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

We are all familiar with preventative knee bracing for linemen, but what about the ankle? After all, when these big guys are battling in the trenches they tend to get their ankle stepped on, fallen on and overall abused. Many times, the mechanism of injury is external rotation which causes the dreaded syndesmotic (high) ankle injury. With the amount of exposures these linemen have to ankle injuries in practice and games would it be wise for them to use both preventative knee and ankle bracing?

When consider preventative ankle bracing for football lineman, there are a few priorities to keep in mind to ensure they are getting the best brace for their specific needs.

Compliance & Comfort

As with any sports medicine product, an ankle brace is only effective if the athlete wears it in the first place – which means athlete compliance should be a top priority. One of the biggest reasons we hear as to why athletes aren’t wearing an ankle brace recommended to them by a sports medicine professional is because it’s too uncomfortable to wear during activity. Any preventative ankle brace worn by lineman through long practices and tough games must be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time so they will actually keep it on.

Typically, when looking for a “comfortable” ankle brace, athletic trainers lean towards the lace-up, cloth type of braces and keep away from the harder, rigid plastic ankle braces. Lace-up style braces may be comfortable during activity, but they lose support rapidly, while rigid plastic braces that may provide good support are often uncomfortable, big and bulky.

In the past decade, newer materials have been developed in ankle bracing so that athletic trainers no longer must choose between low support cloth braces or rigid plastic braces. Ultra Ankle braces, for example, are designed with this newer, flexible material that uses a player’s body head to form-fit to the ankle. This new thermoplastic material provides the strength to stabilize the ankle with the comfort factor needed for athlete compliance.

Effective Hinged-Cuff Design

When athletic trainers are considering new ankle braces for their athletes, they are not only worried about the comfort level and materials but also the reasoning behind the design of the ankle brace.

When it comes to choosing an ankle brace for football lineman, you want to choose one that can help restrict excessive inversion/eversion and external rotation that causes syndesmotic ankle injuries. This priority really narrows the field down to ankle braces that have a hinged-cuff design. Where the hinge allows full plantar and dorsiflexion (which is great for getting down in your stance) the cuff encircles the posterior lower leg and provides the stability  necessary to help prevent excessive external ankle rotation.

durable enough to last an entire season

Once you’ve found a comfortable ankle brace that athletes will wear and that utilizes a design that helps prevent both low and high ankle injuries, the only thing you have left to worry about is how long that brace will last. If your ankle braces are rapidly losing support during activity and causing injuries or breaking/cracking half way through the season then they are not only terrible for your budget, but very unreliable.

The best ankle braces for athletes such as lineman must be durable enough to last an entire season and still be effective at controlling excessive joint movement. When looking into preventative ankle braces for football players, make sure to check out the product’s warranty. If a product isn’t guaranteed, then how do you know it will be effective and durable enough for your high performing athletes?

Our preventative ankle brace, the Ultra Zoom, will never crack, break or tear. It will maintain its structural integrity over multiple seasons, saving you money and giving your athletes the peace of mind. It’s on in seconds, protects consistently for hours and lasts for years.

Football Lineman & Ankle Braces

Collegiate football teams that have decided to implement preventative ankle bracing for their lineman have found this to be an effective strategy at reducing injuries. However, it takes both the will of the athletic trainers and coaches to implement and enforce the program and an ankle brace that can deliver the comfort, effectiveness and durability necessary to make the program successful. Our in-house athletic trainers work with top collegiate and pro football teams to implement ankle bracing protocols that benefit players by keeping them safely in the game while playing their high-impact sport.

If you have any questions about preventative ankle bracing for lineman or would like more information on how to implement a new ankle bracing protocol for your football team send us a message or leave us 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

Football ankle sprains are extremely common and are often a reason why players are forced to miss multiple practices and games each season. When it comes to determining the appropriate ankle brace for football players, it’s important to start by evaluating the position you play and then the injury history you have.

Common Football Ankle Injuries by Position

Lineman This position often suffers high ankle sprains due to linemen tackling and falling on each other’s ankles causing the ankle to externally rotate and injuring the ligaments above the ankle. With a high ankle injury, you will want a brace that has a hinged-cuff design that restricts excessive ankle rotation.

Defensive Backs, Receivers and Running Backs These positions often injure their ankles while cutting or landing from a jump. This is known as the classic ankle sprain where the ankle turns inward, often called an “inversion” ankle sprain. For the most part, all ankle braces are designed to restrict excessive ankle inversion.

Evaluating Injury History

After learning which types of ankle injuries you might be most susceptible to as a football player in your specific position, choosing the right ankle brace for football 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 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 Football 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. Despite studies showing that taping an ankle is 3 times more expensive than wearing a rigid brace, there is still a time factor that needs to be calculated into having your ankle taped every time you’re ready to hit the field. After the tape is applied, it quickly loses support and is less durable over time rendering it less effective than a brace. 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 football where muscle power and torque may be higher than lower impact sports. While lace-up ankle guards may feel comfortable because they are made from fabric, this fabric is also less durable and will easily rip and tear over time… not to mention absorb odors and start to smell pretty bad.

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®, Active Ankle® 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 football cleat 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 football cleat and be 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 that were first introduced in 2000. 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 football players who want to help prevent ankle injuries or players with mild/moderate ankle instability. These football ankle braces are 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 football player with a history of ankle injuries or you are learning more about how to protect yourself from football 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

As a high impact sport, football players wear more protective gear than many other athletes. Players must protect themselves from injury by wearing the most advanced equipment from state-of-the art helmets, to breathable pads, all the way down to advanced ankle braces. Since the responsibility of each athlete varies greatly from position to position, some players are at a higher risk of ankle injuries and should be especially concerned with which ankle brace is best for football.

Football Positions that Should Wear an Ankle Brace

Unlike sports with a much higher ankle injury rate for every player, you’re not going to see the entire team wearing preventative ankle bracing in football – usually only the offensive and defensive linemen. The football players on the line are typically the most vulnerable for ankle injuries due to the fact that they quickly pivot and turn while other players are constantly falling on their legs/ankles.

Most of the ankle injuries suffered by linemen are high ankle sprains, which are more severe than a classic ankle sprain and can take twice as long to heal. Once an ankle sprain occurs, there is a 70% chance that the ankle will be re-sprained. With each ankle sprain the ankle ligaments become further and further stretched apart making the ankle joint more loose and unstable with each sprain.

Which Ankle Brace is Right for You?

For this reason, linemen have started to wear ankle braces to help prevent football ankle injuries or lessen the severity should an injury occur. For offensive/defensive linemen it’s not only crucial to keep their ankles healthy, but also to be able to get down in their stance comfortably while retaining their explosive power. To meet both of these expectations, the best ankle brace for this position would be a hinged brace with a flexible shell, such as the Ultra Zoom®, that custom fits to the ankle for maximum comfort and provides full range of motion.

Although linemen are the most susceptible to ankle injuries during play, many other players on the field may still be wearing an ankle brace – especially those with a history of ankle injuries or chronic ankle instability. In the case of chronic ankle instability, the athletes should wear an ankle brace that offers more long-lasting support than taping or a lace-up style support, such as the hinged-cuff Ultra High-5®, that can withstand the pounding of an entire football season while providing maximum protection to help prevent furthering injuring the joint.

Regardless of which position you may play, if you’re interested in learning more about if you should be wearing an ankle brace for football send us a message. Our certified athletic trainer would be happy to answer any of your questions and help you stay on the field all the way from two-a-days through the championship 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