in rehabbing this type of injury.
Broken or dislocated ankles – If you’re a fan of sports highlights you’re familiar with those broken or dislocated ankle videos where the announcer states with an ashen face “We have to warn you, the following video may be disturbing to some people.” And disturbing it is. Whether you’re a pro athlete or not a dislocated ankle can be pass-out painful and as can a broken ankle. Either one is a major trauma that will take months to recover from. And both will require the wearing of an ankle brace for most or all of that time. In addition, anytime thereafter that a person wants to engage in intense physical activity they’ll also need to be sure they’re wearing proper ankle protection.
Achilles tendinitis – Achilles tendinitis (2) – sometimes called ‘Achilles heel’ – is typically the result of repetitive stress placed on the achilles tendon by running, walking or jogging. This is an overuse injury that sometimes happens when a person suddenly decides to get in shape and starts using muscles that had long been dormant. Achilles tendinitis is characterized by pain at the back of the ankle joint and heel. This can lead a person to try and compensate by changing their normal gait. Which by itself can often lead to other injuries. Compression ankle braces are often recommended for Achilles tendinitis.
Plantar fasciitis – Plantar fasciitis (3) is a condition named after the plantar fascia tendon – the large tendon that runs lengthwise through the ‘arch’ of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is the result of this tendon becoming inflamed, typically by overuse. But also sometimes because a person is overweight or because they have recently changed their running routine and started running on hard surfaces. Poorly constructed footwear can also result in plantar fasciitis because it does not provide adequate arch support. Compression ankle braces are often recommended to help treat this condition.
How We Ranked
Compression braces are typically used by those who just need to buttress the integrity of their ankle joint a bit. When it comes to more supportive ankle braces you typically have your choice of rigid side plates or a lace-style braces. In most cases the lace-style ankle brace tends to be less restrictive than that which uses the rigid support plates down the sides. Our interest was in finding braces which – regardless of which type of support they offered – did so effectively and with minimal hassle.
Most ankle braces offer either Velcro (4) closures or lace closures. Velcro closures are much easier to use and offer outstanding firmness and adjustability. Their downside is that, if used regularly, they tend to wear out faster than laces. When ranking the ankle braces on our list we put both closure types through the testing wringer and chose only those that enabled a firm, reliable hold.
With ankle braces durability is almost entirely a function of build quality. A lot of ankle braces look good and when you slip them on the first time they may even feel like they’re up to the job. Some, however, start breaking down almost immediately. Stitching begins to pull apart, the discount Velcro used in the closure becomes flattened and ineffective after a few uses, or the material begins to stretch or otherwise lose its integrity. We had our testers wear each ankle brace on multiple occasions and run the performance gauntlet in order to weed out the phonies.
The ankle brace is going to wrap around a good portion of the foot. Which means it’s going to be susceptible to foot odors to the same degree your socks will be. Not only that but a dirty ankle brace can play host to bacteria and cause irritation of the skin (5). Therefore, it’s important that a good ankle brace be low maintenance and easy to clean. Most braces will come with clear and simple cleaning instructions. If a particular brace did not offer common sense cleaning instructions it did not make our list.
Opting for the cheapest ankle brace is rarely the wisest course of action. The determining factor should instead be ‘value’: that elusive combination of quality and affordability that’s often discussed but hard to quantify. Essentially, if we encountered a pair of ankle braces that provided basically the same type of support and the same build quality we opted for the less expensive one, simply because it represents a better value. As is the case with most things, however, you often get what you pay for with ankle braces. So sometimes it only made sense to choose the more expensive brace because it did a better job.
Ankle braces can provide necessary support for weakened joints. Tremendous pressure is brought to bear on the ankle joint during even the most mundane activity (6). Ankle braces at their most basic are designed to help your body deal with these forces as you age, or when recovering from repetitive stress or traumatic injury. If a person has a tendency to turn their ankle on uneven surfaces a compression ankle brace can provide just enough additional support to allow the person to run or hike with confidence. If a person is recovering from an ankle injury a brace is an essential tool in the recovery arsenal. Typically, the recovery process will see them gradually step down from a rigid brace shortly after the injury to a compression brace in the late stages of recovery.
Ankle braces can help correct posture. Ankle problems have a tendency to project themselves up the leg and into the back. Sometimes people are not even aware that they have begun to change their posture in response to pain emanating from their lower legs. But it happens. While many people will default to corrective shoes to try an alleviate postural problems the issue may be directly related to a troublesome ankle. In that case an ankle brace can help right what’s wrong with your ankle, enabling you to regain your proper posture and stave off potential back problems.
Ankle braces can reduce chronic joint pain. Chronic joint pain can be the result of repetitive stress, osteoarthritis (7), rheumatoid arthritis (8), gout (9) and more. It may also stem from an injury that was never given the opportunity to heal properly. In many cases people find ankle braces helpful in dealing with chronic joint pain. In most cases a simple compression ankle brace will be sufficient to alleviate this type of nagging pain. But in other cases there may be deterioration of the joint itself that requires something more stout.
Ankle braces can help fend off future injuries. Those with a history of ankle injury or who have suffered high ankle sprains (10) may want to wear an ankle brace simply to prevent future injuries. A simple compression ankle brace can provide the little bit of extra support the ankle needs to keep it from turning again. Older individuals who hesitate to exercise because they fear the potential for things like ankle injuries can often times have their fears alleviated by wearing ankle, knee or wrist braces. Athletes concerned that they may reinjury an ankle are often seen wearing ankle braces of every imaginable size and type. It’s the simple, common sense thing to do.
