Football is a high-impact sport that places intense demands on the body, particularly the ankles. Ankle sprains are the most common sports injury for football players due to the frequent physical contact and dynamic movements of the sport. Ankle sprains can occur from cutting, stepping on another player’s foot or landing from a jump. They also can occur when your ankle gets stepped on or fallen on. This can damage the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and is the most commonly injured ligament in the ankle, usually due to inversion injuries (MDPI).

Ankle injuries can cause pain, loss of playing time, loss of fitness, and potential medical expenses for athletes and/or their parents. Injury prevention programs that include multiple components, such as strengthening and agility/balance exercises, can help reduce the incidence of ankle injuries (Sage Journals). The addition of ankle braces can further reduce the risks of ankle sprains and acute ankle injuries. Lace-Up ankle braces alone have shown to reduce the risk of ankle injuries in football players (NIH).

This blog post will explore the following topics:

  1. The two primary types of ankle injuries affecting football players.
  2. The football positions that suffer the most ankle injuries.
  3. The different types of ankle braces available.
  4. Ankle brace recommendations based on ankle injury history.
  5. Recommendations for Ultra Ankle braces.
  6. How to choose the best football cleats to wear with ankle braces.


Primary ankle injuries affecting football players

There are two main types of ankle injuries football players suffer from the most. Inversion or “Low” ankle sprains and syndesmotic or “High Ankle” sprains. Here is the difference between the two.

  • Inversion ankle sprains can stretch and sometimes tear the ligaments holding the ankle joint together, leading to extended bench time that could range from a few days to weeks, depending on the injury’s severity. Even after resting to allow the ankle to heal, the ligaments remain somewhat stretched, making the ankle loose and unstable and prone to future ankle injuries. This cycle of recurring ankle injuries can be interrupted or slowed down by wearing a preventive ankle brace (3CBPerformance).
  • High ankle sprains, also known as syndesmotic ankle sprains, are distinct from the more common low ankle sprains. They involve injury to the ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula together. These injuries are often caused by ankle external rotation and/or dorsiflexion trauma, common in high-impact sports like football, rugby, lacrosse and soccer. High ankle injuries are more severe than low ankle injuries and take longer to heal.

football ankle sprain, inversion ankle sprain, high ankle sprain

Common Ankle Injuries by Football Position

Ankle injuries can vary significantly depending on the position played. 2,285 football players were recently part of a study (NIH) during an NFL Combine. Of these players, 53.2% had an ankle injury of some form or another. These were the positions who incurred the most ankle injuries.

Running Backs: These players are at high risk for ankle sprains due to the sudden stops and turns they make during practice and games. This study showed that running backs have the highest incidence of ankle injuries at 61.9%. Wide receivers and defensive backs can fall under this same category due to similar movements on the field.

Linemen: Offensive linemen are second in risk percentage of players who suffer ankle injuries at 60.3%. Linemen often suffer from high ankle sprains caused by the heavy physical contact and twisting motions required in their positions.​

Quarterbacks: While less frequent, quarterbacks can experience ankle injuries from being tackled or during rapid changes in direction​.

Injured football player on sidlines of game with crutches by team

Types of Ankle Braces Available for Football Players

There are several types of ankle braces, each offering different levels of support and flexibility.

  • Lace-Up Ankle Braces: These braces are made from fabric and lace-up tightly to provide support. While they offer a snug fit and can be tightened as needed, they tend to restrict the ankle’s natural range of motion, which can be detrimental in high-intensity sports like football​ (NIH)​.
    • Pros: Inexpensive and readily available on-line and/or at most sporting goods stores. They are low profile and fit into almost any football cleat.
    • Cons: Restrict natural up-and-down ankle movement, which for any athlete is crucial for running and jumping. The fabric stretches out, migrates, and loses support rapidly during athletic activity. Lace-up ankle braces are also difficult and time consuming to apply.
  • Rigid Ankle Braces: Made from hard plastic with hinges, these braces allow for natural up and down ankle movement while preventing excessive side-to-side motion. They provide robust support but can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
    • Pros: Move with the natural up-and-down movement of the ankle, not restricting performance, speed, agility, or vertical jump. With most rigid ankle braces the straps stay securely in place, maintaining long-lasting support for the duration of practices and games. Rigid ankle braces are typically put on and and removed much more quickly than lace-up braces.
    • Cons: Larger or “bulkier” than lace-up braces, requiring more room in the shoe. Because the braces are rigid they do not form-fit to the foot and ankle and can become uncomfortable after long periods of wearing.
  • Soft-Shell Ankle Braces: The flexible plastic shell is designed to form a comfortable custom fit to the ankle using body heat. They offer excellent protection while allowing natural movement, making them ideal for prolonged use during practices and games​.
    • Pros: Move with the natural up-and-down movement of the ankle, not restricting performance, speed, agility, or vertical jump. Through body heat the soft-shell ankle braces form fit to the ankle making them very comfortable and supportive over long periods of time. Soft-shell braces are quick to put on and remove with very little effort.
    • Cons: Like the rigid ankle braces, soft-shell braces can be bulkier than lace-up braces, requiring more room in shoes. The soft-shell braces may take a few practices or games to break-in (like a new pair of shoes) before they are comfortable.

