The Best Ankle Braces for Basketball [Mild, Medium and Severe Sprains – 2018 Edition]
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In basketball, one of the most frequently diagnosed injuries are ankle sprains and it’s also one of the most severe . Players who sprain their ankle may require several weeks to recover, or in worst case scenarios, even months.
We've already talked about basketball shoes to add a little bit more support. However, if you've had reoccurring ankle injuries or you're just an OG who wants to keep hooping into your fifties, using external support such as an ankle brace can help you to stay better protected.
In this article, we will review some of the best ankle braces for basketball as well as touch on injuries and treatment. We have an entire article dedicated to basketball ankle injuries, so if you're looking for details on those aspects follow that link.
The Top 7 Basketball Ankle Braces [Reviews]
McDavid 199 Lace-Up Ankle Brace
I'm starting with the McDavid 199 Lace-Up Ankle Brace because this is what I personally use.
After a relatively serious ankle injury I started wearing an Active Ankle brace (which I discuss below). Once the injury had a chance to recover I switched to the McDavid 199. I went so far to order a second one for my left ankle, despite the fact I've never injured my left.
If you’re looking for solid ankle stability support, the McDavid 199 will provide you with protection from both mild, moderate and severe ankle sprains.
Designed with a full-lace up system, this brace ensures that your foot and ankle is kept tight and firm at all time. It'll break in over time and the laces allow you to achieve the right level of tightness.
High breathability and improved mobility through the use of low-weight material. Overall I find the brace to be extremely comfortable and you can feel the added support. Lastly, it doesn't feel like it takes away from my mobility or ability to play which of course is a big deal.
The only downside is it can be difficult to get the perfect "tightness" over the entire ankle. The laces have a tendency to slip a little bit when doing it up. It'll also take a few wears to break it in with the shoes you wear.
Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer
If you've paid the least bit of attention to braces different guys wear when they play ball, you'll have seen this brace worn by players.
Made out of cotton/nylon, the ASO ankle stabilizer is a lightweight brace which allows quick movements while providing great lateral and medial ankle support. The figure-eight stabilizing straps keeps your heel locked in at all times and are one of the key functions for protecting you against ankle sprains.
Although moderately priced, the ballistic nylon boot offers great durability. The low profile design also makes it a good fit with basically any type of shoe.
Important to keep in mind is that it might take some time before your foot and ankle adjusts to the material.
Nordic Lifting Ankle Compression Sleeves
With its ergonomic design, the ankle compression sleeves are developed to provide you with optimal fit and comfort. Furthermore, the reinforced sleeves prevents injury by supporting weaker joints and speeds up recovery by reducing muscle pain.
For players who tend to have problems with their circulation, there’s another benefit with this product which is its ability to retain heat and thus, decrease stiffness in joints and muscles.
A compression sleeve will NOT provide the same level of support as a lace up or a brace with rigid plastic. A sleeve is more about getting your the joint and surrounding areas warm and keeping them that way. They will provide more support than just a regular sock, but not much.
McDavid 511 Compression Ankle Support
If you experience difficulties with tendonitis; inflammation of tendon, or arthritis; disorder causing joint pain and stiffness, the McDavid 511 might be the right fit for you.
Light and easy to wear, this ankle support offers you firm compression with neoprene-free fabric, making it highly breathable.
The seam is directly under your foot. A bit of an awkward place to have a seam, which makes it a little bit uncomfortable.
It should also be noted, that a number of users complained that it fit small. Bear in mind it's a compression sleeve and it's intended to be tight and very snug. It will also break in over time.
It should also be stressed this is not an ankle brace, it'll provide a little bit of stability but it's a compression sleeve. A straight compression sleeve will never offer the type of support a true ankle brace will.
Bioskin Trilok Ankle Brace for PTTD and Plantar Fascittis
Equipped with strong velcro and double strapping, this ankle brace offers a great versatility with supportive functions for both inversion, eversion, and plantar flexion movements. It’s also specifically designed for treating ankle sprains and relieving pain from plantar fasciitis and tibial tendon dysfunction; PTTD.
As for user friendliness, the absence of laces makes the Bioskin Trilok tricky to take on and off. It comes in three components and requires a bit of training to use. This is by far the worst part of this brace, you'll likely need a video the first handful of times putting the brace on to make sure it's on correctly. Check out the video below for an explanation
This is a somewhat pricey ankle brace, however, you get what you pay for and this is definitely a high-quality product targeting athletes. If you're suffering from PTTD or plantar fasciitis this brace is worth giving a try.
One note; the companies return policy isn't very friendly so if the brace doesn't work for you, you might be out of luck on the return.
McDavid Ankle Brace Lace-Up With Inserts A101
You might be thinking - this looks exactly the same as the McDavid 199 ankle brace and you wouldn't be wrong.
This brace is essentially the same brace as the McDavid 199 but it has plastic inserts. Personally, I went from the Active Ankle, which offers a ton of protection to the 199. The idea behind the A101 is you can start with the inserts in and as your ankle heals over time you can take them out and just have the support from the spring steel stays.
Designed with spring steel stays and removable inserts for added protection, this durable brace offers solid ankle support and prevents common ankle sprains. Lightweight construction with additional features such as the ventilated tongue, which boosts the comfort of the McDavid A101 with medical inserts.
Active Ankle T2 Ankle Brace
This brace is really impractical for putting inside a basketball shoe or a soccer boot. I know first hand how big of a pain it is. I had to modify my shin pads and the brace itself it to work with my soccer cleats, it also didn't fit very well inside of my Soldier 11's.
So you might be thinking, why are you reviewing or recommending this brace?
Once I had successfully navigated the brace (I cut away some of the white piece at the bottom) into my shoe it gave me a world of confidence. It's extremely rigid but it didn't feel like it restricted my movement too much. If you're recovering from a serious ankle injury this brace will give you the confidence you need when you're finally ready to return.
I think it's natural for athletes to return to action before they're truly 100%. How many times have guys said they're 80% but can play. I'm not advising you return to action before you're ready; but wearing a rigid brace like this can help ensure you don't continually re-injure your ankle.
What ankle brace should you choose?
Ankle braces are one of the most popular equipments when it comes to preventing ankle sprains, and for a good reason.
By providing you with external support and reducing the amount of stress your ankle joint is exposed to, ankle braces allows you step on the court with more confidence.
What ankle brace you should choose largely depends on your specific needs and preferences.
Here are some of the factors you should take into consideration.
Fit and comfort
Every athlete is a unique individual and thus, there is no such thing as a perfect ankle brace that will suit for everyone.
The first thing you want to look for is an ankle brace that you can wear without feeling restricted or limited in your movements.
In other words, you want to achieve a fit that feel as natural as possible, so that you can move freely and stay focused on your performance - without sacrificing on ankle protection.
This requires that you obtain a ankle brace that works with your basketball shoes and matches your ankle size, without becoming too tight or too loose.
Many people find that braces fit small or are too tight. While it's important to ensure a brace doesn't cut off circulation in your foot, they are going to fit snug. This is by design, first as you wear the brace it'll loosen up over time and second in order to provide proper stability it needs to be very form fitting.
Quality and durability
When you look for an ankle brace, keep in mind how often you intend to use it and for what purpose.
If you practise on a regular basis and participate in weekly games, this is obviously the kind of gear which you want to invest in accordingly.
Cheaper options are rarely designed to cope with high levels of pressure game after game and tend to quickly lose elasticity or break.
Thus, look for high-quality braces that have received solid reviews when it comes to form and durability. Also, make sure that you pick a material that offers good breathability.
Depending on the severity of your ankle sprain, you might require different types of protection and ankle support.
For mild ankle sprains, it might be sufficient for you to pick an elastic compression sleeve or wrap, which will offer you smoother movement.
If you have suffered a more severe ankle sprain, you might place higher value on protection and somewhat less movement.
In that case, ankle braces with plastic or aluminum support are a good choice.
Again, there is always a fine line between balancing comfort and support.
In order to identify what’s the best fit, you might need to try a variety of ankle braces before making up your mind.
Common ankle injuries in basketball
Ankle injuries are one of the most common injuries in sports, with ankle sprains occurring more often than any other .
One of the reasons why ankle injuries are so strongly associated with basketball is due to the combination of repeated jumps in close proximity to other players (how many times do you roll your ankle as a result of stepping on another players foot while landing), as well as the constant swift changes of direction while running .
There are two ligaments that are affected more frequently, known as the anterior talofibular ligament and the calcaneofibular ligament.
Anterior Talofibular Ligament
The anterior talofibular ligament is located on the outside of your ankle and has the function to prevent your foot from sliding forward in relation to your shin. It also provides stability and protects your ankle joint from external force.
Due to its anatomy, the anterior talofibular ligament is sensitive for absorbing negative impacts and thus takes a lot of damage when you twist your ankle in an awkward position.
This may result in ankle instability and restrict your ability to move your foot in different directions .
The Calcaneofibular Ligament
Similar to the anterior talofabiular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament is located on the outside of the ankle. It connects the talus bone, also known as the ankle bone, with the heel.
This ligament plays a crucial role in stabilizing the ankle joint and is responsible for controlling inversion, which is a movement where your foot turns inwards, while eversion represents your foot turning outwards .
Damage to the calcaneofibular ligament typically occurs when your foot is twisted in an exaggerated position while your toes are pointed upwards, towards your shin.
Grades of ankle sprains
Ankle sprains can be divided into three different categories, depending on the severity of the injury.