Ankle braces can help reduce ankle swelling by removing pressure on the joint. When the ankle joint sustains an injury it tends to swell. Sometimes dramatically. This causes pain and stiffness. And because of where it is located, it’s not uncommon for the swelling associated with ankle injuries to take considerable time to subside. This is because people need to get around and every time they stand and walk they aggravate the ankle injury a bit, prolonging the swelling. An ankle brace can help alleviate swelling associated with an ankle injury. This will help increase mobility, reduce pain and stiffness and facilitate overall healing.
Ankle braces can help manage chronic conditions. The most common condition affecting the health and integrity of ankle joints is arthritis. But, regardless of how painful it can be people with arthritis still need to move around (11). Certainly there are medicines available that will help reduce pain associated with arthritis. But an ankle brace can be an important tool in helping people with such chronic conditions maintain their mobility. Exactly which type of ankle brace is right for a particular person will depend on the degree of degradation their joints have experienced. If you feel an ankle brace may help you talk to your doctor about which one is best for your situation.
Who needs an ankle brace?
Those who simply want to provide a bit more support for their ankles should find compression braces to be more than adequate. That includes people with a history of twisting their ankle or those who have injured their ankle in the past and don’t want to risk a repeat. In addition, those recovering from a serious ankle injury need an ankle brace during all phases of recovery. Ankle braces are also useful for those with plantar fasciitis. And finally, an ankle brace can be useful for people who suffer from Achilles tendinitis.
How often should you replace an ankle bBrace?
This is something most people don’t consider when buying an ankle brace. But because your ankles are typically under more stress than any other joint in your body the ankle brace will often need to be replaced more often than, say, an elbow brace. As such, if you use your ankle brace on an intermittent basis you’ll probably want to replace it every 6 months or so. If you use it every day then you should replace it after a couple of months.
Should I wear a brace on each ankle?
That depends on why you are using the ankle joint to begin with. If you are using it to address a specific injury to one of your ankles there’s no reason to wear a brace on both ankles. However, if you are over 50 and still physically active you may well want to wear compression braces on all the major joints when skiing, for instance. Just to minimize the chance of incurring an injury. While ankle braces are not thought to reduce the severity of an injury they may prevent it from occurring in the first place (12), which is even more valuable for older folks.
Will a rigid ankle brace interfere with walking?
There is no reliable information that suggests this is the case. In fact, it’s likely an ankle brace will actually enhance physical performance by providing you the support you need to be your best. NBA, NFL, Premier League soccer players and more all wear ankle braces while playing with no reduction in performance. So the notion that an ankle brace will interfere with everyday activity seems far-fetched. Regardless of your age.
Can an ankle brace cause knee problems?
There is no credible evidence to suggest that wearing an ankle brace can cause knee problems. From a physiological perspective if sufficient force is brought to bear on a the knee it will create an injury. And that’s true whether you’re wearing an ankle brace or not. So while an ankle brace can prevent an ankle injury it won’t prevent or cause a knee injury.
What’s the difference between a rigid and lace-up brace?
It’s a matter of the degree of protection they offer. Lace up braces offer a moderate to high degree of protection that doesn’t compromise freedom of movement or overall comfort. They’re also typically less expensive than right braces. Rigid braces provide the highest degree of protection you can get, aside from a fully rigid boot. Which is why they are commonly used in the aftermath of broken or dislocated ankles.
Are there any side effects to wearing an ankle bracelet?
There is some evidence to suggest that wearing semi-rigid ankle braces can lead to balance and postural problems (13). Particularly in those who wear them on both ankles simultaneously. At the same time, however, doctors often have little choice but to recommend a rigid or semi-rigid ankle brace in order to facilitate healing. The trick seems to be knowing when to use a flexible brace, when to go for a semi-rigid or rigid brace and when people using a rigid brace should transition to a less restrictive ankle brace.
Will an ankle brace weaken my ankle muscles?
The only way an ankle brace may wind up compromising the integrity of a joint is if a person wears one constantly for no apparent reason. If the brace is worn as part of a rehabilitation program or to help prevent injury during strenuous activity there’s no evidence it will result in a weakening of the ankle joint.
Can I machine wash an ankle brace?
Many brands of compression ankle braces can be tossed into the washing machine. Others however, need to be hand washed and air dried. When it comes to the more rigid types of ankle brace you’ll need to read the cleaning and care instructions that come with the brace. But you can be reasonably certain you’ll need to hand wash them.
How do I determine the right size ankle brace?
If your shoe size fits into the ½ category (say, size 10 ½) then look for an ankle brace designed for the next lowest full size. (For instance a size 10.) This will help ensure the brace provides adequate support regardless of your activity.
Over the past 30 years the ankle brace has made great strides. Today’s ankle braces are marvels of economy and effectiveness and are a convenient way to prevent everything from common sprains to full-on fractures. If you have a history of ankle sprains or have endured a serious ankle injury in the past, an ankle brace should be considered standard gear for skiing snowboarding, rollerblading, ice skating or running. This is doubly true if you are over 50.
Keep in mind that there are several types of ankle braces and that wearing the right one is crucial if you are to enjoy optimal benefits from this type of assistive device. If you have any questions about which type would be right for you consult your doctor first. Ankle injuries don’t have to spell the end of your active lifestyle. The right ankle brace can keep you in the game regardless of your injury history or how many candles are on the cake.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended ankle brace, click here.