When choosing which style of ankle brace you want, or need, be sure to read the next section on our ankle brace recommendations based on ankle injury history.

Ankle Brace Recommendations based on Ankle Injury History

Once you’ve had an ankle injury you are 70% more likely to reinjure it. Of all ankle sprains 40% of them develop chronic symptoms. Chronic ankle instability (CAI) can occur in up to 70% of patients who have recurrent ankle sprains. CAI can have negative health effects, such as reduced quality of life and early-onset osteoarthritis (NIH).


“Many people think, ‘It’s just an ankle sprain.’ But sprains aren’t a ‘nothing’ injury. Many sprains can lead to chronic instability and problems down the road.”

Gergory Waryasz, MD, CSCS

Sports Medicine Specialist at Mass General Brigham


Depending on how many ankle injuries, and types of ankle injuries, you have incurred, we recommend the following ankle braces:


1-3 Previous Ankle Injuries: For athletes with 1-3 previous ankle injuries, an entry-level ankle brace made with fabric that laces up, called Lace-Ups, might suffice. Lace-Ups with figure-8 straps are preferred as they wrap around the ankle similarly to a tape job performed by an athletic trainer. Think of Lace-Up braces as a reusable tape job that can be applied before every practice and game, eliminating the need for an athletic trainer.


4-5+ Previous Ankle Injuries: For athletes with 4-5 previous ankle injuries, including one or more grade 2-3 injuries, more support is required along with possible medical consultation. For athlete’s with numerous ankle injuries, plastic hinged ankle braces and soft-shell ankle braces offer a structurally sound design that provides additional ankle support needed for unstable ankles (Harvard Medical School).


Best Ultra Ankle® Braces for Different Scenarios

Ultra Ankle® offers a range of braces suitable for various needs. Depending on the type of ankle injuries you’ve had and the number of ankle injuries you’ve sustained, Ultra Ankle has four advanced ankle braces designed to help prevent, treat, and recover from ankle injuries.

  • Ultra 360® Lace-Up: The Ultra 360 locks your ankle in place while the figure-8 straps provide 360º of ankle support to help prevent excessive ankle rolling. The multi-adjustable design allows you to customize your level of support. The Ultra 360 is for athletes who require mild ankle support and have a minimal history of ankle injuries.


  • Ultra Zoom®: The only ankle brace built for performance— you’ll play better and play more, losing less time to injuries with the Ultra Zoom. The Performathane® soft shell forms to you, and has a hinged-cuff design, allowing your ankle to move in all the natural ways while helping to prevent both LOW and HIGH ankle injuries. The Ultra Zoom is on your ankle in seconds, protects continuously for hours and lasts for multiple seasons. The Ultra Zoom is for athletes who play sports with high incidence of ankle injuries and who want increased ankle support while not sacrificing mobility or agility.


  • Ultra High-5®: Designed for athletes who need maximum support, particularly after an injury, and/or multiple injuries. This brace provides robust stability for high-risk movements and is feather-light, and super strong. The Ultra High-5 is for athletes with chronic ankle instability due to a history of multiple ankle injuries and who have recurring joint pain due to excessive pounding on unforgiving surfaces.


  • Ultra CTS®: The Ultra CTS or Custom Treatment System, is designed specifically for athletes who have had a high ankle injury or an acute ankle injury. 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. 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.

Ankle Braces and Football Cleats

For any type of football shoe/cleat, it is recommended the shoe have “traditional tongue and laces.” These shoes allow the laces to spread out enough to fit the ankle brace inside the shoe. They offer the best fit for any type of ankle brace. What is not recommended is a shoe with a “sleeve or collar design.” These shoes lack a traditional tongue, making the opening much smaller and very difficult to fit the ankle brace inside. Depending on your ankle injury history, you must first determine the type of ankle brace you need and then select the style of football cleat that fits best with that ankle brace.


