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 an 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.

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. 

Tall Work Boots

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. When supporting your ankle with a brace, high-top shoes aren’t necessary. 

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.

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

During basketball season there is not a day that goes by where I don’t get a Google Alert about some NBA, WNBA or NCAA star basketball player that is out because of an ankle injury.

This season one NBA superstar has been out three times due to a reoccurring ankle injury to the same ankle. Despite years of chronic ankle instability, and many minutes of playing time lost, will this superstar wear an ankle brace when he returns? Probably not … but why is that? Here is an elite athlete that makes millions from his spectacular play that is now becoming undependable and unreliable due to a reoccurring ankle injury that (in my opinion) could be fixed with an effective and functional ankle brace.

When I talk about ankle braces that can help fix chronic ankle instability issues I am specifically talking about semi-rigid hinged ankle braces. These are the types of functional ankle braces that can effectively support the ankle joint over extended periods of time. These differ from lace-up style ankle braces that offer the least amount of ankle support and are not effective enough to offer extended joint support.

As all athletic trainers know – it’s not only the basketball superstars that sustain an ankle injury and refuse to wear ankle protection. Regardless of the athlete’s skill level or ankle strength, injuries are still inevitable due to the environmental factors like jumping and cutting that are an integral part of the game.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States, with an estimated 1 million high school interscholastic participants. Ankle injuries are the most common musculoskeletal injury sustained in sports such as basketball that require sudden stops and cutting movements,,,,, and these injuries impose severe monetary consequences on the US health care system., Ankle injuries can affect athletes long after they are finished playing competitive high school sports, with the development of chronic ankle instability, increased likelihood for the onset of osteoarthritis,, decreased levels of physical activity, and lower quality of life.,

Reports state that up to 70% of high school varsity basketball athletes have suffered an ankle sprain in their career, yet the number of players who wear ankle braces, either preventatively or post-injury, is still low. But why?

Here are some excuses that I’ve heard over the years from basketball players as to why, even with chronic ankle instability, they refuse to wear an ankle brace. I’ve also included some way we as athletic trainers can overcome these objections in order to help save athletes from themselves and keep them healthy, safe, and in the game.

Excuse #1: The Brace is Too Bulky

To a basketball player anything more than a sock is too bulky. Yes, some of the older designed semi-rigid ankle braces are bulky but that is because they were designed 20-30 years ago when technology was not as advanced as it is today. My recommendation for these athletes is to seek out newer ankle braces that were designed in the past 10 years. These braces will be using the latest research, materials and technology to be more organic in shape and fit the ankle better. 

However, it is important that the athlete understand that with sufficient ankle support to help correct his condition, and keep them in the game, some additional structural support is inevitable. You can’t have ankle support without a structured support mechanism.

At Ultra Ankle, we reduced the bulk of a “structured support mechanism” by using an advanced resin to make the shell of our ankle braces more flexible. This flexible soft shell design uses a player’s body heat to form-fit to the ankle, which helps reduce that unwanted bulky look and feel of semi-rigid plastic braces. When the flexible shell takes the shape of the joint it can control the joint as much or more than some rigid plastic ankle braces, making the extra height or bulk unnecessary.

Excuse #2: The Brace Will Restrict My Performance

Different ankle braces offer different levels of restriction. The only time this restriction is related to performance is when a brace keeps an ankle from functioning in it’s normal range of motion – in which case an ankle brace is working against your ankle and therefore inhibiting your performance. In order to protect the joint, without impacting performance, an ankle brace should only restrict excessive inversion, eversion and rotation.

With a hinged ankle brace there should be no restriction of performance because the brace allows full plantar and dorsiflexion. Yes, some excessive lateral mobility might be limited due to the support necessary to stabilize the ankle and help prevent reinjury. In this case, it’s important to sell the athlete on the fact that the hinged ankle brace offers them unlimited ankle ROM to run and jump without restriction while still protecting their ankle.

The only style of ankle brace that is known to negatively effect performance is the lace-up ankle brace because if you bind up a joint it’s going to have a negative effect on ROM and strength. As shown in a study conducted by the University of South Alabama, “wearing a lace-up ankle brace negatively affects ankle joint motion and muscle function by significantly decreasing plantar flexion-dorsiflexion ROM across the velocity spectrum and by significantly decreasing muscle torque, work, and power.”

