The anatomy of the ankle—healthy muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones—supports the ankle internally. But if one of those things is out of alignment, you might just experience pain, inflammation, or injure yourself. A quality brace supports the ankle externally by limiting potentially harmful motions. Whether you’re an athlete or not, an ankle brace can decrease the likelihood of an ankle injury.
Buying Guide for Ankle Braces
Why should you buy an ankle brace?
While ankle braces might be more well known for healing injuries, they also serve other purposes for people’s balance, comfort, and support. Athletes can protect their ankle joints, especially if they’ve previously experienced an injury, and keep their feet from over-extending while playing sports or working out. If you do happen to be injured, a stiff ankle brace might help you heal as it holds your foot in the correct position with pressure, allowing your muscles to relax.
What should you look for in an ankle brace?
- Condition: Do you suffer from plantar fasciitis? Are you getting back into a sport and want to prevent ankle injuries? Perhaps you’re buying a brace for your soccer-playing kid who has sprained an ankle before. If you have a severe sprain or injury, check in with a doctor first.
- Design: How the brace is designed makes a huge difference in comfort and support, depending on your needs. If you’re going to wear your brace to work, for example, you might want to find one you can wear with shoes. Figure-eight designs provide bilateral and medial support under the arch and behind the heel.
- Budget: Ankle braces are relatively affordable in general. But there are products priced much higher than others. Why? Typically, the price reflects how elaborate the design and materials used in an ankle brace are. Again, it’s a good idea to assess your condition first. Why pay more if you don’t have to?
What is the best ankle brace material?
Depending on your lifestyle, the proper brace material can vary from flexible nylon to stiff polyester and plastic. Those with serious injuries should look at braces with hard materials that won’t allow your foot to extend too much. Those suffering from inflammation and light pain might opt for softer materials like nylon and polyester to provide comfortable compression. However, when you get your injury evaluated, you should listen to your doctor’s instructions before making a purchase.
Our Picks for the Best Ankle Braces
Pros: This ankle brace might just check off your must-haves. It’s made of neoprene, which allows airflow and heat retention, and it’s flexible and durable for movement that’s restricted just enough to help you heal. The open heel allows for a wide range of motion even while the brace stabilizes the ankle. This ankle brace can relieve plantar fasciitis symptoms and minimizes the chance of injury.
Cons: Due to the thickness of the fabric, this ankle brace might be uncomfortable to wear while running or performing other exercises. It’s also a one-size-fits-all design, so those with shoe sizes outside the norm will likely not get use out of this product.
Bottom Line: This brace is ideal for everyday wear for those that need a little extra support. The multiple straps keep you locked in tight, but the bulk isn’t the best thing for runners.
Pros: Med Spec has a great ASO (ankle stabilizing orthosis) brace to offer. Made with a figure-eight design and ballistic nylon material, the brace supports the ankle and provides extra durability. You can wear it on the left or right foot, and it will fit in sneakers, boots, sandals, and more. The elastic cuff closure, secured with a Velcro strap, keeps the laces and stabilizing straps in place.
Cons: The inside of this brace doesn’t have a lining that protects your skin from the seams and edges. Many have had to resort to wearing thick socks underneath to keep their skin from being damaged.
Bottom Line: This brace can support athletes that don’t want to sacrifice their sport due to inflammation or pain. Its stiff nature does make it difficult to fit into a shoe for some, but it creates the right compression to keep your ankle safe.
Pros: If you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, inflammation, or Achilles tendonitis, you might find relief with this ankle brace. The ankle sleeve comes with an adjustable strap for extra stabilization. Wear it for walking and running, soccer, and other running sports. The brace is made to move with you. The high-tech knitted material contours the foot and promotes graduated compression specific to different areas of the foot and ankle. Another enticing feature: the brace is slim and lightweight, so you can wear it out and about, at work, or in the gym.
Cons: This brace only features extra-flexible straps, which does lessen the support in comparison to previous options. Additionally, while the inner sleeve is a one-size-fits-all construction, it makes it uncomfortable for those with smaller feet.
Bottom Line: This brace combines compression with a stabilizing strap to give you the comfortable support needed for plantar fasciitis. The sizing can be limiting, but it’s created for mobility.
Pros: This is not the brace to joke around with. Intended for moderate to severe ankle sprains, the Zamst A2-DX brace provides anatomically correct support via its EXO-Grid support technology. The EXO-Grid design is a dual-molded exoskeleton or exterior support that goes on the outer side of the ankle. That, combined with the adjustable fasteners, gives the brace anti-roll, anti-sprain, and anti-migration support. With anterior, lateral, and medial support, the ankle brace provides the stability you need.
Cons: The materials required to make this brace stiff do increase the price, making this option significantly more expensive than the others on this list. Because the fit of this brace is so tight, many expressed discomfort while participating in sports.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for extreme support, this brace is a great choice. Its unique molding keeps your feet from overextending in most directions. However, this won’t be the best option for you if comfort is your priority.
Pros: The blue lines of this brace aren’t just for show; they indicate the soft waves of silicone gel placed on the strap’s interior to increase the hold. The brace is made from latex-free neoprene that wicks moisture and controls odor. The single strap allows you to create a custom fit that compresses your ankle without pain. The open toe and heel design ensures that you can slip into your favorite shoes with ease.
Cons: The stitching caused some to develop cuts while the silicone gel gave others blisters, making this brace best for indoor, non-sweaty environments. The flexible material doesn’t provide enough support for serious injuries.
Bottom Line: This brace is great for daily wear rather than intense bouts of athletics. Its easy-on-and-off straps allow you to wrap and go, making it great for people of varying ages.
Ankle braces provide wonderful support to those suffering from current or previous injuries. Walking and playing sports don’t have to be painful, so an ankle brace that has the right balance of compression, security, and comfort for your lifestyle might leave you feeling like new. While they aren’t meant for all injuries, an ankle brace can help to reduce your pain so that you can get back to the things you love to do.