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Best Ankle Braces

Updated April 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. Read more
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 86 Models Considered
  • 22 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 167 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Ankle Braces

    Last Updated April 2018

    Our ankles bear an incredible amount of weight. Not surprisingly, ankle injuries are among the most common injuries, with a whopping one million people visiting the emergency room for this reason each year. Ankle braces speed up recovery and provide support for a reduced risk of further injury.

    Choosing the correct ankle brace is essential. However, with countless options available, from compression sleeves to rigid boots, how do you find the right ankle brace for you?

    We’re here to help. At BestReviews, our mission is to simplify shopping with accurate, unbiased reviews. For this reason, we never accept free products. All of our featured products are bought, tested, research, and analyzed by us. In short, we do the legwork, so you don't have to.

    Need relief sooner rather than later? Scroll up for our top five ankle braces. Need a nudge in the right direction? Keep reading for our in-depth guide, which breaks down everything you need to know about buying the best ankle brace for you.

    Some soft ankle braces are prone to stretching. If your ankle brace doesn’t fit as snug as it used to, it’s time for a replacement.

    How ankle braces work

    Ankle braces work by supporting and stabilizing injured ankles, promoting optimal recovery. Soft, flexible ankle braces compress the affected area, which not only helps reduce inflammation and alleviate pain but also boosts awareness of the injury. With an ankle brace, the wearer is less likely to unintentionally place excessive pressure on the joint. In cases of severe ankle sprains, rigid ankle braces reduce joint mobility, effectively speeding up recovery and preventing further injury.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Caution: Choosing the incorrect type of ankle brace could prove ineffective and even harmful. If you’ve sustained an ankle injury and aren't sure of the severity, consult a qualified physician before attempting to treat it at home.

    Other benefits of ankle braces

    In recent years, a growing focus on prevention has seen a rise in the number of athletes, runners, and active individuals sporting ankle braces while exercising.

    Beyond assisting in recovery, ankle braces may also be worn to:

    • Support joints during strenuous activities

    • Help active individuals remain mindful of proper form, thereby reducing the risk of injury

    • Reduce the likelihood of a repeated injury

    • Alleviate pain and discomfort caused by previous injuries or degenerative joint diseases, such as arthritis

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Ankle braces are not only recommended for treating existing ankle injuries, but they may help to prevent them in the first place.

    Types of ankle braces

    Compression ankle braces

    Also known as compression sleeves, these ankle braces work best for mild injuries, where ankle stability hasn’t been compromised. Through a combination of compression and warmth, compression ankle braces reduce swelling and pain associated with minor injuries. Made of lightweight elastic, compression ankle braces are suitable for everyday use and can lead to reduced muscle stiffness and discomfort during daily activities.

    EXPERT TIP

    Soft braces offer good compression and warmth, but don’t expect these types of ankle braces to provide great stability.


    Dr. Schreiber  | Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Semi-rigid ankle braces

    Semi-rigid ankle braces provide more support than compression ankle braces.

    • Lace-Up Ankle Braces: Lace-up ankle braces are the most adjustable ankle braces, allowing for varying degrees of tightness on each point of the foot and ankle. Lace-up ankle braces are highly favored by athletes. However, lace-up ankle braces also restrict the natural motion of the ankle and may impact athletic performance when used for extended periods.

    • Hinged Ankle Braces: Featuring padded sides for added comfort and support, hinged ankle braces are designed to stop the ankle from rolling side to side, while still allowing for up and down movement. With adjustable straps, hinged ankle braces are easier to get on and off than lace-up ankle braces. Although hinged ankle braces restrict side to side motion, they offer good flexibility for active individuals and will fit in most shoes.

    Dr. Schreiber
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    Dr. Schreiber earned a bachelor of science in dietetics with a minor in biology from the University of Delaware, then continued at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, CT, earning his doctorate of chiropractic and master’s degree in human nutrition. He is double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition. He has been featured in prominent publications such as the Huffington Post, livestrong.com, and WebMD.com.


    Dr. Schreiber  |  Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Rigid ankle braces

    Rigid ankle braces, or stirrup ankle braces, feature a hard outer shell, which significantly limits the ankle’s range of side to side and up and down movement. Rigid ankle braces offer complete stabilization to protect the ankle from further injury. Some rigid ankle braces have gel pads for compression, helping to reduce pain and swelling. Most frequently used following ankle trauma, in which joint stability is compromised, rigid ankle braces give the best level of support and play an essential role in the rehabilitation of severe ankle sprains and injuries. As rigid ankle braces almost completely restrict motion, they’re not suitable for ongoing preventative use.

