Do ankle braces weaken ankles

As a seasoned athletic trainer with over three decades of experience and 15+ patents in ankle brace design, I frequently get asked – “Do ankle braces weaken the ankle?” Especially in sports like volleyball, basketball, and football, where ankle injuries are prevalent, players wear ankle braces during games and practices to prevent sprains or reduce severity if an injury occurs. This common practice has led parents, coaches, and players to question the potential negative impact on ankle strength.

Understanding The Ways to Weaken A Joint

There are only two ways to weaken a joint and its supporting muscles:

  1. Non-usage of the joint: Typically observed post-surgery, when muscles atrophy due to non-use.
  2. Restricting joint range of motion: If a joint is restricted or bound up, preventing full range of motion, muscle weakening may occur.

Since athletes frequently use and strengthen their joints through drills and conditioning exercises, the primary concern is the potential weakening of the ankle by restricting its normal range of motion.

 

Do Any Ankle Braces Restrict Joint Range of Motion?

Unfortunately, yes. The lace-up (or corset style) brace restricts much of the ankle joint range of motion, including the essential up and down ankle motion needed for running and jumping. This restriction is due to the binding of laces and/or tight wraparound Velcro straps. A recent university study found that lace-ups significantly decreased ankle joint range of motion and isokinetic measures of muscle torque, total work, and power. In simpler terms, the lace-up brace adversely affects ankle range of motion and strength.

 

Are There Ankle Braces That Do Not Weaken The Ankle?

Fortunately, yes. Hinged ankle braces, which allow full unrestricted up and down ankle range of motion, do not weaken the ankle. These braces have hinges on each side of the ankle bone, allowing the brace to move with the ankle, unlike lace-ups that move against it. This synchronized movement ensures that any straps stay securely in place, maintaining long-lasting ankle support.

There are two commonly used styles of hinged ankle braces by athletes – hinged and hinged-cuff. The ‘hinged only’ braces, introduced in 1989, primarily restrict excessive ankle turning or “inversion.” Popular brands include Active Ankle, McDavid, and Shock Doctor.

On the other hand, ‘hinged-cuff’ ankle braces, like the Ultra Zoom®, restrict not only excessive ankle turning (“inversion”) but also rotational twisting, helping prevent both high and low ankle sprains. Brands of hinged-cuff ankle braces include Ultra Ankle, Don Joy, and Ossur.

 

Conclusion

While some ankle braces, like the lace-up style, can restrict joint range of motion and subsequently weaken the ankle, hinged and hinged-cuff ankle braces do not have this negative impact. However, if you want to prevent ankle injuries, I do suggest wearing and ankle brace of some kind. Please note, neoprene sleeves are not ankle braces and provide zero support.

If you have more questions about ankle braces and their effects on ankle strength, feel free to leave a comment below or send us a message. We are here to help!

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

Do Ankle Braces Work?

It’s an age-old question and there are a myriad of opinions out there. What we do know is our ankles bear a lot of weight and are often subject to sharp and awkward movements. It is no surprise that injuries are common, so, when it comes to ankle injury prevention, support, pain management, and healing, do ankle braces actually help?

In short, yes. The long answer, however, is a little more complicated.

The Functionality of Ankle Braces:

Ankle braces have gained popularity as an aid in injury management and prevention. They are designed to provide stability, limit excessive movement, and offer support to the ankle joint. By minimizing the risk of unnatural twists and turns, ankle braces can significantly reduce the likelihood of sprains and strains during physical activities. However, not all ankle braces are alike. When considering buying an ankle brace, take the following into consideration:

  1. The brace must be made of quality materials and meet medical standards.
  2. Your ankle brace needs to fit you perfectly. That means any fabric should not be loose or too tight. Any splints should be anatomically contoured and all padding needs to be well placed.
  3. The brace must suit your specific condition. Are you wearing it for ankle injury prevention or recovery? Do you already have unstable ankles? Have you incurred a high ankle sprain or an acute ankle sprain?

For example, a neoprene “brace” won’t be the best choice for helping prevent an ankle injury and a neoprene “brace” certainly won’t help you recover from an ankle injury. That’s because there are no medical compression standards for neoprene. Additionally, cheap cost means mass production, which makes it very difficult to find a perfectly sized brace for your ankle. Remember, your brace must properly support and compress your ankle in key areas, because if it doesn’t, you risk ineffective injury prevention. If recovering from an injury you’ll likely have little to no relief from pain and swelling, at best, and re-injury at worst.

Also not recommended for ankle injury prevention or recovery are compression sleeves. The primary function of compression sleeves is to support your muscles by providing slight pressure and compression to promote optimal blood flow to the area the sleeve surrounds. Studies have shown that wearing compression sleeves dilates your arteries, resulting in increased blood flow, or vasodilation. Vasodilation is the widening of the blood vessels as a response to low oxygen in the blood, which happens during exercise and triggers an increased blood flow. Increasing blood flow improves the levels of oxygen and nutrients delivered to the body, which enables you to power through your workouts. What this means is compression ankle sleeves do nothing to actually support your ankle joint.

Lastly, in a study done by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, it was determined that with the right ankle brace or stabilizer, athletes wearing ankle braces had a 64% reduced risk of ankle sprains compared to those with no ankle brace.

So, what braces do you want to buy that will provide you with the support, comfort and recovery benefits you may need?

Introducing Ultra Ankle® Products:

Among the leading brands in the ankle support industry, Ultra Ankle stands out for its advanced and scientifically engineered solutions. Ultra Ankle products combine cutting-edge technology with ergonomic design to offer unparalleled protection and comfort.

  1. Ultra 360® Lace-Up Ankle Brace:

The Ultra 360 Lace-Up is a game-changer in the world of ankle support. Its innovative design incorporates adjustable figure-8 straps provide 360º of ankle support to help prevent excessive ankle rolling. The multi-adjustable design allows you to customize your level of support. The Ultra 360 is recommended for individuals who require mild ankle support and have a minimal history of ankle injuries.

  1. Ultra Zoom® Ankle Brace:

Specifically tailored for athletes, the Ultra Zoom Ankle Brace offers a perfect blend of flexibility and support. Its sleek, low-profile design fits comfortably in sports shoes (traditional tongue and laces), making it an ideal choice for basketball, volleyball, football, soccer, and other high-impact sports. The Ultra Zoom’s Performathane® soft shell conforms to the ankle’s natural shape, through body heat, ensuring maximum comfort while providing maximum support. The patented Hinged-Cuff design allows the ankle to move in all its natural motions, and none of the bad ones, while still keeping all the tendons and muscles fully engaged as the brace does not bind the ankle and foot in the Neutral Position. The hinged-cuff design also helps to prevent high ankle sprains, which are much more painful and take much longer to recover from.

  1. Ultra High-5® Ankle Brace:

Have a history of ankle injuries? Are your ankles chronically unstable? Then the Ultra High-5 may be the ankle brace for you. With its feather-light but incredibly strong materials, the Ultra High-5 reinforces unstable ankles and can handle even the toughest twists and turns. The Ultra High-5 is also a great ankle brace for athletes and individuals who have recurring joint pain due to excessive pounding unforgiving surfaces.

  1. Ultra CTS® Ankle Brace:

When it comes to high ankle sprains, acute ankle injuries, or even Ankle Osteoarthritis, the Ultra CTS Ankle Brace shines. Engineered with the patented PerformaFit® upright technology, this brace mimics the anatomical contours of the ankle, delivering personalized support and stabilization.