Mild ankle sprain
When a mild ankle sprain occurs, the damage is normally limited to the ligaments being stretched with microscopic ruptures. This is usually triggered by a movement with minimal force.
The symptoms includes soreness and slight swelling. Fortunately, the joint stability is still intact and most players are able to stand and walk without too much pain. At a minimum you might consider wearing a compression ankle sleeve, although looking at a brace like the McDavid 199 would be worthwhile.
Moderate ankle sprain
A moderate ankle sprain is a more serious injury where the ligaments are partly torn. This results in moderate swelling, soreness, increased pain and sometimes hematomas, which are collections of blood caused by the break of a blood vessel.
Join stability may be slightly decreased and temporarily restrict your foot and ankles range of motion. Walking in this state is generally both difficult and painful. Consider wearing a full support, plastic ankle brace or a lace-up ankle brace if you've experienced a moderate ankle sprain.
Severe ankle sprain
During severe ankle sprains, there is a high probability that the ligaments are completely torn. Swelling and pain levels are significant while examinations tend to show a considerable joint instability.
As you might guess, ankle function is heavily decreased and standing or walking on the injured ankle is not an option.
What is the prognose after an ankle sprain?
First time ankle sprains are normally of a mild degree and rarely require any medical treatment. In fact, most players fully recover within the matter of a few days.
The problem with ankle sprains is that if you’ve suffered the injury once, chances are that it won’t be your last.
According to research, players with a previous history of ankle sprains are a lot more likely to encounter reinjuries .
One explanation to this is that for every time you sprain your ankle, the ligaments are stretched further and further, making you more sensitive to relapse.
What are the consequences of relapse ankle sprains?
Apart from causing mental setbacks and keeping you off the court for longer periods of time, relapse ankle sprains can lead to increased joint instability.
This is problematic since joint stability is a crucial function for your ability to safely support the area around your foot, especially when it’s exposed to sudden and rapid movements.
In other words, without proper joint stability, you have a higher risk of being hit by more severe ankle sprains.
Furthermore, studies shows that players with a high recurrence of ankle sprains could also be a trigger for overuse injuries such as patellar tendonitis; jumper’s knee, or achilles tendonitis; disruption of the achilles tendon [5, 6, 7].
Basketball ankle injury treatment
When you encounter an ankle sprain, there are certain routines you should follow to to quicken the healing process and to allow your ankle optimal recovery.
The first 24-48 hours after the injury are usually referred to as the acute stage.
During this stage, your main priority should be to minimize swelling and reduce pain and soreness around the ankle joint.
One of the most commonly practised treatments are the RICE process: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
This is a standard procedure which may be used by any athlete who’s suffered an ankle sprain, regardless of sport. We've outlined this in a number of other articles and the procedure is the same regardless of the injury.
You can see full details on R.I.C.E here.
Neuromuscular ankle functions
After the acute stage has passed, it’s important that you perform a proper training program aimed at rebuilding neuromuscular ankle functions such as strength, balance and coordination.
Balance training programs in particular have received a lot of attention and several studies shows that they may be highly effective for rehabilitating unstable ankles and preventing future injuries [8, 9].
Furthermore, research suggest that the balance training should last at least 5-15 minutes and be performed between 2 to 3 times a week, for optimal results .
If you are interested in specific ankle strengthening exercises, we have previously described a 90-day training program which you can read more about in this article.
Now that you know how to treat an ankle sprain during the acute stage and how to rebuild your ankle stability in the following 90 days, the next step is to identify what equipment you should use.
How do ankle braces prevent injuries?
Before we go further into the role of equipment in terms of injury prevention, it’s important to highlight that gear such as ankle braces should not work as a substitute for ankle strengthening training programs.
However, if combined with proper injury treatment, ankle braces may aid in the process of protecting you from future ankle sprains.
When reviewing research, statistics suggests that basketball athletes who wear external ankle support have a lower risk for ankle sprains than players who do not .
Continuously, athletes with a history of ankle sprains may have a decreased risk of injury if a brace is worn [12, 13].
A review study, which included both adolescents and adults, as well as elite and recreational players, found that ankle braces reduced ankle sprains by 69% .
Some skeptics have questioned whether ankle braces may negatively influence functional performance, however, there is little to no evidence supporting such claims .
With these findings taken into consideration, it is clear that ankle braces could be a great advantage for basketball players prone to ankle injuries.
As we previously mentioned, different players have different needs and this makes determining the best ankle brace a difficult task.
Although we have provided you with some guidelines in this article, it’s important that you become aware of your body’s unique demands and that you take this knowledge into consideration when researching for a new ankle brace.
With that said, we hope that the above suggestions have given you some more insight to what attributes to look for in terms of ankle support, injury treatment and prevention of future injuries.