Ankle braces are widely popular among athletes, but does wearing ankle braces make your ankles weaker?
According to several studies, braces can help prevent the occurrence of ankle sprains. Braces offer protection against ankle sprains and thus won’t weaken your ankles. (1)
However, certain types of ankle support braces could be detrimental to your ankles if you use them regularly.
Read on to learn whether braces could lead to weak ankles and which ones to avoid.
- The correct ankle bracing support will not weaken your ankle muscles. However, remember to combine their use with the proper footwear.
- Studies also show long-term use of ankle support braces doesn’t affect the ankle muscles and can boost ankle recovery time in case of injuries.
- Sports that involve more jumping and landing, such as basketball and volleyball, have the most ankle injuries. That’s why braces are more popular with these athletes.
Does Wearing Ankle Braces Make Your Ankles Weaker?
You may have wondered, “Does wearing ankle braces make your ankles weaker?”
Ankle bracing won’t weaken the ankle muscles unless there’s something wrong with the brace or you’re wearing the wrong brace for your ankles.
When discussing the wrong ankle support brace, I am referring to the rigid types that restrict regular ankle movements.
The correct ankle support brace will boost ankle strength, especially if you play sports involving jumping.
Ankle injuries are more common in activities that involve lots of jumping and landing, like basketball and volleyball. (3)
Kurt Jacobson, a licensed athletic trainer from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says ankle braces offer a level of protection by providing external support for the ankle. (2)
The braces limit the extent of specific ankle movements, thus offering protection against ankle sprains.
He adds that the most comfortable ankle brace should properly fit inside your shoes.
Lousy ankle bracing and incorrect footwear can lead to a sprain, causing ankle pain.
Fortunately, most athletes understand the importance of comfortable shoes for ankle braces. If the correct ankle brace won’t cause ankle weakness, which braces do? Let’s look at that.
Don’t miss out on our informative video on the ‘Pros and Cons of Ankle Braces for Volleyball’. Get the inside scoop and make an informed decision to enhance your game:
Which Ankle Braces Weaken Ankle Muscles?
Rigid ankle braces are the most common culprit for weakening ankles.
Recurrent ankle injuries will weaken the muscles in your ankle. However, wearing a brace that interferes with the normal ankle range of motion could lead to future injuries.
Lace-up ankle braces can reduce ankle injuries, but if they’re too tight, it could cause a problem (4).
Tim Fraticelli, a physical therapist, explains why that is in his video below:
Rigid lace-up braces restrict ankle joints’ movement, which could cause muscle weakness in the long run.
If you’ve had recurrent ankle sprains, give rigid ankle braces a wide berth. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they could also cause another ankle injury.
How to Prevent Braces from Causing Ankle Weakness
In post-injury rehabilitation, a brace is an excellent support for ankle joints. The joints, though, need care when using the braces.
Following these tips will help.
1. Don’t Use Braces Without the Supervision of a Medical Profesional
For people with chronic ankle instability, braces are ideal for curbing recurrent ankle sprains.
However, it’s prudent that you only use a brace on the advice of a physical therapist or a medical professional.
2. Always Use the Correct Ankle Brace
For proper protection against ankle sprains, always use appropriate ankle bracing support.
Most people’s personal preference informs their prejudices. That shouldn’t lead you to wear a defective brace that could cause future sprains.
3. Use the Correct Footwear
Regularly wearing incorrect footwear with braces will, over time, lead to weak ankles.
Get comfortable shoes that don’t limit your ability to perform functional exercises.
This video shares more on what to look for in the correct brace for your ankle:
Don’t forget to check out our guide on ankle support vs ankle brace difference.
Will long-term use of bracing ankle support lead to weak ankle muscles?
If you’re healthy, studies show long-term use of a brace won’t affect your ankle muscles negatively (5).
What’s the role of braces in ankle sprain prevention?
Braces offer support to your ankle muscles allowing the normal range of motion without damage to the active ankle systems.
Which ankle braces don’t weaken the ankle muscles?
Wearing hinged ankle braces, even in the long term, doesn’t have any risks for your ankles. Also, avoid any rigid braces that prevent normal movement of the ankle.
Does wearing ankle braces make your ankles weaker? No, it doesn’t unless you use the wrong ankle brace with incorrect footwear.
Ankle injuries are unfortunately common for sports in which your ankles come in direct contact with the ground.
Fortunately, ankle support braces help reduce the occurrence or recurrence of these injuries. You have to ensure you use the correct brace.
Do you have any other questions about the effectiveness of braces in proper ankle support and injury recovery? Shoot them at me, and I’ll answer as soon as possible.
- 1. Feger MA, Donovan L, Hart JM, Hertel J. Effect of ankle braces on lower extremity muscle activation during functional exercises in participants with chronic ankle instability. International journal of sports physical therapy [Internet]. Sports Physical Therapy Section; 2014;9:476–87. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127510/
- 2. Maeda N, Urabe Y, Tsutsumi S, Numano S, Morita M, Takeuchi T, et al. Effect of Semi-Rigid and Soft Ankle Braces on Static and Dynamic Postural Stability in Young Male Adults. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine [Internet]. 2016;15:352–7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879451/
- 3. Jacobson K. Brace for it: When to use an ankle brace – Mayo Clinic Health System [Internet]. Mayoclinichealthsystem.org. 2020. Available from: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/brace-for-it-when-to-use-an-ankle-brace
- 4. McGuine TA, Brooks A, Hetzel S. The Effect of Lace-up Ankle Braces on Injury Rates in High School Basketball Players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011;39:1840–8.
- 5. Cordova ML, Cardona CV, Ingersoll CD, Sandrey MA. Long-Term Ankle Brace Use Does Not Affect Peroneus Longus Muscle Latency During Sudden Inversion in Normal Subjects. Journal of Athletic Training [Internet]. 2000 [cited 2022 Dec 12];35:407–11. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1323365/