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.

Conclusion

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!

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

Why Football Players Need Ultra Ankle® Braces: A Game Changer in Injury Prevention & RECOVERY

Football is an intense sport requiring players to exhibit agility, speed, and raw power. With its explosive movements, sharp turns, and abrupt stops, football puts significant strain on a player’s body, particularly their ankles. Hence, safeguarding against injuries, specifically ankle injuries, is of paramount importance. That’s where Ultra Ankle braces come into play.

Ankle braces, like the Ultra Ankle® Ultra Zoom®, are critical for football players for several reasons:

  1. Injury Prevention

One of the main reasons football players should wear Ultra Ankle braces is to prevent injuries. Ankle sprains are common in football due to the sport’s demanding nature. The lateral support provided by Ultra 360 Lace-Up braces or Ultra Zoom braces minimizes the risk of sprains, preventing the ankle from rolling inward or outward excessively. Additionally, the hinged-cuff design of the Ultra Zoom works to prevent excessive twisting or turning of the lower leg, thereby limiting high ankle injuries, which are common among football players.

  1. Enhancing Performance

Ultra Zoom braces not only prevent injuries but also enhance performance. With the confidence that their ankles are well protected, football players can focus more on their game. They are free to make quick moves and sudden changes in direction without the fear of injuring their ankles. The Ultra Zoom brace allows football players to stay on the field and off the sidelines, playing more, playing better, and losing less time to ankle injuries.

  1. Speedy Recovery

For players recovering from previous ankle injuries and absolutely needing to play, Ultra Ankle braces, specifically the Ultra CTS, provide much-needed support and stability to accelerate recovery while minimizing the risk of reinjury. The Ultra CTS provides superior unloading of the ankle joint and reduction in weight bearing pain. This gives the relief that players need so they can get back on the gridiron. There is no other brace on the market that can make this claim.

  1. Advanced Design

Ultra Ankle braces like the Ultra Zoom and Ultra CTS have been engineered with advanced biomechanical design, tailored to meet the specific needs of athletes, and in this case, football players. They feature a multi-directional hinged-cuff design, allowing for free, natural movement. Unlike taping, this design helps maintain stability and support while still allowing for full athletic functionality. Additionally, the Ultra Zoom and Ultra CTS braces custom form-fit to the athlete’s ankles and feet. This not only provides comfort for the athlete, but also allows the brace to act and react with that specific athlete’s ankle joint(s).

  1. Durability and Comfort

In the physical world of football, equipment durability and comfort is a crucial factor. Ultra Ankle braces are known for their robust construction that stands up to the rigors of the sport. Despite this durability, these braces don’t sacrifice comfort – with the custom form-fit, the Ultra Zoom and Ultra CTS are designed to be worn for extended periods and fit comfortably inside most football cleats.

In conclusion, Ultra Ankle braces are a necessity for football players. They provide injury prevention, enhance performance, assist in speedy recovery, offer advanced support and comfort, and bring the robustness necessary for the sport, making them an integral part of every football player’s gear. Investing in Ultra Ankle braces is investing in the longevity of a player’s career. Stay in the game with Ultra Ankle.

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.

A common question I get several times a week from people inquiring through our website portal is, “which ankle brace is best for me, the Ultra Zoom or the Ultra High-5.” Which I reply with several questions about their current ankle condition and injury history.

(more…)

Unlike most sports where ankle injuries are caused by players coming in contact with another athlete, this is certainly not the case in tennis. In tennis, the ankle injury is typically caused by extreme forward, backward and lateral movements that place significant stress on the ligaments of the ankle. These ligaments cannot handle the additional load and eventually an ankle injury occurs.

The majority of ankle injuries in tennis are caused by the ankle turning excessively inward, stretching and/or tearing the ligaments on the lateral (outer) side of the ankle resulting in what is known as an inversion ankle sprain. Once the ligaments in the ankle become stretched, they stay stretched making the ankle more unstable and susceptible to future ankle injuries. If you’re a tennis player with a history of ankle sprains, it’s important to stop the cycle of ankle injuries early to eliminate future joint issues and/or losing the ability to play the game.

The best way to prevent ankle injuries and reduce stress on the ankle ligaments is to wear a functional ankle brace – but which ankle brace is the best for tennis players?

Ankle Braces to Help Prevent Twisting Your Ankle

Some tennis players wear 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 joint works against the lace-up brace causing it to lose support rapidly. Lace-ups became popular as a replacement for the ankle tape job, which itself loses 70% of its effectiveness during the first 20 minutes of activity, but are now commonly being replaced by more advanced technologies.

Rigid plastic ankle braces are another style of ankle supports that you may see when researching the best ankle braces for tennis. 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 stability than the lace-up support because the brace moves with the ankle, not against it, so the straps stay securely in place. The downside to these braces is that the rigidity can be uncomfortable and feel bulky which tennis 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.