  • High-Ankle Injuries: A high ankle injury occurs when the ankle is excessively externally rotated. The Ultra CTS has a hinged-cuff design which restricts excessive ankle inversion and ROTATION to treat both LOW and HIGH ankle injuries allowing the injured soft tissue to quickly heal.
  • Acute Ankle Injury: With an acute ankle injury you will most likely have weight bearing pain. The Ultra CTS will “unload” the ankle. Ankle unloading means the brace will absorb some of the impact from standing or walking that would normally be transferred into the ankle causing pain. Maximum lower leg and ankle support and stabilization will take stress off the injured ligaments allowing them to heal much quicker.
  • Osteoarthritis: With bone-on-bone joint irritation, or osteoarthritis (OA) you will need an ankle brace that will “unload” the ankle. Ankle unloading means the brace will absorb some of the impact from standing or walking that would normally be transferred into the ankle causing joint irritation and pain. For more details on how the Ultra CTS works for Osteoarthritis please visit our Osteoarthritis Page

 

The Verdict:

Do ankle braces actually help? The answer is a resounding yes, especially when armed with the right information and equipped with superior products like those offered by Ultra Ankle. Ankle braces serve as vital tools in both preventing and managing ankle injuries. With Ultra Ankle’s range of advanced solutions, individuals can confidently pursue their active lifestyles with reduced worry about potential ankle-related setbacks.

 

Conclusion:

In the realm of ankle support, Ultra Ankle products have truly elevated the game. Their commitment to blending science, comfort, and innovation has resulted in a lineup of braces that not only provide exceptional support but also contribute to the overall well-being of athletes and individuals. So, if you’re considering investing in ankle braces to safeguard your ankles, don’t overlook the transformative offerings brought forth by Ultra Ankle. Your ankles will thank you for the reliable protection and support these products provide.

The ankle remains the primary site of injury in high school and collegiate basketball for both genders. Regardless of an athlete’s physical conditioning, it’s challenging to prevent ankle injuries. Such injuries often happen in scenarios where players go up for a rebound and land on another player’s foot, or they are cutting to the basket and mistakenly step off another player’s shoe. These contacts can lead to the common inversion ankle sprain, which happens when the ankle is forced to rotate inward excessively.

Inversion ankle sprains can stretch, and sometimes tear, the ligaments in the joint, leading to extended bench time that could range from a few hours to weeks, depending on the injury’s severity. Even after resting to allow the ankle to heal, the ligaments remain somewhat stretched, making you prone to future ankle injuries. Over time, recurring ankle injuries can progressively stretch the ligaments, causing the joint to destabilize.

The best approach to interrupt or slow down this cycle of recurring ankle injuries is to wear a preventive ankle brace. The right ankle brace should be determined by evaluating the player’s position and their injury history.

Basketball Ankle Injuries by Position

Forwards and Centers are the positions most prone to ankle injuries. These players are constantly fighting for rebounds, which makes them susceptible to ankle injuries. As these are usually the largest players on the court, the forces involved when landing on another player’s foot can cause severe ankle injuries.

Guards handle the ball the most, which means they frequently make explosive cuts combined with significant acceleration/deceleration. This puts considerable stress on their ankle ligaments and tendons, leading to injuries if the load surpasses the ligament’s tolerance.

Evaluating Injury History

Understanding your specific position’s injury susceptibility is the first step to choosing the right ankle brace for basketball. The subsequent step involves determining the balance between the amount of support you need and the mobility you want.

Today, and in years past, preventative ankle braces are preferred if you’ve had no previous ankle injuries (or very few) and want to avoid future sprains. Most offer moderate stability and maximum mobility. On the other hand, if you have had a severe ankle injury and aim to return to competition quickly, an ankle brace providing maximum stability with minimal mobility is recommended. However, as we cover preventive ankle braces we will touch on an a revolutionary ankle brace that provides both maximum stability and maximum mobility.

Preventative Basketball Ankle Braces

Three main types of preventive ankle braces are currently available:

  1. Lace-ups
  2. Rigid
  3. Soft Shell

While ankle taping is another method of injury prevention, it’s proven much less effective in providing sustained support throughout a game or practice. Therefore, we will only compare the three preventative ankle brace types.

