Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for Best ankle braces

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.

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

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.

If you have an ankle injury, you should consult a podiatrist since they will be able to diagnose and properly manage severe ankle sprains. If placing weight on the foot causes significant pain, you may need an x-ray to make sure you don't have a fracture. An ankle brace won't provide enough support for a fracture and may do more harm than good.

Expert TIp
If there is still pain with the brace on, do not apply weight and seek medical attention as soon as you can.
BestReviews Medical Expert

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

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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.

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.

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.

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
Take off the brace daily, especially when resting to prevent constant restriction of blood flow.
BestReviews Medical Expert

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.


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.
Expert Tip
Avoid strenuous activity, especially with a rigid brace on.
BestReviews Medical Expert


For an ankle brace to be effective, the 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.


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
Buy multiple sizes to see which one fits the best.
BestReviews Medical Expert
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Sizing is really important for any type of brace. If the ankle brace moves, it can create blisters and irritate the skin.


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.

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.

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