Whether you're taking a leisurely hike or playing a fast-paced game of tennis, there's nothing worse than rolling or straining your ankle. But it's a common occurrence: About 25,000 people report an ankle sprain per day, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Luckily, an ankle brace may be able to help.
"An ankle brace, when worn after an injury, would help support the ankle and foot by providing an external layer of support to help facilitate healing the injured internal structures (ligaments and muscle tendons)," says Chanel Perkins, DPM, an assistant professor of podiatry at University of Texas Medical Branch. She tells Health that wearing an ankle brace can prevent excessive foot movements or "abnormal biomechanics" that could potentially cause discomfort and inflammation.
Contrary to popular belief, Maryland-based podiatrist Priya Parthasarathy, DPM says it's best to wait until after an injury occurs to wear an ankle brace, rather than using one consistently as a preventative measure. Even if you're accident prone or have been diagnosed with chronic ankle instability by a podiatrist, a foot brace is really for "occasional use, such as a hike on uneven ground or sports with a lot of lateral movement," according to Dr. Parthasarathy. That means you can wear an ankle brace to reduce your risk of injury — but should do so sparingly.
Otherwise, an ankle brace can do more harm than good. "The continued support will prevent the surrounding muscles from strengthening and can actually weaken the joint," she adds.
The best thing you can do following an injury is to contact your podiatrist for an evaluation. Understanding your injury and its severity helps you better choose the right ankle brace, especially if the pain is severe or chronic.
However, for mild discomfort, we asked our experts for recommendations for the best ankle braces on Amazon, including selections for better stabilization, compression, and physical activity. Browse their picks below for some much-needed support and relief—and put your best foot forward again.
A good ankle brace should provide support and stability during the healing process, and this best-seller with more than 12,700 five-star ratings on Amazon gives you both. Specifically recommended by Dr. Parthasarathy for anyone needing rigid support, the nylon boot uses stabilizing straps that create a figure-eight brace to keep the foot aligned. This rigid structure prevents your foot from contorting in an odd manner, which can lead to further injury. And thanks to adjustable laces, an elastic cuff, and cooling padding in the design, you won't have to worry about it feeling uncomfortable or ill-fitting. Plus, it's available in sizes XXS to XXXL, as well as two colors.
A compression sleeve is another great option to alleviate fatigue and inflammation, according to Dr. Parthasarathy. This ankle sleeve slips onto the foot with ease due to its elastic knit makeup. The fabric bends and stretches as you move, making you comfortable while still giving your ankle mild support. Also approved for use on your elbow, the slim brace earns extra points for fitting into most footwear.
Not only does this popular option have more than 3,600 five-star ratings from reviewers who swear by its pain-relieving qualities, Dr. Perkins also recommends this ankle brace. She considers it a "sturdy, adjustable support [that's] excellent for ankle injury prevention and treating sports injuries." The lace-up structure provides the perfect fit and lets you make adjustments as the swelling fluctuates, while the side straps keep your foot in place during activity. And although it's double-stitched for durability, the ventilated neoprene and nylon materials ensure you can still count on the brace's breathability.
Need lightweight support when you're on your feet for hours? This comfortable ankle sleeve is it. The sleek brace uses a wrapping technique that mimics kinesiology tape to support mild irritations or inflammation. Dr. Perkins explains that its elastic material allows just enough mobility for high-intensity movements, making the ventilated sleeve great for activity. However, if you're feeling extreme pain, go with a lace-up instead.
After undergoing foot surgery, you're going to need a brace that holds everything in place as you recover. This stirrup design, which was recommended by Dr. Perkins, secures itself just above the ankle with semi-rigid braces along each side, making it perfect to wear during the rehabilitation phase because it lets you bend and move your foot while walking on your own. The patented cushioning along the brace also compresses the foot to improve circulation and reduce swelling.
If you're running on unruly terrain or playing a sport that requires a lot of lateral movement, there's a higher possibility of spraining injury. In the event of an ankle sprain, Dr. Parthasarathy suggests this performance-based ankle brace that delivers equal parts support and compression. The velcro straps criss-cross over each other to brace the foot while providing light compression needed to soothe swelling ankles. Plus, it's made with moisture-wicking materials, so you can stay active while wearing the brace.
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