Lace-Up Ankle Braces

These braces, first introduced in 1887, restrict all ankle motion. While lace-ups may initially seem supportive due to their tight fit, they can lose support rapidly as they resist the ankle’s natural range of motion. Lace-up braces bind the ankle in the neutral position, which can hinder performance. Research has shown that hinged ankle braces provide the necessary range of motion, unlike lace-up types, enhancing strength and performance.

Rigid Ankle Braces

Rigid ankle braces consist of hard plastic with a hinge that allows full ankle range of motion (think Active Ankle T2). These braces typically have a limited usage period due to their bulkiness and discomfort over extended periods. However, they do offer good ankle support, protecting against basic “low” ankle sprains or inversion injuries. They do not, however, protect against “high” ankle sprains, which can be extremely painful and take longer to recover from.

Soft Shell Ankle Braces

The newest addition to the market, soft shell ankle braces, specifically the Ultra Ankle® Ultra Zoom®, use Performathane®, a flexible shell that custom-fits to the ankle using body heat. This custom fit offers a comfortable and low-profile ankle brace, which is easily worn for extended periods and fits well in a traditional tongue-and-lace basketball shoe. The Ultra Zoom’s hinged-cuff design restricts excessive ankle turning and twisting, thus preventing both low and high ankle injuries. Soft shell ankle braces, like the Ultra Zoom, are ideal for basketball players looking to prevent ankle injuries or those with mild to moderate ankle instability, while still keeping the mobility they need to stay competitive on the court.

 

Why Ultra Ankle Braces Stand Out

Ultra Zoom® braces outperform their competition by offering a superior combination of protection, comfort, and performance enhancement. They incorporate advanced design features that adapt to your ankle’s shape and movement, resulting in a better, more comfortable fit. This design reduces the risk of recurring injuries by providing targeted support where it’s needed most, without restricting natural motion. Moreover, Ultra Zoom® braces utilize Performathane® technology, offering a durable brace that lasts through multiple sports seasons. They are therefore a superior choice for basketball players who aim to prevent injuries while maintaining peak performance. If you have any further questions about our the Ultra Zoom or any other Ultra Ankle product, please reach out to one of our certified athletic trainers.

Why Parents Trust Ultra Ankle Ultra® Zoom Braces for Their Kids: Ensuring Safety with Advanced Ankle Support

As parents, we prioritize our children’s safety and well-being, especially when they are involved in sports and physical activities that may put them at risk for injuries. In these situations, protective gear is a must, and among the many options available, ankle braces are essential. One standout brand parents trust is Ultra Ankle, specifically the Ultra Zoom®, and for good reasons.

  1. Superior Support and Protection:

Ultra Zoom® braces offer robust and high-quality design that provides exceptional ankle support while still allowing for maximum mobility. Designed to stabilize and help prevent the ankle from injuries such as sprains, twists, and rolls, they are a top choice for parents whose kids play high-intensity sports like football, volleyball, or soccer.

  1. Innovative Design:

Ultra Zoom® braces feature advanced technology and an innovative design. The hinged-cuff design limits excessive movement that could lead to high ankle injuries while maintaining enough flexibility for peak performance. This means your young athlete will stay in the game and not on the sideline with an ankle injury. This balance between safety and performance is why many parents opt for Ultra Ankle.

  1. Comfort and Fit:

Ultra Ankle braces are celebrated for their snug fit and comfort, ensuring that kids can wear them for extended periods without feeling restricted or uncomfortable. Ultra Ankle braces, specifically the Ultra Zoom, custom form-fit to the athlete’s foot and ankle through body heat. This is perfect for growing children who need consistent and reliable support over several seasons of play.

  1. Durability:

Durability is a major selling point for Ultra Ankle braces. Made from high-quality materials, these braces can withstand rigorous physical activity, giving parents value for their money and the assurance that their child’s safety gear is up to the task. The Ultra Zoom brace can last up to 3 full seasons depending on use and demands put on the brace.

