High-top basketball shoes have a lot going for them -- style, comfort and endorsements from future Hall of Famers. What high-tops cannot do is prevent ankle sprains. In fact, ankle sprains are the most common injury in basketball at both the NCAA and NBA levels.
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It's Not the Shoe's Fault
An article published in the October-December 2002 issue of "Journal of Athletic Training" examined risk factors for ankle sprain and reported that at least 2 studies have shown no correlation between shoe type and ankle sprains. One study compared military trainees wearing lightweight infantry boots or high-tops. The other compared ankle injuries among basketball players assigned randomly to groups wearing low-top shoes, high-top shoes or high-tops with inflatable air chambers.
High-top basketball shoes do absorb shock and enhance performance by providing good lateral support and traction. What they cannot do is stop the motion of the foot and ankle inside the shoe -- especially the lateral roll that causes many common ankle injuries.
One Sprain Leads to Another
Basketball players may be wise to consider the use of semi-rigid or lace-up style braces to provide additional ankle support. The "Journal of Athletic Training" authors concluded that wearing a brace decreases the risk of reinjury among athletes with a previous ankle sprain. Another study published in the "American Journal of Sports Medicine" in September 2011 evaluated the use of lace-up braces in male and female basketball players during one high school season. The researchers found that players who wore the lace-up braces had significantly fewer ankle injuries during the season. This protective effect was seen in male and female players, regardless of whether the athlete had a previous ankle sprain.