Ankle braces are a vital component of a football player’s gear, providing essential support and reducing the risk of injury. By understanding the types of braces available, the common injuries per position, and how to pair braces with the right cleats, players can enhance their performance and safety on the field. For the best results, consider using Ultra Ankle braces tailored to your specific ankle condition and injury history.

ankle taping vs ankle bracing which is better

When it comes to preventing ankle injuries or providing support after an injury has occurred, two methods often come to mind – taping the ankle or wearing an ankle brace. These methods are common choices among athletes, athletic trainers, and physiotherapists for providing stability to an injured or unstable ankle. In this blog post, we will discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and comparative effectiveness of both strategies, thereby assisting you in making an informed decision.

Ankle Taping: The Traditional Approach

Ankle taping has been a staple in sports and athletic activities for decades. It involves wrapping athletic tape around the ankle in a specific pattern to provide support and restrict certain movements that could lead to injury.

Advantages of Ankle Taping:

  1. Customizability: Taping allows for customization based on the individual’s unique anatomy and the specific nature of their injury or risk. It can be tailored to provide targeted support.(1).
  2. Versatility: Taping can adapt to various sports and activities, allowing for a degree of movement while offering the right amount of restriction to prevent further injury.(1).

Disadvantages of Ankle Taping:

  1. Time-consuming: Proper taping is a skill that requires practice and can be time-consuming, especially for beginners.
  2. Expensive: Rolls of athletic tape can be costly, and every tape job will be discarded after use(1).
  3. Loses Support Quickly: Taping restricts all ankle range of motion, including the natural up and down movement necessary for running and jumping. The moment an athlete steps onto the field or court, their ankle is working against the fabric tape, stretching it out and losing the support that initially felt secure. Sweat also contributes to the tape losing support.
  4. Consistent Reapplication: Tape loses its effectiveness over time, often requiring reapplication several times during an extended activity.
  5. Potential Skin Irritation: Extended use of tape can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals(1).

Ankle Bracing: The Modern Tool

Ankle braces, on the other hand, represent a more contemporary approach to ankle support. These braces, typically made from plastic or fabric, are designed to be easily applied by the athlete and reused for multiple practices and games. They offer varying levels of support depending on the specific needs of the ankle.

Advantages of Ankle Bracing:

  1. Ease of Use: Ankle braces are generally easier and quicker to put on compared to taping. This convenience can be particularly beneficial for athletes who need to prepare quickly before practices or games(2).
  2. Durability and Reusability: Unlike tape, ankle braces can be used repeatedly over an extended period, making them a cost-effective solution for long-term use(2).
  3. Support: Typically, an ankle brace provides more consistent support than tape. Hinged ankle braces, in particular, maintain ankle support for longer periods of time, even during intense activities.

Disadvantages of Ankle Bracing:

  1. Less Customizable: Unlike taping, braces come in fixed designs and may not offer the same level of personalization to the individual’s anatomy(2).
  2. Potential Discomfort: Some users may find ankle braces bulky or uncomfortable, especially those made with rigid plastic. Finding the right fit and design can mitigate some of these issues but may require trial and error(2).

Ultra Ankle® Braces: The True Modern Tool

A notable example of high-quality ankle braces is the Ultra Ankle® line of braces. These braces are designed to provide exceptional support and comfort, making them a preferred choice for many athletes and individuals with ankle injuries. Let’s delve into the advantages of using Ultra Ankle braces:

Advantages of Ultra Ankle Braces:

  1. Ease of Use: Ultra Ankle® braces are generally easier and quicker to put on compared to taping, reducing preparation time before activities. This ease of use ensures that athletes can spend more time focusing on their performance rather than on injury prevention preparations(3).
  2. Durability and Reusability: Ultra Ankle® braces are known for their durability. They are designed for repeated use over an extended period, making them a cost-effective solution for long-term use. This durability ensures consistent support and protection across numerous practices and games(3).
  3. Innovative Design: The Ultra Ankle® braces are recognized for their innovative designs, which consider different ankle injuries and the varying degrees of support needed. For example:
    • Ultra Zoom® Ankle Brace: Aimed at preventing or recovering from ankle sprains, it offers flexibility while maintaining robust support.
    • Ultra High-5® Ankle Brace: Designed for individuals with chronic ankle instability, it provides enhanced stability to prevent recurring injuries.
  4. Comfort and Fit: Unlike some other brands, Ultra Ankle® braces are often praised for their comfort and ability to fit snugly without being excessively bulky. This comfort is achieved through designs like the Ultra Zoom® and Ultra CTS®, which form a custom fit to the foot and ankle using body heat.
  5. Maintaining Ankle Strength: The Ultra Zoom®, Ultra CTS®, and Ultra High-5® offer a different approach than almost any other ankle brace on the market. Instead of imposing a universal restriction on the ankle’s movement, these braces feature a hinged design that allows for a more natural range of motion. This ensures that while the ankle is supported and safeguarded from dangerous movements, it can still move freely within the safe zone. As a result, the muscles and tendons in the ankle continue to be actively engaged during movement, promoting their strength and function. This approach makes the Ultra Zoom®, Ultra CTS®, and Ultra High-5® braces not just protective devices but tools for maintaining, and even improving, the overall health and strength of the ankle(3).

Ankle Taping vs Ankle Braces: The Verdict

When choosing between ankle taping and bracing, it ultimately depends on your individual needs, comfort, and the nature of your activities. Here’s a comparative look to help you make an informed decision:

  • Short-term Use or Specific Sporting Events: For short-term use or during a specific sporting event, taping can provide the right amount of support and flexibility. It allows for a high degree of customization tailored to the athlete’s specific requirements and the nature of the sport source.
  • Ongoing Competition or Everyday Use: For ongoing competition or daily use, an Ultra Ankle brace is a more practical and cost-effective solution. The durability, ease of use, and consistent support provided by these braces make them ideal for long-term ankle health management(3).

Consulting a Healthcare Provider: It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider regarding your specific requirements. They can offer personalized advice based on your injury history, level of activity, and overall health(1).

Complementary Strength and Balance Training: While ankle taping and braces can provide valuable support, they should be complemented by strength and balance training exercises. These exercises help build robust and resilient ankles, further preventing injuries(2).


The debate between ankle taping and ankle braces is not about finding a clear winner, but about understanding their benefits and limitations. By doing so, you can make an informed decision that best suits your lifestyle, activity level, and personal comfort. Remember, preventing injuries is always better than treating them. Take care of your ankles – you literally stand on the foundation they provide. Optimum ankle health not only boosts your physical performance but also enhances your overall quality of life. Stay strong, stay active, and stride forward with confidence!

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.



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.

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.


Here’s the scenario: a player goes down with an ankle injury. The athletic trainer brings the player back to the sidelines, takes off his or her shoe and sock and begins to tape the injured ankle.  After a roll of tape the player hops off the taping table to give it a try but is still hobbling around, unable to tolerate the pain.  Why? You just put the best tape job of your life on that ankle, it should be stable. Here’s the thing, it’s not the ankle instability that is causing the pain, it’s the impact. Tape alone cannot reduce weight-bearing impact. So what options do have to reduce impact – and the pain associated with it, thus allowing the player to return quickly, safely and relatively pain free to competition?

Reducing painful weight-bearing impact from acute ankle injury is the key to a quick return to activity. Tape can’t reduce ankle impact, lace-ups can’t reduce impact, any ankle brace that has a soft bottom or open heel section can’t reduce impact. You must use an ankle brace that “unloads” the ankle to reduce painful weight-bearing impact. Unloading means the ankle brace is absorbing the impact or energy, not the sore ankle.

To achieve maximum ankle unloading, the ankle brace must be made with a semi-rigid resin having a hinged cuff U-shaped design. The hinge is important because it allows the ankle brace to move with the ankle, staying securely in place maintaining long-lasting support. The cuff which wraps around the posterior lower leg is extremely important because it absorbs the impact and transfers that impact/energy to the lower leg. This technology is efficient in ankle unloading because it creates significant stabilization and support due to the U-shape semi-rigid design in both the vertical and horizontal planes.

At Ultra Ankle® we have developed two ankle bracing technologies that will unload the ankle. The Ultra High-5® is a hinged-cuff design that is recommended for chronic ankle instability and reoccurring joint pain. The Ultra CTS® is a hinged-cuff detachable shell design that is recommended for acute ankle injury treatment and rehabilitation. The Ultra CTS® provides maximum lower leg compression and stabilization with significant ankle unloading to reduce weight bearing pain. The Ultra CTS® is the ankle brace every athletic trainer should have available on game day.

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