Excuse #3: The Ankle Brace is Uncomfortable

Of all the excuses I hear from basketball players, this can be a legitimate negative to wearing a semi-rigid hinged ankle brace. Mainly because some of the designs that are still being worn by athletes are old and outdated. Researching newer ankle bracing technologies and advanced designs should help alleviate some of the discomfort they are experiencing.

If an athlete still feels that ankle braces are uncomfortable, regardless of how new the technology is, it’s important for them to remember that, just like their basketball shoes, ankle braces will have a break in period to adjust to the ankle. A hinged ankle brace will feel tremendously different after 30 minutes of usage compared to when you first apply the brace because it needs to find its axis with the ankle joint to achieve ultimate comfort.

The worst thing you can do with any hinged brace, knee or ankle, is judge its comfort level when first applied. Nine times out of ten this is when the athlete refuses to wear the brace – not knowing the brace will feel significantly different if they would just give it 20-30 minutes to heat up and become aligned with the ankle. Typically, this is where the athletic trainer must step in and explain the break-in period that is necessary with any new peace of athletic gear. This, along with the features of the technology and why it is more beneficial for them to prevent additional injuries instead of getting re-injured and sitting on the sidelines, is helpful in increasing athlete compliance.

As mentioned early in this blog, with todays technology and design software we can develop ankle braces that are not only less bulky, but more comfortable as well. Elite ankle braces are designed to be more organic in shape, resembling the anatomy of the ankle. We can design some areas to be more flexible to form around the malleolus, and other areas to be more rigid to provide the necessary support.

When evaluating different ankle brace designs, seek out a brace that looks like the ankle looks and functions like the ankle functions. With this type of ankle brace, and the suggestions I provided in this blog, your basketball players may be more willing to wear a hinged ankle brace which will in turn provide them the support they need to safely stay in the game.

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

The ankle is the number one injury in men’s and women’s high school and collegiate basketball. Regardless of how strong and conditioned an athlete is, it’s hard to prevent ankle injuries when you go up for a rebound and land on another player’s foot or you are cutting to the basket and accidentally step off another player’s shoe. Most of the time these ankle injuries occur when players make contact with each other and their ankle is forced to rotate inward excessively resulting in the classic inversion ankle sprain.

Inversion ankle sprains cause the ligaments in the joint to stretch, and sometimes tear, which can keep you on the bench anywhere for a few hours or up to a few weeks depending on the severity of the injury. Regardless of how long you abstain from activity to allow your ankle to heal, the ankle ligaments remain stretched to a certain degree making you more susceptible to future ankle injuries. With each ankle injury, the ligaments become more and more stretched out and cause your joint to become more unstable over time.

The best way to stop or slow down this cycle of ankle injuries is by wearing a preventative ankle brace. When it comes to determining the appropriate ankle brace for basketball players, it’s important to start by evaluating the position you play and then the injury history you have.

Common Basketball Ankle Injuries by Position

Forwards and Centers  These two positions are the most vulnerable for ankle injuries out of everyone on the court. During every possession, players in these positions are aggressively battling for rebounds creating the perfect situations for ankle injuries to occur. Because these are typically the biggest players on the court, jumping and landing in close proximity multiple times in a row, the resulting ankle injuries from landing on another player’s foot can occur with significant force. These types of ankle injuries can be the most severe in basketball.

Guards  This position is all about ball handling which means explosive cuts combined with significant acceleration/deceleration, creating extreme stress on ankle ligaments and tendons. When the load that is associated with these movements is greater than the ligament can tolerate, ankle injuries occur.

Evaluating Injury History

After learning which types of ankle injuries you might be most susceptible to as a basketball player in your specific position, choosing the right ankle brace for basketball is all about determining how much support you need versus how much mobility you want.

If you’ve had a previous ankle injury that is now healed and want to prevent future basketball ankle sprains, the preferred ankle brace would be a preventative one which could provide moderate stability and maximum mobility. However, if you currently have a severe ankle injury and want to return to competition as soon as possible, your ankle brace should provide maximum stability and minimal mobility. Typically, the types of ankle braces preferred in this situation are referred to as acute ankle injury braces.