  1. Ease of Use:

Designed with usability in mind, Ultra Ankle Ultra Zoom braces are easy to put on, adjust, and take off, which is an essential feature for kids who might need to use them independently. This ease of use enhances their appeal among both kids and their parents. This differs from taping or lace-up braces which are both time consuming to put on and take off.

  1. Positive Reviews and Experiences:

Ultra Ankle braces have been positively received by professionals in the sports and health industries and parents alike. A user review from a parent named Sarah states, “My daughter has been using Ultra Ankle braces for her volleyball games, and they have been a game-changer. I no longer worry about her getting injured on the court. Plus, she loves how comfortable they are.” Another parent, John, shared, “I got Ultra Ankle braces for my son who plays soccer. They’ve stood up to some tough games, and he’s been injury-free. Highly recommended for any young athlete.”

These endorsements and positive experiences have helped build trust and a strong reputation for Ultra Ankle braces, making them a preferred choice among parents.

To summarize, parents prefer Ultra Ankle braces for their children because of their advanced design, superior support, durability, and positive reviews. Not only do these braces protect young athletes’ ankles, but they also provide parents with the assurance they need when their children are out on the field or court.

While ankle braces fit comfortably in most traditional athletic shoes or sneakers with a tongue and laces, there are some shoes that don’t work well with braces.

If you purchase an ankle brace and can’t fit it inside your shoe, or its uncomfortable while you’re wearing it with your shoes, it may be due to the design or style of the shoe and not the ankle brace. For that reason, it’s a good idea to know up front which shoes you should avoid when wearing your ankle braces.

The style of sneaker that works best with ankle braces have a traditional tongue and laces design so you can spread out the opening of the shoe and easily insert the ankle brace. Low-top athletic shoes work best with ankle braces because they don’t apply undue pressure over your ankle bones like a mid- or high-top shoe will.

Athletic shoe styles are changing all the time. It’s important to know how these new styles impact the fit of an ankle brace inside the shoe. In recent years athletic shoe companies have been introducing sneakers that deviate from the traditional shoe design. Rather than having a traditional tongue and laces, this new style of shoe has a collar or sleeve design that makes it almost impossible to fit the brace in the shoe. These shoes typically are of the mid- or high-top design and are hardest to fit an ankle brace inside.

We have found that our customers with these newer types of shoes can usually wear a hinged ankle brace if their foot size is above a women’s size 9 or a men’s size 7 – it all depends on how large the opening to the sleeve of the shoe is.

For those without a traditional tongue and laces design, a smaller shoe size, or a high-top shoe a lace-up ankle brace will most likely be the best option for you. The Ultra 360 locks your ankle in place while the figure-8 straps provide 360º of ankle support to help prevent excessive ankle rolling. The multi-adjustable design allows you to customize your level of support.

Athletes

If you’re an athlete who is planning to wear an ankle brace and you want it to fit in the shoe properly and be comfortable to wear for long periods of time stick with a traditional, low-top sneaker designed for the sport you play.

No high-top shoe is going to prevent an injury in sports that have a higher risk of ankle sprains (such as basketball or volleyball) where the mechanism of injury is coming down from a jump and landing on an opposing players foot at a high velocity. Therefore, we recommend wearing a low top athletic shoe with a high performance ankle brace, like the Ultra Zoom, which is designed to help prevent ankle injuries or lessen the severity should an injury occur. The Ultra Zoom will fit easily in a traditional low top sneaker and provide a comfortable fit all season long. 

Conventional wisdom is that high-top athletic shoes or tall work boots can support the ankle more effectively than low tops primarily because the high-top shoe is higher and therefore has more leverage to grab the ankle and hold it in place. However, todays high-top sneakers are not your parent’s high-tops.

These new high-top designs use flexible and stretchable materials with the goal of being comfortable to wear for long periods of time. And if the material stretches it’s probably not going to provide much in the way of ankle support. While high-top shoes are advertised to provide additional ankle support, the truth is that no shoe can support the joint and help prevent ankle injuries like an ankle brace can. 