    EXPERT TIP

    Hard braces undeniably provide the best stability, but they may also stretch your shoes out!


    Dr. Schreiber  | Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    What to consider when buying an ankle brace

    Intended use

    Intended use is easily the most important consideration when choosing an ankle brace. Whether used to treat an injury, for comfort, or as a preventative measure, the incorrect type of ankle brace could end up doing more harm than good.

    For injured joints, determining the nature and severity of the injury plays a critical role in finding the best ankle brace to help speed up recovery. When an ankle brace is used over prolonged periods for comfort, prevention, or support of a previously injured ankle, factors such as stability, range of motion, and ease of use should be taken into account.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you are dealing with an ankle sprain, then a hard-type brace is better to prevent excessive motion. The sleeves or ties on soft braces are less stable and may not prevent a recurrence.


    Dr. Schreiber  | Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Construction

    Ankle brace construction varies from type to type. Here are some qualities to keep an eye out for in each category.

    • Compression Ankle Braces: Compression ankle braces should be made of lightweight material that is elastic and breathable without being too loose. Commonly made from lycra, nylon, and neoprene, knitted compression sleeves offer targeted compression and tend to be more durable, while copper-infused varieties may help promote healing.

    • Lace-Up Ankle Braces: Lace-up ankle braces are usually made of flexible nylon or vinyl and offer good durability. Lace-up ankle braces with Velcro straps or a combination of laces and straps are easier to adjust, fasten, and unfasten.

    • Hinged Ankle Braces: Hinged ankle braces have harder plastic components, which sometimes require breaking in and may be prone to cracking over time. However, some hinged ankle braces have patented technology to mold to the wearer’s unique contours, extending the overall life of the brace.

    • Rigid Ankle Braces: Rigid ankle braces have hard outer shells made of plastic, with foam, air, or gel padding for increased comfort and stability. Gel-filled pads can be placed in the freezer to reduce swelling.

    Fit

    For an ankle brace to be effective, correct fit is essential. A fit that’s too loose will render an ankle brace ineffective and could lead to chafing and scraping. Too tight and you risk exacerbating the problem or even cutting off circulation. While many ankle braces are sized according to shoe size, most manufacturers also provide a sizing chart for the best fit.

    A good fit is essential. To avoid chafing, ensure that there are no gaps between the ankle brace and your skin.

    Price

    Ankle braces can cost as little as $10 for a compression ankle brace to more than $100 for rigid ankle braces designed for severe injuries. Price varies according to size, materials, and brand.

    While compression ankle braces tend to be more affordable and can alleviate pain and reduce swelling, keep in mind that these braces are most suitable for mild injuries or as a preventative measure.

    EXPERT TIP

    Sizing is really important for any type of brace. If the ankle brace moves, it can create blisters and irritate the skin.


    Dr. Schreiber  | Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Faq

    Q. Is it true that wearing an ankle brace regularly can weaken the ankle?
    A.
    Yes and no. Ankle braces that do not restrict the natural up and down motion of your ankle — compression ankle braces and hinged ankle braces — will not cause weakened ankles, even when worn frequently. However, lace-up ankle braces, which immobilize the joint, have been shown to significantly impact ankle strength and may even reduce athletic ability. When choosing an ankle brace, opt for a model that doesn’t restrict up and down motion, unless advised to do so by your doctor.

    EXPERT TIP

    If a growing child is using an ankle brace, check often to make sure it fits.


    Dr. Schreiber  | Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist

    Q. Can I still sprain my ankle when wearing an ankle brace?
    A.
    Although wearing an ankle brace considerably reduces the likelihood of spraining your ankle, it cannot prevent it altogether. In some cases, a sprain is unavoidable. But wearing an ankle brace will lower the odds of sustaining an ankle injury.

    Q. How do I clean my ankle brace?
    A.
    Keeping your ankle brace clean will not only prevent unpleasant odors, but it may improve durability as well. Most soft ankle braces can be washed in cold water using a mild detergent and then allowed to air dry. For semi-rigid and rigid ankle braces with plastic or metal components, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to avoid damaging the ankle brace.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Adrian
      Adrian
      Senior Engineer
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Erica
      Erica
      Writer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Jess
      Jess
      Researcher
    • Katherine
      Katherine
      Editor
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor