It’s easy to take your ankles for granted when they’re healthy. But actually, ankles are surprisingly complex structures. Every human ankle consists of three different bones: the shinbone, calf bone and ankle bone. The shinbone supports your weight when you stand. All three bones working together– along with several different important ligaments– work together to allow you to walk, run, balance and jump.
Athletes often injure their ankles during games or when they’re training. Overextending an ankle can cause an ankle sprain, which in turn leads to swelling and pain. A severe ankle injury may result in an ankle fracture. Rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis, and other various types of arthritis can also cause chronic ankle issues. Achilles tendonitis– a condition that occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated due to overuse– can negatively affect your ankle health, as well. Even shoes that are too tight can cause ankle complications.
No matter what type of ankle pain you’re experiencing, an ankle brace can help. Even people with healthy ankles sometimes wear them for protection. The extra stability that an ankle brace provides can stop you from overextending your ankle. If you’ve sustained an ankle injury, this can help you heal and prevent you from injuring yourself again. What’s more, the added compression assists with intense exercise recovery.
Here are the best ankle braces you can buy:
- If you have healthy ankles that sometimes ache a bit after you’re finished at the gym, Crucial Compression’s Foot and Ankle Compression Sleeves will help you recover from intense workouts faster.
- Bioskin’s Trilok Ankle Brace is specifically designed to meet the needs of people who suffer from plantar fasciitis and PTTD (Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction).
- Lightweight yet tough and sturdy, McDavid’s Ankle Support Brace is a basketball ankle brace that’s specifically designed to help you defend against injuries without slowing you down on the court.
- Zamst’s A2-DX ankle brace is the best brace you can buy if you’re an athlete with ankle issues. NBA star Steven Curry wore this exact model throughout the 2012/2013 season.
- People with ankle fractures will be hard pressed to find a better ankle brace than Mars Wellness’s Premium Short Cam Air Walker. Its inflatable air bladder helps reduce swelling and adds additional ankle support.
The best compression ankle brace for exercise recovery
Crucial Compression’s Foot and Ankle Compression Sleeves
Studies have shown that compression can help your muscles recover from intense exercise faster. However, many types of compression ankle braces are hot and uncomfortable or don’t fit properly. That isn’t the case with Crucial Compression’s Ankle Brace Support Sleeve. It’s as supportive as it is lightweight and breathable.
- You can wear it under shoes and socks. The specially designed blended material– which Crucial Compression calls ComfortFlex– is thin enough to comfortably fit beneath a sock.
- Won’t overheat your feet. Because it’s strong yet thin, this brace won’t leave your foot and ankle feeling sweaty. The open-toe design helps keep your foot fresh, as well.
- Reduces the time you need to recover from soreness. Compression garments like this one are proven to help reduce the time needed to recover from intense exercise.
- Sturdy construction. Double stitching along the seams of this ankle brace help ensure that it will last a long time.
- Multiple sizes are available. Rather than attempt to go with a one-size-fits-all design, Crucial Compression offers three different size options: small medium and large. Sizing information is available on the product page.
- Return it for any reason and get your money back. If for some reason this ankle brace sleeve doesn’t meet your needs, return it for a full refund.
- Choose the color you like the most. Available colors include pink, black and beige.
- May not be the best option for people with thin ankles. Some people who bought this ankle brace reported that it didn’t work because they had unusually small ankles.
The best ankle brace for plantar fasciitis
Bioskin’s Trilok Ankle Brace
The plantar fascia acts as a bowstring and supports the arch of your foot. If you often feel a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel, you may have plantar fasciitis. Common causes of plantar fasciitis include intense running, high or low arches or even just old age. Fortunately, certain types of ankle braces– such as Bioskin’s Trilok Ankle Brace— are equipped with supports that alleviate plantar fasciitis pain.
- Thin and lightweight. Some ankle braces for plantar fasciitis will slow you down because they’re bulky, but this one won’t.
- No laces. The lace-free design adds additional comfort.
- Feels good when worn with shoes. The velcro straps wrap around your foot and follow its contours.
- Reinforces and supports the tendons in your feet. The straps act as external ligaments, helping to balance and support your ankle.
- Strong but breathable fabric. The Trilock Ankle Brace is made from a special type of lightweight yet durable synthetic material that Bioskin calls Ultima.
- Five different sizes are available. Available sizing options include small, medium, large, extra large and extra small. Information about how to determine which side you need is available on Bioskin’s product page.
- Adjust your compression level as needed. Simply loosen or tighten the straps if you need less or more compression.
- If you return or exchange it, you have to pay for the cost of shipping. Bioskin will give you a full refund, but Amazon won’t cover the shipping costs if you decide to return this ankle brace.
The best lightweight ankle brace for basketball
McDavid’s Ankle Support Brace
Basketball players have special needs when it comes to ankle braces. Your success on the court depends on your ability to be agile and quick. That’s where most ankle brace manufacturers go wrong. With McDavid’s Deluxe Ankle Brace Strap, you can get just the right amount of support without having to sacrifice your mobility.
- Prevents injuries. A study showed that basketball players that wore this ankle brace suffered three times fewer injuries compared to those that did not.
- Aids in ankle injury recovery. Players with minor ankle injuries can benefit from wearing this ankle brace.
- Doesn’t slow you down. The double-stitched, single layer fabric will support your ankle without impeding your speed and agility.
- Comes in five different sizes. Available sizes include not only small, medium and large but also extra small and extra large. Visit the product page linked above to find out which size you need.
- Easy to put on and take off. Just tie up the laces and wrap the velcro around your foot.
- Three available colors. Color options include black, grey, white.
- 30-day guarantee. Try it out for 30 days and if you don’t like it, you can send it back to McDavid for a full refund.
- People with high arches may want to choose a different product. The support strap on the top of this ankle brace may irritate you if you happen to have high arches.
The best heavy duty ankle brace for sports
Zamst’s A2-DX Ankle Brace
Athletes that have recurring ankle problems need more support when they hit the field. Zamst’s Ankle Brace fits the bill in more ways than one. It’s not only more sturdy than most ankle braces you’ll find, but also doesn’t slide around or irritate your foot during games. This ankle brace became a popular choice among basketball players when NBA star Steven Curry was spotted wearing one in 2012.
- Doesn’t slide around on your foot. Zamst’s patented X-Strap Stabilizers keep the brace where it’s supposed to be.
- Excellent ankle stability. The dual-molded supports on the side provide an extra level of stabilization.
- Suitable for many different sports. Basketball players aren’t the only ones that rely on Zamst ankle braces. Football, volleyball and baseball players use them, too.
- Four available sizes. Find out what size is right for your foot via the product page linked above.
- The preferred ankle brace of NBA star Stephen Curry. NBA star Steven Curry wore this ankle brace during the 2012/2013 season.
- Customizable. This ankle brace comes with removable pads and elastic strips, which let you change the compression level as needed.
- Easy to use. Once you learn how to wrap a Zamst Ankle Brace Support Stabilizer around your foot, putting one on will become second nature.
- Somewhat bulky compared to other ankle braces. The side supports take up more shoe room than most other ankle braces.
The best ankle brace for fractures
Mars Wellness’s Premium Short Cam Air Walker
The ankle braces listed above will work fine for people with mild injuries or those that just want to protect their ankles or help them recover from an intense workout. But if you’re suffering from a serious ankle condition or recovering from surgery, you need even more isolation and support. That’s where Mars Wellness’s Premium Short Air Cam Walker comes in. Its key feature is an inflatable air bladder, which lets you adjust the amount of compression that the brace provides.
- Immobilizes your ankle so it can heal. This ankle brace is ideal for people that are recovering from ankle fractures and other serious ankle injuries.
- Inflatable and customizable. Inflate or deflate the air bladder as needed.
- Straps stay in place. A bracket stops the velcro straps from sliding up and down the boot.
- High quality materials. Steel rivets stop the brace from falling apart when put to the test.
- Comfortable. The interior foam liner adds an additional layer of comfort and stability.
- Won’t weigh your foot down when you walk. This ankle brace is very light compared to other similar products.
- Safe to use in water. You can continue wearing this ankle brace in the shower if you feel the need to do so when you wash up.
- The velcro on the straps may wear out over time. The velcro straps will probably last long enough to recover from most types of ankle injuries, but if you intend to use this brace for a year or more you may eventually need to replace it.
Buying guide for ankle braces
Mobility vs. support
In general, lace-style ankle braces are less restrictive compared to ankle braces that feature rigid side supports. However, some rigid ankle braces provide more flexibility than others. One solution is to buy one of each type. That way, you can switch between both as needed, depending on how your ankle feels.
Velcro vs. laces
If you intend to use your ankle brace on a regular basis, you may want to consider going with a lace-style ankle brace. Velcro makes it easy to put on and take off an ankle brace, but there’s an important tradeoff to consider: velcro is not quite as durable as laces are. On the other hand, some types of velcro are stronger and last longer than other types. Some ankle braces feature both velcro straps and laces. Think about which style you prefer before you buy.
What type of ankle problem do you have?
The condition of your ankle should dictate the type of ankle brace you buy. You probably don’t need that much support if your ankles are healthy. Compression might be all you need.
How long do you intend to use your ankle brace?
Durability shouldn’t be a big concern if you intend to wear your ankle brace for a limited period of time. Ankle braces with velcro straps might be suitable for people who only need temporary support and protection. If you’re in need of long-term ankle support, look for long-lasting materials, double-stitching and other features that extend the life of an ankle brace.
The more size options that are available, the greater chance you’ll have of getting an ankle brace that matches your ankle exactly. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s website and/or Amazon product page before you buy to find out how the ankle brace you intend to buy is sized.
If you’re not sure about what kind of ankle brace you need, you may want to consider purchasing several different types. Most manufacturers will let you return your brace if you don’t like it. However, keep in mind that you may be responsible for covering the cost of shipping. Amazon won’t always cover those costs.
Maintenance and cleaning
Read the instructions and the product page to find out everything you need to do to keep your ankle brace clean and fresh. Dirty athletic gear contributes to the spread of MRSA and other dangerous pathogens.
A general rule of thumb for understanding ankle brace pricing is that more support means added cost. The cheapest types of ankle braces are $15 sleeves that compress the ankle area and provide a small amount of ankle support.
Sports ankle braces that are designed to protect against ankle injuries come with a bit more support and padding. Expect to pay around $30 for a good one.
The most expensive type of sports ankle braces are equipped with molded ankle supports and other features that hold the ankle firmly in place. These usually cost around $50. Medical ankle braces for people with ankle fractures fall into the same price range.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How often should I replace my ankle brace?
A: Most ankle braces last about as long as a pair of shoes. It’s a good idea to replace a sports ankle brace every six months or so if you use it on a regular basis. The more you use your ankle brace, the shorter its lifespan will be.
Q: Will an ankle brace weaken the muscles around my ankles?
A: Not if you take care to stretch and exercise your ankles every day. Calf raises, scissor hops and squat jumps can help keep your ankle muscles in shape. Balancing exercises like one-legged squats are also good for ankle health. Check with a trained medical professional to find out which kinds of ankle exercises are appropriate for you.
Q: Should I wear braces on both ankles or just one?
A: That depends on the reason behind why you intend to use an ankle brace. If you want to protect yourself against ankle injuries, it makes sense to wear a brace on both ankles. On the other hand, if you just need help recovering from a sprain, you may only need one.
Tips and tricks
- One way to improve the lifespan of an ankle brace is to hand wash it when it needs cleaning. Find a large plastic tub and fill it with warm water, then add mild laundry detergent and air dry after you’ve finished scrubbing. This will reduce the wear and tear that would occur if you were to throw your ankle brace in the wash.
- Most ankle brace sizes correspond to various shoe sizes. If you normally wear a half size, it’s a good idea to round down when estimating which ankle brace size you need.
- If you’re on a budget and not sure which size you need, you may want to check the return policy before you commit. The majority of ankle brace manufacturers will let you return or exchange your brace if there’s a problem with the size or some other issue. However, not all of them will pay the cost of shipping.