A sprained ankle can be one of the most frustrating injuries to sustain. Once thought to be a rather benign injury, ankle sprains can limit walking, stairs, standing, and returning to any form of sport activity. The pain that comes with the sprain, the swelling, and the immobility that accompany a sprain may keep you from working and providing for your family. One of the best ways to help with the pain is an ankle brace.
In recent years, research has shown that ankle sprains are not so simple and should be taken seriously. In the short term, the pain and swelling is limiting and may prevent you from walking. In the long term, research has shown if not taken care of properly ankle sprains can turn in Chronic Ankle Instability or CAI. CAI can lead to difficulty with running, jumping, and increase the chances for tendonitis, Chondral lesions, or in the long term, arthritis. For a comprehensive guide to treating ankle sprains see our Best home treatment for Ankle Sprains.
To get you moving sooner, back on the field, or simply to get you back to your day to day activity after an ankle sprain see the chart below for the best rated braces on Amazon.
|ASO Ankle Brace
|Comfy Figure-8 Support System
|See Current Price
|Venom Sports Ankle Brace
|Max Ankle Support
|See Current Price
|McDavid Ankle Brace
|Great Comfort to Stability Ratio
|See Current Price
|Active Ankle T2 Ankle Brace
|Leaves the foot free
|See Current Price
|Shock Doctor Ankle Sleeve
|Least expensive and least restrictive
|See Current Price
Do I Need a Brace for a Sprained Ankle
A lot of factors that go into deciding if wearing an ankle brace is right for you. These include the severity of the ankle sprain, what your activity levels are both before the injury and what you can do after, and how well you’re able to let it heal. You might only need to wear an ankle brace for a few days up to a few months.
In general an ankle brace is recommended if:
- You had difficulty putting weight on the ankle 5 minutes from the time of injury
- You can’t walk without limping or a sharp pain in the ankle
- The ankle feels like it is going to give out on you
- The ankle swells each time that you try and walk on it
- Any grade 3 ankle sprain that is still healing – usually first 4-6 months after the injury
- Any grade 2 ankle sprain that feels unstable
- Any one that has a history or recurrent ankle sprains
- Any person that has recently sustained an ankle sprain and is trying to play in a sport before full healing has occurred
- Any person that has consistent pain in the ankle with activity that has difficulty finding relief
Ankle Sprain Grades
Ankle sprains are so common that it can be difficult to know when you should and shouldn’t wear an ankle brace after an injury. After all, the vast majority of ankle sprains are relatively minor. You may slightly roll the ankle after stepping of a curb or rolling on someone else’s foot in the subway. Those may be sore for a day but by Friday night drinks, the pain on the outside of the ankle is long forgotten. Let’s go over the different grades of ankle sprains and when one might want to brace.
Grade 1 Ankle Sprain
The least severe of the three. There is light stretching or even micro tearing of the ligament in the ankle, usually the ATFL. There may be mild tenderness to the touch, swelling, and potential stiffness but overall the ankle should feel relatively stable. You may limp for the first few steps but otherwise walking quickly becomes normal.
Grade 2 Ankle Sprain
Grade 2 tears are a little bit more severe. There is increased stretching or tearing of the ligaments. The ATFL and the CFL are likely both involved but still intact. There is moderate swelling, tenderness, pain with touching, some mild bruising and maybe even difficulty walking on it without a limp for a few days up to a week or more. The ankle usually feels stable in most situations but even happy hour doesn’t take the pain away at first.
Grade 3 Ankle Sprain
The most severe of the ankle sprains with complete tearing of the ligaments of the ankle. There is often an audible “pop” that occurs with the injury. This is followed by intense pain, swelling, significant bruising, and difficulty walking. This often does require crutches to walk for the first 1-3 weeks. The ankle may feel unstable and pain can persist with long days on your feet.
More Information on Ankle Sprains
FAQ About Ankle Braces
Should you Wear an Ankle Brace to Bed?
No, you do not need to wear your ankle brace to bed and there is no real benefit. In fact, it’s best you let your ankle breathe and get some time out of the brace when you can. You don’t want the ankle to become weak and reliant on the brace either.
Should You Wear an Ankle Brace for Sports such as Volleyball or Basketball?
Yes, you can wear an ankle brace during this high impact sports. There is research supporting the notion that wearing an ankle brace with decrease the frequency of ankle sprains. However, there is another study that shows wearing an ankle brace can decrease the jump height during a volleyball spike. So it may decrease some athletic performance. It’s up to you if you want wear one and if it’s comfortable during the game.
