With the ever widening array of choices when it comes to ankle braces out there, how in the world is someone supposed to make the right choice for their particular orthopedic need?

Most of us have done it – driven to the athletic shop or the local drug store and purchased an ankle brace only to get home, put it on and find it does not work well for our particular situation. Many times it won’t fit in our shoe or worse, causes more pain than going without.

There’s nothing like trying to run that bucket-list half marathon while stopping every 30 minutes to tighten or loosen an ankle brace. It will help you, before you head off to the drug store, to take with you a few suggestions on how to pick the right ankle brace for not only your particular activity but also for your specific type of ankle problem or diagnosis.

Types of sprainsWhat kind of sprain to you have?

1. Lateral Sprain – A lateral sprain is the most common form of ankle sprain in America. It happens when your ankle rolls inward, stretching one or all three of the lateral ligaments that attach the leg to the foot. This kind of injury is so common that it represents 38 to 45 percent of all injuries to athletes in the United States. And this is no small thing. A lateral sprain can be serious and set someone up for continued weakness and other injuries related to falling.

Medial Sprain

A medial sprain, also known as a deltoid ligament sprain, is when the small bands of ligaments, which serve to attach the shin to several small bones within the ankle and act to keep the ankle from rolling outward, get injured. This usually happens when your ankle rolls outward to the extreme, stretching or even tearing those ligaments. You may notice an audible snap with this occurs. There will be swelling typically on the inner portion of the ankle.

High Sprain

While somewhat uncommon, a high ankle sprain occurs when someone is engaged in an weight bearing activities that involve twisting or rotating. Usually it is a rotation of the foot outward that causes this kind of injury. You will likely experience pain just above the angle with this kind of sprain.

Types of braces

Choosing an ankle brace with so many options today may end up feeling like you are going to sprain your brain next.

Before choosing a brace, it is important to take into consideration who you are, what you want it to accomplish and what size you will need so that it fits properly. Gone are the days when a 100 pound, female runner must choose from what used to be known as the unisex brace – translation-it doesn’t fit anyone.

Now companies can make a brace that will fit a 300 pound center for the Pittsburg Steelers or a special brace to fit a 75 pound child who has rolled his right ankle while playing Dodge ball. It is important that you purchase a brace you like and will wear. By consulting with your Jacksonville orthopedic specialist, you can work together to find something that meets your needs and saves you multiple trips to the store and a lot of wasted money on braces that will only end up in your sock drawer.

Types of Braces


This might be the most comfortable type of brace. But it is the least stable and supportive. They may work well for a compression type device, but if you have real instability from a sprain or just a simple weakness of these ligaments, sleeves are not a good choice.


A common form of brace is the strap brace that provides you with several straps that wrap in, usually, a classic heel lock figure eight, stabilizing the ankle and foot by limiting motion. The benefit of these braces is that you can purchase them in a variety of different materials to find the one that best fits and offers a way to adjust for comfort. The negative for these is that you can easily overtighten and the devices can become a bit of a velcro nightmare.

Lace up

Among the most stable of the braces is the lace up variety. Companies making them have heard the complaints regarding discomfort wearing these. They have since scrapped earlier materials and have created thinner, more flexible lace up braces and have included velcro as well as speed laces to mitigate the downside of these effective braces.

Stirrup or post injury braces

Most often used when there has been an injury to the ankle, stirrup braces are easily recognizable. Most of us have seen the air cast. Now days, these braces include gel-filled compartments that provide the exact amount of support needed to recover from an injury and can even be heated or cooled for additional treatment. These kinds of stirrup braces have also been perfected enough to be used to actually prevent sprains to athletes as well as many serving in the Armed Forces.

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