How to Choose and Wear an Ankle Brace

It may begin as a twinge in your heel, or a pain in the ball of your foot, or just a feeling that you can’t stand on your feet as long as you used to. If you experience foot pain, don’t ignore it! There are many kinds of foot supports that can provide lasting relief. You just have to choose the right one.

Types of Ankle Braces

Ankle sleeves are simple, lightweight supports made of neoprene or fabric. They don’t provide rigid support. Rather, the main benefit of an ankle sleeve is compression, which promotes blood circulation, reduces pain, stabilizes the ankle and helps heal ankle injuries. Ankle sleeves can be worn while sleeping as well as when you’re active.

Ankle sleeves are typically recommended for mild ankle injuries or pain, or sprain prevention. They can be beneficial for arthritis, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis.

Plantar fasciitis night splints are specialized ankle braces that hold the foot in dorsiflexion while you sleep, gently stretching the plantar fascia and the calf muscles.

Ankle braces with straps provide more support than ankle sleeves. Wide straps wrap around the foot and ankle for a tight, customizable fit. They’re recommended for ankle stabilization, pain relief, mild injuries and other conditions.

Lace-up ankle braces are semi-rigid supports that are tightened with laces. Typically worn over a sock, lace-up braces provide support and compression, helping stabilize ankles during athletic activity, after surgery, or following a mild or moderate sprain.

Stirrup ankle braces feature semi-rigid plastic shells with a cushioned interior. Worn on either side of the ankle, stirrup braces support and compress sprained ankles and also help reduce edema (swelling).

Hinged ankle braces provide significant support and stability and help to prevent ankle inversion or eversion. The hinge allows for a full range of movement. Hinged ankle braces may be recommended for more serious injuries and/or transition from a walking boot. 

Rigid ankle braces provide the most support to help you recover from a serious sprain or stress fracture.

How to Choose an Ankle Brace

here are three main things to consider when you’re shopping for an ankle brace.


1. How much support do you need?

The lightweight compression of an ankle sleeve can be beneficial for mild sprains and tendinitis, but it’s not enough support for a serious sprain. If you’ve suffered a serious ankle injury, talk to your healthcare provider about the best ankle brace or support to help you recover.


2. What’s your activity level?

If you’re mainly wearing a brace while walking around the house, a simple compression sleeve or ankle brace with straps may be all that you need. If you’re exercising, doing physical labor, or playing sports, then you’ll need a brace that moves with you while stabilizing the ankle to prevent injury.

3. How long will you be wearing the ankle brace?

You may wear your brace all the time, only during strenuous activities, or for a few months following an injury or surgery, as your healthcare provider directs. Keep in mind that the more rigid an ankle brace is, the less comfortable it will be to wear — so the right brace for you will strike a balance between support and comfort.

How to Wear an Ankle Brace

Always read the instructions for your ankle brace. These should provide guidance for tightening the brace’s straps or laces for a secure fit.

  • Don’t over-tighten the brace. It shouldn’t cause numbness, swelling or pain, or leave red marks or sores on your skin.
  • Should you wear a sock under your ankle brace? That depends on the type of brace and what’s most comfortable for you. If you do wear a sock, make sure it fits tightly, without bunching or sagging.
  • Give yourself time to get used to wearing the brace. The first day, try wearing it for just two one-hour sessions. Then, add an hour to each wear period each day until you can wear it for long periods.
  • If you’re wearing a boot that causes a height difference in one leg, try wearing a heel lift on the other side.
  • Check your ankle brace regularly for signs of wear. If the elastic is stretched out, or the fasteners aren’t holding, it’s time for a new brace.

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