I’ve Sprained My Ankle Before, Should I Wear an Ankle Brace Even Though I Have No Pain?
It depends on what you are doing. If you have no pain or other symptoms then we recommend that you do not wear an ankle brace to build up your ankle strength during normal activities.
If you’ve had a previous serious ankle injury and want to play sports then it is a good idea to wear an ankle brace. The best predictor of sustaining a future severe ankle sprain is if you have a history of ankle sprains.
Should I Wear an Ankle Brace for Arthritis?
You absolutely can! Wearing an ankle brace is better than surgery. An ankle brace can help with the overall support and stability of the ankle with arthritis. This helps with mobility and pain control. You might wear an ankle brace for arthritis to get your daily walk in or do your daily chores with less pain.
Can Wearing an Ankle Brace Prevent an Ankle Sprain?
Wearing an ankle brace can help prevent lateral ankle sprains. Therefore anyone that is at increased risk of an ankle sprain by either participating in impact sports or being hypermobile should consider wearing one during sports.
Wearing an ankle brace during normal activities is not recommended to prevent ankle sprains. Unless you’ve recently suffered a sprain and are recovering then try not to wear one. There is evidence that wearing an external support like a brace can actually decrease muscle strength and support if you wear it too much.
What Sports Should You Wear An Ankle Brace In?
Athletes in contact and dynamic sports can consider wearing an ankle brace. Sports that have contact, jumping, and quick change of direction put athletes at higher risks. There is a local college basketball coach the requires all of his athletes to wear ankle braces. These sports include:
- Football (especially linemen)
The Best Brace for an Ankle Sprain
ASO Ankle Brace
Summary: The ASO Ankle Brace is one of the best braces out there and one of the most recommended braces by medical professionals. It’s usually the first one that I recommend. It has over 2,000 customer reviews on Amazon and has a near 5 star rating. This is one of the best braces to wear if you need to return to any sporting activity. This is a personal favorite as this is the brace that has worked the best for myself after a grade 3 sprain.
- One of the most trusted brands
- Great for Sports
- Great for stability and protection against future sprains
- Durable Nylon and Lace up System
- Just slightly bulkier then some of the other options for mild ankle sprains
Venom Sports Ankle Brace
Summary: The Venom Sport Brace is similar in design to the ASO brace but at a slightly different price point. This is made of neoprene which allows for maximum breath-ability but may not be as durable as nylon used in the ASO. Provides great support for any ankle sprain and has the vast majority of it’s reviews as 5 stars. One of the cons is that the laces don’t have rivets which may tend to wear down faster.
- Great support
- Good Breath-ability
- Fits in most shoes
- Great for sports
- Wallet Friendly
- More time and effort to put on compared to others
- Durability without the reinforced eyelets
McDavid Ankle Brace
Summary: McDavid is another great name in the world of braces. The McDavid Ankle Brace is one of the most supportive braces out there. Made from polyester to help reduce the weight, has a breathable tongue, and claims to reduce injury by 3x (haven’t read this research myself). One of the best braces on the market for a sprained ankle and would feel comfortable prescribing to a family member.
- Lightweight yet supportive
- Level 3 Stability
- One of the best braces on market
- Bulkier due to the support
- Make sure to get the correct size with shoes
Active Ankle T2 Ankle Brace
Summary: The Active Ankle Brace is designed to be worn immediately after an ankle sprain and for the first weeks when stability is most important. Lightweight and fits in almost any shoe. This is brace that is great initially but also can be worn when hiking or playing most sports. This brace has over 450 reviews on amazon.
- Stable and Protective
- Great Early Brace
- More rigid than other braces, can be uncomfortable during athletic events
Shock Doctor Ankle Brace
Summary: The Shock Doctor Ankle Brace is designed for the late stages of a sprained ankle when you just don’t feel stable and need just a little bit of support. Lightweight, with adjustable straps, and fits in any type of athletic or work shoe. This should not be the first option if you have a severe sprain but is incredibly easy to use for those that just need “something.”
- Quick to put on
- Smaller bulk
- Can be used in washing machine
- Less support for the severe sprains
How to Put on an Ankle Brace
Now that you have your ankle brace, it’s important to make sure that you have it put on correctly or it likely won’t do it’s job as well as it should.
An ankle sprain is one of those injuries that can hang around and seem to take forever to heal. One of the best ways to speed up healing is an ankle brace and we’ve reviewed the best options on amazon.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.