Preventative Basketball Ankle Braces

There are three main types of preventive ankle braces available on the market today:

  1. Lace-ups – Fabric based lace-up design with wrap around straps
  2. Rigid – Semi-Rigid hinge design with attachment straps
  3. Soft Shell – Flexible hinged-cuff design with attachment straps

Another injury prevention method that can be administered by sports medicine professionals, while not a type of brace, is ankle taping. Taping the ankle is the least effective way to support the ankle over the course of a practice or game. A tape job will lose most of its support in the first 15-20 minutes of vigorous exercise. For that reason, we are only going to compare the three preventative ankle brace types below and omit the option of ankle taping.

Lace-Up Ankle Braces

Lace-up ankle braces were first introduced in 1887 as a basic corset design that restricts all ankle range of motion. Lace-up braces of today will typically have straps that wrap around the ankle in a figure-8.

Since these braces can be laced up as tight as possible, they may give the wearer a false sense of support when they are first applied, however they lose support quickly as they resist the ankle’s natural range of motion. This is especially detrimental in basketball where explosive cuts and vertical power are needed to outplay your opponent. Research studies have shown that lace-up ankle braces can restrict performance by resisting the natural up and down range of motion of the ankle. This is one reason why we recommend athletes wear a hinged ankle brace for prevention purposes – this way the ankle does not weaken over time due to being held tightly in place. While all hinged ankle braces are not the same, they do provide the necessary range of motion to enhance ankle strength and performance unlike the lace-up type braces.

Overall, the lace-up ankle brace is designed for individuals on a budget needing mild ankle support that are not engaging in competitive and/or high intensity activity. Some of the better brands in this category are McDavid®, ShockDoctor®, and ASO®.

Rigid Ankle Braces

Rigid, or semi-rigid ankle braces are made of hard plastic and typically have a hinge that allows full up and down ankle range of motion.  The rigid hinged ankle brace was first introduced commercially in 1985. A pivoting hinge connecting the bottom foot section on both sides of the ankle to an upright section that was secured with a strap to the lower leg.  The innovative hinge design offered the athlete free up and down ankle motion to run and jump without restriction. With the brace moving with the ankle, and not against it like with lace-ups, the brace stays securely in place maintaining longer-lasting ankle support.

Typically, these types of braces are only worn for a limited period of time for a couple of reasons: 1) Since the brace is rigid or semi-rigid it can be bulky to wear, and trying to fit the brace in a tight-fitting basketball shoe can be difficult and/or 2) The more rigid the ankle brace is the more uncomfortable it can be to wear for extended periods of time.

Hinged ankle braces are good for individuals looking for moderate ankle support to help protect or prevent the basic “low” ankle sprain or inversion (turning) ankle injury. Brands in this category are Active Ankle® and McDavid®.

Soft Shell Ankle Braces

The newest type of ankle brace to hit the market is the “soft shell” design, trademarked Performathane®.  The shell of the brace is flexible and uses body heat to custom-fit to the ankle. This custom-fit creates a very comfortable and low-profile ankle brace that is easy to fit in a basketball shoe and worn for extended periods of time. The concept behind the flexible shell is to get as close to the skin as possible and by doing so you can control excessive joint motion more effectively while still allowing for a little side to side natural range of motion.

Performathane® based ankle braces utilize the most advanced hinged-cuff designs on the market and are the first ever ankle braces designed for maximum performance. Where hinged-only braces restrict excessive ankle turning, the hinged-cuff design restricts excessive ankle turning and twisting to help prevent both low and high ankle injuries. Hinged-cuff ankle braces offer a higher level of protection than either the lace-up or hinged only ankle brace designs can provide.

The soft shell ankle brace is best for basketball players who want to help prevent ankle injuries or players with mild/moderate ankle instability. The Performathane® soft shell is extremely durable and will last multiple sports seasons.

Acute Ankle Injury Braces

When bracing an acute ankle injury, the brace needs to provide significant lower leg and ankle stability while unloading the ankle to reduce weight bearing pain. “Unloading” is the process of reducing the load, or impact to the sore ankle or at least reducing the load enough so the athlete can play with minimal or no pain. The Ultra CTS is the only ankle brace that is specifically designed to brace acute ankle injuries for return to competition using a hinged-cuff design that restricts excessive ankle turning (“inversion”) and twisting (“rotation”) to help prevent and protect both high ankle low ankle injuries.

 

If you, or your child, is a basketball player with a history of ankle injuries or you are learning more about how to protect yourself from basketball ankle sprains and you have any questions please send our certified athletic trainers a message or leave a comment below.

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