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 for an extended period of time, 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.


While some ankle braces, like the lace-up style, can restrict joint range of motion they do not necessarily weaken the ankle. A lace-up brace would have to be worn over an extended period of time to cause any major damage. Hinged and hinged-cuff ankle braces, however, do not have any negative impact on the strength and movement of the ankle joint. 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!

7 responses to “Do Ankle Braces Weaken Your Ankle?”

  1. Martin Ryan says:

    My right ankle has a lot of wear and tear from my football days , I should have had it fused Years ago too late now , Is there a Brace to help ease pain when I walk , I am 68 years old, Regards Martin.

    • Rick Peters says:

      Thanks Martin for the question. Per your ankle condition it looks like you have ankle osteoarthritis which means you will need an ankle brace that will “unload” the ankle to reduce joint irritation and pain. I sent you an email with more details on our Ultra CTS ankle brace and additional information on ankle osteoarthritis. Thanks again for the question. Rick, Certified Athletic Trainer

  2. Rolinda LeMay says:

    I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type III (hEDS) which causes hypermobility of joints due to lax ligaments and tendons. My ankles pronate and a orthotics doesn’t seem to be doing much to keep my ankles stable. Will a hinged ankle brace help?

  3. Tracy says:

    My son plays basketball and in July had a grade 3 right ankle sprain. He’s wearing lace up braces and has back pain and is slower on the court. He feels like taping is what’s best but the trainer will not routinely tape post injury and suggests braces. He needs support but wants to move quicker. He’s been given all kinds of stretches to do to loosen up all of the tightness in legs and back. Thanks for your help!

    • Rick Peters says:

      Thank for reaching out to Ultra Ankle. We really appreciate it.

      Sorry to hear about your sons ankle injury. Taping the ankle provides the least amount of support. Although it feels nice and tight when its first applied, after 20 minutes of exercise it loses 70% of its support. Likewise lace-up ankle brace do the same thing because they restrict all ankle motion so they work against normal ankle motion. Our Limitless Performance Series ankle brace have a hinge so they move with natural ankle range of motion.

      For your son I would recommend our Ultra Zoom ankle brace. The Ultra Zoom has a flexible shell that uses body heat to form-fit to the ankle for comfortable long-lasting ankle support. The hinge design allows for natural ankle range of motion to enhance performance and keep the muscles strong.

      SHOES: We recommend a low top sneaker with a traditional tongue and laces where you can spread out the laces enough to fit the brace in the shoe.

      SIZING: When sizing the Ultra Zoom make sure you measure your ankle circumference per the size chart on the product page. Do not use shoe size to determine ankle brace size.

  4. phyllis nagle says:

    I am 73 and in great shape, however over the years both ankles have pronated. The bone structure of my feet is a little deformed so now I have weak old lady ankles. What br

  5. Tarhib IT Limited says:

    Excellent article! Your explanation on whether ankle braces weaken your ankle is very informative. Thanks for addressing this common concern and providing clarity on the benefits of using ankle braces.


    Thanks for your comment on our Blog. We really appreciate it.

    Should you have any questions about ankle braces or ankle injuries please let me know. I am here to help.
    Rick Peters ATC
    Certified Athletic Trainer

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