We often get asked, should I wear an ankle brace? So, are ankle braces bad for you or good for you? The right answer is that “It depends”. It depends on the history of your ankle, the type of activity you are doing, the type of terrain you are on, and the type of shoe wear.
For years ankle braces were provided to athletes and people who had pre-existing ankle sprains to help provide for the support that has been lost. Recently a study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health showed that high school basketball players who wore stabilizing lace-up ankle braces had 68 percent fewer injuries than athletes who did not. This group included athletes that had both pre-existing ankle injuries and athletes that did not. Evidence supports that a healthy un-injured ankle can benefit from ankle bracing.
When it comes to activity, you need to consider if you even need to brace. Going for a walk on flat pavement, riding a bike, working out in the gym, are not activities that an ankle brace would necessarily be needed. Sports and activities that require quick lateral movements, the ankle brace can help provide more support and help prevent injuries.
Walking on flat pavement the foot has good contact with the ground. Trail hiking often exposes you to very unstable and uneven surfaces where an ankle brace can help protect you from injury. Consider this also when playing field sports. Often there are hidden holes and loose ground that your foot might come in contact with, so brace accordingly.
Wearing proper footwear is important for ankle to do its job. Proper grip in shoe wear helps establish the proper base for the ankle to support the body. Like, wearing an ankle brace while wearing flat bottom tennis shoes on a wet field. You are still going to slip and lose balance putting extra strain on your ankle, that even the brace may not be able to support.
Ankle bracing is a very good preventative accessory to many people who are active. Overuse of an ankle brace can be bad for you because it can affect your ankle strength and balance. If the ankle doesn’t have to do the work for balance and support, then it gets weaker, increasing the risk of injury. Make sure that when there is minimal risk of injury to your ankle that you allow the ankle to do the work without the support so that you have strong supportive ankles for a lifetime.