What is the difference between ankle brace and ankle support?
To answer your question, we need to get a little more in-depth about the uses of these two aids, the movements they allow, and when they should be worn.
Choosing between an ankle brace and ankle support can be hard and confusing, especially if this is your first time purchasing one of these aids.
Both are used to protect the ankle joint health, but they aren’t the same.
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Ankle Brace Vs Ankle Support
There are several main differences between these two types of products. They’re not meant to serve the same purpose, although their main goal is to protect the health of the ankle joint.
If you want to prevent any harm, it’s essential to know which type of accessory you need to buy. That’s why you need to learn the difference between ankle brace and ankle support. Let’s dive in:
- Braces are meant to be worn during an acute ankle injury, lateral ankle sprains, mid-ankle sprains, acute instability, chronic instability, ankle pain, ankle surgery, and more.
- Some braces are very similar to ankle support and can also be used during physical activity after an ankle sprain or injury. These braces are rarely worn for ankle sprain prevention.
- Braces are more rigid compared to ankle support. They don’t allow a lot of ankle movements.
- Braces should only be worn right after an injury, during recovery, and shortly after recovery. This is not a device that you should use long-term because it can make your ankles weaker.
- A study reports that patients with chronic ankle instability showed decreased muscle activity during rehabilitation exercises after wearing ankle braces.
- Ankle support is responsible for the prevention of ankle injuries. These accessories are never worn during an injury, recovery, or right after recovery. This is because they don’t offer as much support as braces.
- Athletic activity is the main indication for wearing support. It can be any kind of physical activity, including school football players, volleyball, basketball, and more.
- Ankle support is a softer aid compared to braces. It also allows larger ankle motion than braces.
- Support accessories can be worn long-term, especially during physical activity.
Before you start looking for a product to buy, make sure to consult with an orthopedic surgeon.
It’s great to know the differences between the two types of aids, but still, you need a professional opinion to find an adequate accessory and design.
Check: Best AFO Boot Foot Drop
Types Of Ankle Braces
There are several common types of braces that you should know about. The one you’ll have to wear depends on the severity of the injury, the recovery, and more.
We recently reviewed the best ankle brace for the elderly, so you can check out the top products and get a clearer picture.
#1 Rigid Brace
As the name suggests, rigid braces are made of a rigid material such as plastic that limits the range of movement. These braces are meant for people who are recovering from injuries and fractures.
Once the injury gets better, patients usually replace these braces with semi-rigid types.
A great example of a rigid brace is the AFO brace. Although these aids come designed in soft materials, the best AFO brace is rigid. For more info, check our guide explaining what is an AFO.
#2 Hinged Ankle Brace
A hinged ankle brace isn’t the typical rigid brace. These aids are semi-rigid and prevent side-to-side ankle movements but don’t limit the up and down range of motion.
Hinged braces have hinges on each side that allow the aid to move together with the joint. They are meant to prevent ankle turning, low and high sprains.
#3 Lace-Up Brace
This is another type of brace that is semi-rigid and meant to prevent up, down, and side-to-side joint motions. Most lace-up braces can be worn inside shoes, so they are great for treating small to moderate injuries and sprains.
As the name suggests, these aids feature laces from the top to the bottom part, which you can use to adapt the tightness.
These are accessories that provide a lot of support, and there is a separate brace for the right and left ankle joint.
A recent study reveals that the use of lace-up ankle braces lowered the ankle injury rates among female and male high school basketball players. These braces did not reduce the severity of the injuries, though.
Another thing that the study mentions is that future studies should get more in-depth into using lace-up braces to prevent injuries to have a more complete picture and a more definitive answer.
#4 Ankle Sleeves
Ankle sleeves have a much lower level of protection compared to the previous two types because they’re made of a softer material.
The primary purpose of these sleeves is to help with inflammation, pain relief, weak ankles, arthritis, and more.
These braces compress the ankles to keep the area warm and allow a full ankle range of movements.
They don’t come in universal sizes, but you need to check the sizing chart and match it with your shoe size.
Benefits Of An Ankle Brace
- Reduced Swelling
Compression braces help significantly with ankle swelling. These aids are meant to reduce the edema that appears right after an injury or during inflammation.
Lowering the swelling can speed up the recovery process and prevent new injuries.
- Faster Recovery
When you put on the right ankle brace it will allow only the movements that your joint should be doing. If there are any movements that you shouldn’t do, such as a rotation, you will get a brace that prevents these movements.
These aids support the joints, offer control, help with swelling, pain, and prevent potential damage.
- Improved Range Of Motion
The ankle brace will help your ankles recover the old range of motion. Although some types of braces limit certain movements, that’s meant to speed up the recovery.
Together with the brace, you’ll be given physical exercises that you should practice to regain full movement.
- Prevents New Injuries
Aside from speeding up the recovery, braces can also prevent new injuries. They will help your joints heal properly without damage and lower the possibility of another injury in the future.
Some sports players who often suffer injuries wear ankle braces more often as a preventative aid to keep their joints from making unwanted movements and boosting the support.
When Should You Wear An Ankle Brace?
An ankle brace is an aid that’s recommended after an ankle joint injury, during recovery, and shortly after recovery. Some of the most common ankle conditions that require a brace include strains, tendonitis, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, pain, and more.
What Is Ankle Support Used For?
Ankle support is used to prevent injuries, and it’s an accessory you can wear more often, especially during physical activity. It offers the lowest amount of support and doesn’t limit the range of movements.
Is It OK To Wear An Ankle Brace All Day?
These braces aren’t meant to be worn all day. If you’re using it as a recovery aid, you should wear it during daily activities.
Now that you got familiar with the difference between ankle support and braces, you can choose easily what type of aid is more suitable for your condition.
However, if you ever suspect an ankle injury, our advice is to get in touch with an orthopedic doctor and get the proper diagnosis.
A brace won’t always solve your problems, and you need much more extensive knowledge to choose the best design.
Also, the recovery often includes working with a physical therapist. In other words, it’s a much more complicated process than just getting a brace.
- Feger, Mark A, Luke Donovan, Joe M Hart, and Jay Hertel. 2014. “Effect of Ankle Braces on Lower Extremity Muscle Activation during Functional Exercises in Participants with Chronic Ankle Instability.” International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 9 (4): 476–87. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127510/.
- “How Do Ankle Braces Work and What Are the Benefits of Ankle Brace?” 2019. Best Volleyball Shoes. March 21, 2019. https://provolleyballshoes.com/ankle-braces-benefits/.
- “Lower Extremity Orthotics & AFO’s | Orthotic & Prosthetic Lab, Inc.” n.d. Www.oandplabinc.com. https://www.oandplabinc.com/lower-extremity-orthotics.html.
- McGuine, Timothy A., Alison Brooks, and Scott Hetzel. 2011. “The Effect of Lace-up Ankle Braces on Injury Rates in High School Basketball Players.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 39 (9): 1840–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546511406242.
- “Types of Ankle Foot Orthosis – AFO Brace Types.” 2021. Scheck & Siress. February 1, 2021. https://www.scheckandsiress.com/blog/types-of-ankle-foot-orthosis/.
- “Using AFO: What to Expect?” n.d. Align Clinic. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www.align-clinic.com/blog/what-is-afo-and-how-does-it-impact-peoples-lives.