To sum things up, the best ankle braces for tennis players are the ones that are designed to move with the ankle joint and not restrict normal up and down ankle motion. These types of ankle braces will have a hinge that allows full up and down ankle movement to enhance performance and provide long-lasting ankle support.

If you’re a tennis player with a history of 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

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

Unlike most other sports, where a player’s hands are important, choosing the right ankle brace for soccer is much more critical due to soccer players primarily utilizing their ankles and feet during play.

Imagine asking a basketball player to wear a rigid brace on his hand… that player would probably find it difficult to dribble and shoot because the brace takes away his touch on the ball and/or restricts his natural range of motion. The same goes for soccer players who rely on their ankle and foot to control the soccer ball, which is what makes choosing a soccer ankle brace difficult and frustrating.

When it comes to ankle guards, you don’t want too much restriction that would negatively impact your performance but if your ankle is unstable and isn’t braced properly you are highly susceptible to repeat ankle injuries. Fortunately, there are new types of ankle braces available that focus on support and performance – meaning soccer players are able to retain their full range of motion and ball touch while helping to prevent ankle sprains.

When sitting on the sidelines after numerous soccer ankle injuries isn’t an option anymore, it’s time to evaluate the different types of soccer ankle braces available.

Types of Soccer Ankle Braces

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

  1. Lace-up ankle supports – Fabric based lace-up design with wrap around straps.
  2. Rigid/Hard Plastic Braces – Semi-rigid hinge design with attachment straps.
  3. Soft Shell Ankle Braces – Flexible hinged-cuff design with attachment straps.

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. 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®, Cramer® 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 stayed securely in place maintaining longer-lasting ankle support.

Historically soccer players have stayed away from these rigid ankle braces for three 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 soccer cleat can be difficult.
  2. The more rigid the ankle brace is the more uncomfortable it can be to wear for extended periods of time.
  3. Soccer players say that rigid braces effect their touch on the ball as the ball can be deflected off the brace creating an uncontrolled dribble.

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 and most advanced type of ankle brace to hit the market utilizes a “soft shell” design (trademarked Performathane®) to work with a player’s body heat to create a flexible, custom fit. These custom fitting ankle braces are supportive enough to help prevent ankle injuries but are also flexible and low-profile enough to be worn in the standard tight-fitting soccer cleat for extended periods of time. Introduced in 2000, the purpose of the soft shell design is to provide support as close to the skin as possible. By creating a form-fitting ankle brace around the ankle joint you are able to control excessive joint motion much better than older types of braces.

Our soft shell ankle brace, the Ultra Zoom, also incorporates the next-generation hinged-cuff design. While hinged braces restrict excessive ankle turning, the hinged-cuff design restricts excessive ankle turning and twisting to help prevent both low and high ankle injuries. For that reason, the hinged-cuff design ankle brace offers a higher level of protection than either the lace-up or hinged only ankle brace design.

The soft shell ankle brace is best for athletes who want to help prevent ankle injuries or players with mild/moderate ankle instability. Typically lasting multiple sports season, these are also the most cost effective ankle bracing solution in the market due to their durability.

Soccer Cleats and Ankle Braces

Low-profile, flexible ankle braces fit in almost every traditional soccer cleat, however in recent years newer cleat designs utilizing a sock-like liner may be too tight to insert an ankle brace in. These select newer cleats, where the upper shoe is one complete piece, are difficult not only to fit ankle braces but other medical devices such as custom orthopedic inserts as well. If you’re a soccer player that needs to wear a preventative ankle brace, we recommend a low top soccer cleat with a traditional tongue and laces if possible. This type of soccer cleat creates a larger opening to insert the ankle with the brace applied.

If you have any more questions about soccer ankle braces, feel free to send our athletic trainers a message online or by commenting on this post 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

Have you ever thought about the fact that while knee bracing keeps advancing in terms of design and materials, ankle bracing advancement is stagnant? The only difference between the first lace-up (which was introduced over a century ago) and the lace-ups of today is a figure-8 strap has been added.

For this reason, some athletic trainers have started to rethink the use of a lace-up design that restricts non-injury range of motion, loses support rapidly, collects bacteria, stinks and is a pain to fit. Athletic trainers would never recommend a lace-up knee brace, which is why they are now rethinking why they would recommend a lace-up ankle brace. However, if not a lace-up ankle brace, then what is the best option for ankle injury prevention or mild/moderate ankle instability?

Athletic trainers tend to learn early on that the brace we prefer the athlete to wear and the ankle brace they will actually wear might be two different things. Take semi-rigid, hinged braces as an example – we see these ankle braces as providing more long-lasting ankle support, but the athlete sees them as being big, bulky and uncomfortable.

This leaves athletic trainer’s stuck between using an outdated and ineffective lace-up ankle brace or insisting their athletes wear bulky and uncomfortable semi-rigid, hinged braces. Instead of settling for these decades-old technologies, they are starting to rethink their methodologies by adopting a new ankle brace technology that has significant appeal to both athletes and athletic trainers.

The latest ankle brace advancements have resulted in products that are comfortable and low-profile enough to satisfy the athlete while utilizing a hinged-cuff design that provides long-lasting ankle support to meet the requirements of the athletic trainer. So, what is this emerging ankle brace design that satisfies both the athlete and athletic trainer? It all starts with a thermoplastic elastomer resin.

You may not know the term “thermoplastic elastomer” but it could become your best friend at preventing and treating the ankle injury. Rethinking the ankle brace starts with rethinking the material the ankle brace is made from. Thermoplastic elastomer material, trademarked Performathane® by Ultra Ankle®, is used to form the soft shell of the Ultra Zoom performance ankle brace.  The Performathane soft shell reacts to body heat by form-fitting to the ankle for a comfortable custom-fit that athletes love. The hinged-cuff design of the Ultra Zoom restricts excessive inversion and rotation to help prevent both low and high (syndesmotic) ankle injuries. 

Rethinking ankle bracing also comes with rethinking the cost per season. A lace-up ankle brace will typically last only a high school sports season or less. The Ultra Zoom typically lasts three full sports seasons making your cost per season much lower. 

Every once in a while, we need to step back and rethink our bracing recommendations.  Innovation moves forward with new techniques, materials and designs providing better outcomes for athletes and athletic trainers.  At Ultra Ankle we keep advancing ankle bracing technology in order to perfect the best possible ankle brace for ankle injury prevention, chronic ankle instability and acute injury care.

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

With 25,000 ankle injuries happening a day in the U.S. there are a lot of people looking for a solution for their ankle injury or chronic ankle instability. Unfortunately, ankle bracing is something that people are not well educated on or have heard misconceptions about through the grapevine over the years. The Certified Athletic Trainers here at Ultra Ankle strive to provide the best ankle bracing solution to each customer based on their specific needs and we hope to do that through education, providing research, and answering any questions about ankle bracing that athletes, parents, or coaches may have.

This article hopes to clarify the different ankle brace designs available on the market today and to provide you the necessary information to choose the right ankle brace for your ankle condition. If after reading this article you still have questions about which brace is right for you, send us a message and we would be happy to help. 

Types of Ankle Braces

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

  1. Lace-ups (fabric based that may/may not have wrap around straps)
  2. Hinged (semi-rigid plastic shell with wrap around strap)
  3. Hinged-Cuff (semi-rigid or flexible shell with straps)

Lace-Up Ankle Braces

Lace-up ankle braces were first invented in 1887 as a basic corset design that uses laces or Velcro to bind the ankle to restrict all ankle range of motion. Today these lace-up braces 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. While lace-up ankle guards may feel comfortable because they are made out of 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 ankle range of motion. 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®, Cramer® and ASO®.

Hinged Ankle Braces

Hinged ankle braces were first introduced commercially in 1985 when I created a brace that utilized 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. This design went on to create the foundation of ankle bracing company Active Ankle® Systems.

 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 stayed securely in place maintaining longer-lasting ankle support.  Since the hinged brace is typically made with a semi-rigid plastic they can be durable enough to last a few sports seasons however have been known to crack/break a lot in recent years due to an adjustment in the materials being used by certain brands. Since these braces are typically meant to go under the insole of the shoe, they tend to move with the shoe rather than the ankle joint which increases the odds of an injury as well as creates unneeded space between the joint and the brace. The closer to the ankle a brace can get, the more control over excessive joint movement it will have.

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®. 

Hinged-Cuff Ankle Braces

After years of studying hinged ankle braces and where their technology was falling short, we introduced the most modern ankle bracing technology in the year 2000 – hinged-cuff ankle braces. This design utilizes a pivoting hinge connecting the bottom foot section to the upright section.  The upright section is designed with a cuff that encircles the posterior or rear of the lower leg.  The addition of the cuff design helped to provide rotational stability to help prevent the more severe high (syndesmotic) ankle injuries. Hinged-cuff ankle braces are also crucial in helping to prevent low ankle injuries caused by excessive ankle turning by providing the support needed to keep the ankle in place while still allowing it to move as it naturally should.

 At Ultra Ankle® our hinged-cuff ankle braces are made with a flexible plastic outer shell called Performathane® that will typically last three sports seasons. Both the Performathane shell and padding system uses body heat to create a form fit to the ankle. Our braces are worn right over the sock, as opposed to inside or outside of the shoe, to get as close to the joint as possible for optimal levels of comfort, support, and durability.

Hinged-cuff ankle braces are the best ankle brace for individuals and athletes to wear for mild/moderate ankle instability, chronic ankle instability, or for acute ankle injury bracing. No other type of brace gets as close to the ankle while allowing it to retain its strength and full range of motion during activity. Popular brands are Ultra Ankle®, Don Joy® and Ossur®. 

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