How to Choose the Right Ankle Braces & Ankle Supports

Possibly one of the most overused parts of the human body, the ankle is prone to natural wear and tear, a whole range of injuries and mishaps that can cause ankle pain. Before we delve into the different types of ankle pain, symptoms, treatment and rehabilitation, it is important to first understand the anatomical structure of the ankle.

Understanding the ankle anatomy

The ankle is a hinge-type joint that is made up of two joints (upper and lower tarsal joint) which facilitates its normal movement. Apart from the four main ligaments (deltoid, anterior talofibular, posterior talofibular and calcaneofibular ligament), fibula, tibia and talus are the primary bones that make up the ankle. The capsula, ankle tendons and a combination of supporting muscles around the ankle help keep it in the desired position.

Types of ankle joint motions

  • Dorsiflexion

This involves the back of the foot (dorsum) coming towards the anterior part of the leg.

  • Plantar flexion

This involves balancing the leg on the toes when the heel is raised. In simple words, these motions help you walk, run and carry out daily activities that involve moving on the ground with your legs.

Why is the ankle prone to injuries?

While the most obvious answer to that question is that the ankle takes the weight of the entire body when you walk, jog, run or sprint, there are several other reasons for ankle injuries.

  • Natural wear and tear happens because your body ages with time and the ankles start to wear out, thus making it a common occurrence amongst senior citizens
  • With age, your body parts start becoming weak and in such a scenario, weak ankles are prone to injuries in the latter half of your life
  • Being overweight doesn’t help either, since it only means that you are putting more pressure and weight on your ankles
  • Rolling or twisting the ankle is also one of the most common ways to injure or sprain the ankle
  • Ankle sprains make up 85% of all ankle injuries and they generally occur when your ligaments tear or get stretched beyond a certain extent
  • Ankle injuries are most common amongst sportsmen, since they perform high-intensity tasks, thus putting more-than-usual pressure on the ankles

What are the different types of ankle injuries?

While there are several types of ankle-related injuries, the most common ones are listed below:

  • Ankle Sprain
  • Avulsion fracture
  • Stress fracture
  • Arthritis (Rheumatoid, Reactive, Psoriatic, Septic)
  • Tendon rupture
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Peroneal Tendon injury
  • Talar Dome Lesion
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Instability
  • Nerve compression (Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome)
  • Infection
  • Damage to the structural alignment

Each of these come with their own set of risks, so it is best to get your injury diagnosed at the earliest so you can take appropriate remedial measures.

Symptoms, treatment and rehabilitation of ankle injuries

Here’s a quick look at the key symptoms of moderate-to-serious ankle injuries:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruise
  • Acute pain
  • The inability of the ankle to bear body weight
  • Inability to move the ankle freely (stiffness)
  • Skin discolouration

When should one seek professional help for ankle pain?

While it is easy to figure out that you have injured your ankle, it is best to visit a doctor and get it checked if the pain persists for more than a few hours. Who knows, it might be better or worse than what you think it is!

The doctor will initially take a good look at your ankle, try to move it in different directions (to check the range of motion), ask you a couple of easy questions and subsequently conduct an X-ray or MRI scan to gauge the extent of the injury before prescribing drugs, exercises or other rehabilitation remedies.

How can ankle pain be treated? What are the best remedies?

Any kind of injury to the ankle means a whole lot of discomfort and there are certain proven ways to relieve this pain. Some ideal home remedies to effectively manage ankle pain include:

  • Rest/immobilization

Make sure you give your ankle the best chance of recovering by giving it ample rest. This includes not putting any kind of weight or stress on the ankle during the rehabilitation phase.

  • Using mobility aids

Whether you prefer crutches, walkers or wheelchairs is up to you (and the extent of the injury), but you should ideally use some kind of mobility support equipment or device for walking – even if you only mean to walk around the house for your daily needs.

  • Foot elevation

While lying down, use pillows to elevate your foot/leg. This can help in reducing the swelling around the ankle joint. We recommend you follow this whether or not you are on medication.

  • Ice, ice baby!

Cold therapy or icing works well to reduce swelling and reduce pain. Using ice wrapped in a piece of cloth or ice packs can help make the affected area numb and get rid of the swelling quicker.

  • OTC medicines

Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen are proven over-the-counter drugs that help kill the pain, but we still suggest seeing a doctor before you take any medicines.

  • Cortisone injections

Cortisone shots are essentially injected into your ankle joint to relieve you of the pain. These shots comprise of a corticosteroid medication along with a local anaesthetic.

  • Stretching/exercising

As is the case with the recovery of any joint, gradual movement and limited exercise is a massive part of rehabilitation. Using therapy bands (or resistance bands) and performing range-of-motion exercises can help in the recovery process. But you need to ensure that you don’t put any unnecessary strain on the ankle while you exercise.

  • Surgery

In severe cases, arthroscopy or reconstruction surgery may be advised by the doctor (in case the injury is extreme or the condition of the ankle doesn’t improve through nonsurgical methods).

  • Ankle support products

You could also use easy-to-wear ankle support equipment and aids to overcome ankle pain.

How to choose the right ankle support equipment

From sleeves and straps to splints and braces to stirrups and hybrids, there is an entire assortment of ankle support products that you can choose from in order to aid your ankle rehabilitation. Choosing an ankle support product might seem like choosing a shirt or a dress – the options in the injury rehabilitation products market today are endless. However, you need to assess the pros and cons of different types of ankle braces before you take your pick. You might realize that there is an inverse relationship between comfort and stability when it comes to most products.