Tall Work Boots

Let’s say you are a construction worker and you suffer from ankle osteoarthritis, so you like to wear a sturdy work boot to help stabilize your ankle. Let’s say recently your ankle started hurting on the job site and you’re thinking about getting an ankle brace for additional support.

Two things happen when you try to wear an ankle brace in a tall work boot:

  1. The ankle brace is very difficult to fit inside your tall work boot, or
  2. If you get the brace to fit in the boot it may not be very comfortable. This happens after you lace up the boot, which pushes the sides of the brace against the ankle bones, potentially causing pain and irritation.

In general, we recommend a low-top work shoe where you can spread out the laces enough to easily fit the brace in the shoe. Since the sides of the shoe are below the joint  there is no potential for irritation over your ankle bones. A low-top work shoe combined with a good professional ankle brace can provide more ankle support than a tall work boot worn by itself by far.

For those looking for an ankle brace that will fit in a high-top work boot, the Ultra 360 Lace-up will be your best option. This flexible, fabric brace fits in almost any shoe – providing extra support and compression to help protect your ankle. 

If you have questions about which ankle brace would fit best inside your athletic shoes or work boots you can send one of our athletic trainers a message. They will be able to take a look at a photo of your shoe and help you determine the right ankle brace for your situation. 

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

Short answer: Yes, in the majority of cases basketball players should wear an ankle brace. 

Most people don’t realize that 42.9% of high school basketball players will injure their ankle during the course of their season, making the ankle the most common basketball injury location by far. Once a player suffers from an ankle injury, they are five times more likely to have reoccurring ankle injuries in the future. With the ankle injury rate so high in basketball it’s always wise to take precautions that can help prevent the ankle injury or lessen the severity should an injury occur.

Athletic trainers remedy basketball ankle injuries a number of ways, typically by taping and/or bracing their players after an injury as well as implementing an ankle strengthening program that utilizes stretches and balance exercises. Unfortunately, no amount of ankle strength can prevent an injury when a players comes down from a rebound and lands on another player’s foot. The only way to prevent these initial injuries, and reduce the risk of reoccurring injuries, is to wear an ankle brace designed specifically to work with the basketball player’s ankle, not against it, to protect the joint.

Before you start your basketball ankle brace search, it’s extremely important to understand the different ankle brace designs and how they may affect ankle strength, range of motion and performance.

Today you see a lot of basketball players wearing the lace-up style ankle supports primarily because they are low profile and upon initial impression they appear to provide good ankle support. A lace-up is basically a corset that restricts all ankle range of motion which is not ideal when you are trying to keep the ankle strong and maximize performance.  Also, by restricting normal up and down ankle motion, the ankle works against the lace-up causing it to lose support rapidly.  Lace-ups became popular as a replacement for the ankle tape job, which loses 70% of its effectiveness during the first 20 minutes of activity. 

Rigid plastic ankle braces are another style of ankle brace.  These types of ankle braces have a hinge and allow free up and down ankle motion to maximize performance and keep the muscles strong.  They will provide much more ankle protection than the lace-up support because the brace moves with the ankle, not against it so the straps stay securely in place maintaining long last support.  The downside is because these braces are rigid they can be uncomfortable and bulky which basketball players typically do not like. 

A third style of ankle brace that offers the performance aspect of the hinged brace with the softness and low profile of the lace-up is the Ultra Zoom.  The brace shell is made of an advanced flexible material called Performathane that uses body heat to custom-fit to the ankle.  The hinged-cuff design allows full ankle range of motion and the cuff helps to restrict excessive ankle turning and twisting which causes both low and high ankle sprains. 

 Regardless of which type of ankle injury prevention methods you use as a basketball player, safely competing at a high level should always be one of your top priorities. If you’re a player with a history of basketball ankle injuries and want to speak with one of our certified athletic trainers about your specific situation, give us a call or send us an email and we’d be happy to help

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries