Why Should You Wear Ankle Braces?

When you injure your ankle or participate in an activity that requires fast-paced weight changes, extra support can ensure your ankle stays protected. This is where an ankle brace comes in. There are a variety of ankle braces and you can select one based on your level of injury or amount of support desired. Your physical therapist or physician may recommend a specific ankle brace.

Wrapping an ankle (Image: Spaceliner/iStock/Getty Images)

Some Support When Needed

An ankle brace is an assistive and/or protective device made of stretchy or stiff fabric that features metal or plastic supports. Some ankle braces are pulled on while others lace up or use Velcro straps. Those offering the least protection are pull-on braces that do not feature reinforcements. These brace types are instead used for compression, helping to minimize inflammation following injury. More supportive ankle braces that use reinforcements on either side of the ankle are used after injury or to prevent injury.

The Pain of the Sprain

The dominant ankle sprain is an inversion injury, where your ankle rolls toward the sole of the foot, causing pain. If you experience this injury, wear an ankle support that has metal or plastic supports on the outside of the ankle. This supports the injured ligaments on the ankle's outside. Eversion sprains are less common, but occur when the foot rolls outward, resulting in a sprain. This injury type requires an ankle brace that features support on the inside as well as outside.

A Matter of Days or Weeks

Depending on the severity of your injury, you will typically wear a brace anywhere from 10 days to six weeks. You should continue to wear the brace as long as you experience swelling, pain or instability in the ankle. You can wear it over your socks.

Avoid Future Injuries

If you have experienced multiple ankle sprains, you may want to wear an ankle brace as a preventive measure. Bracing serves as a less-expensive option to regular taping. Wear the brace each time you participate in athletic activity to stabilize the ankle and provide support to prevent the ankle from rolling over. The ankle brace should be tight enough to support your foot, but your skin should not spill over the brace or be so tight that you lose circulation or your skin turns color.

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