Sleeves

Ankle sleeves are extremely comfortable, but there can be a fair debate over how effective they are when it comes to moderate-to-severe ankle injury management. However, in the case of a mild sprain, these are handy first-line treatment modalities that you can purchase on your own.

Straps

Ankle straps or binders are basically meant to be wrapped around the ankle in an eight-shape (like you would wrap a bandage). While different straps have varying thickness and flexibility levels, it is up to you to decide what to go for. Straps are usually popular amongst athletes and youngsters.

Lace-ups

These braces have a classic design when it comes to functionality and support. Made of stiff material, lace-up style braces provide ample stability. While the rigidity factor might seem like a con, there are lots of designs out there that provide a great balance between stability and comfort today.

Hybrids

Put a sleeve, strap, stirrup and lace-up together and you have yourself a hybrid ankle brace. Most professional sportsmen prefer hybrid braces, but again, it also depends on how serious your ankle injury is (or what the doctor has recommended).

What should I look for in an ideal ankle support aid?

Quality, stability, comfort, additional features and cost (in that order) are the primary factors to consider when choosing an ankle support product. If you are thinking about recovering fast, aesthetics should ideally be the last thing on that list. However, trusted brands like Vissco, Tynor and Flamingo offer some of the best-rated ankle joint support aids that deliver a great mix of quality and aesthetics at a reasonable price.

If you are on the lookout for stable and comfortable ankle support or ankle rehabilitation aid online, here are some of the best ankle support aids available in India:

1. Ankle Binder - Flamingo

Designed to support, compress and partially immobilise the ankle, Flamingo Ankle binder helps in controlling pain, oedema or inflammation. It stabilizes the ankle and prevents inversion or aversion injuries.

Features:

  • Ensures better sweat absorption
  • Allows controlled compression and pain relief
  • Made of four-way stretchable fabric
  • Has elasticized wrap and compression sleeve

2. A60 Ankle Support For Right Leg - Aircast

Aircast's A60 ankle support offers ankle stability and support. It also incorporates a sleek 60° stabilizer at either side of the ankle to help prevent rollovers and ankle sprains.

Features:

  • Easily fits into athletic footwear
  • Sleek stabilizer at either side to guard against sprains
  • Supports the weakest point of the ankle
  • Open heel design allows a wide range of motions

3. Air-Stirrup Ankle Support For Left Leg - Aircast

Designed to fit perfectly on the left ankle, this ankle support provides relief to injured and weak ankles. The ankle brace fits easily inside the shoe and it features semi-rigid shells designed to provide proper compression.

Features:

  • Discreetly fits inside the shoe
  • Uses duplex air cells technology for support
  • Designed for acute ankle injury and ankle sprains
  • Provides graduated compression during post-operative care

4. Airheel Ankle Brace - Aircast

The Aircast AirHeel ankle brace made of lightweight and breathable fabric applies a pulsating compression to specifically treat achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. it may help reduce swelling and enhance circulation.

Features:

  • Provides comfort and relief to the plantar fasciitis
  • Made of lightweight neoprene fabric
  • Provides comfort and relief to the plantar fasciitis
  • Comes with adjustable velcro strap for custom fit

5. AirSelect Elite Walking Boot - Aircast

The AirSelect Elite Walking Boot by Aircast is engineered to provide protection, comfort, and control the formation of edema. It features Softstrike technology which absorbs and dissipates shock. The walking boot is lightweight & comfortable.

Features:

  • Skid-resistant rubber tread
  • Integrated inflation system
  • Easy to wear
  • Features semi rigid anatomically designed shells that help support the limb

6. Air-Stirrup Ankle Support For Right Leg - Aircast

Known to provide relief to injured ankles, Air-Stirrup Ankle brace by Aircast is the perfect choice. It is streamlined to fit properly in shoes for protected weight-bearing and features semi-rigid shells to provide proper compression.

Features:

  • Discreetly fits inside the shoe
  • Uses duplex air cells technology for support
  • Designed for acute ankle injury and ankle sprains
  • Provides graduated compression during post-operative care

How to prevent further injuries or damage to the ankle?

Apart from going through your ankle rehabilitation carefully and gradually, maintaining moderate body weight is essential to reducing the pressure put on your ankle joints.

Here are some more preventive measures you can take in order to avoid injuries in the future:

  • Wear the right footwear

Always use quality footwear that doesn’t put undue stress on different parts of your legs. If you have been through an ankle injury, avoid wearing hard soles or high heels.

  • Warm up

Before you begin your workout or any other strenuous activity that will put your ankles under pressure, stretching and warming up is a must. Oftentimes, ankle injuries happen because you aren’t warmed up enough.

  • Use an ankle brace

You can continue using an ankle brace as a preventive device when partaking in any physical activity that involves lateral movements.

  • Exercise regularly

Performing muscle-strengthening exercises is a must so you can be sure of a strong support system around the ankle joint. Calf raises and other similar exercises can go a great way in helping you strengthen your ankle.

  • Mind the surface

It might seem like a redundant thing to say, but a lot of us do not pay attention to the kind of surfaces we walk on. Uneven surfaces often lead to ankle twists and related injuries. Watch where you are walking, especially if you are a senior! To conclude, it is important to immediately seek professional help when it comes to diagnosing and treating an ankle-related injury. Ankle pain, if left untreated, can lead to long-term aches and instability, causing further damage to the joint area. If you are looking for a reliable ankle support aid, check out our section dedicated to ankle pain management products.

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