An ankle brace, also known as an orthosis, is worn around the ankle to promote healing. A brace can protect the ankle and foot from further injury, stabilize the joint so it can heal faster, and provide compression and warmth.
Ankle braces are commonly used to treat injuries or provide relief from the pain of arthritis.
While it is possible to purchase ankle braces online or at a local drugstore, it is important to know the types that are available and to consult with a doctor to determine which treatment is best for you.
Types of Ankle Braces
- Compression braces: Also known as elastic braces, compression braces are often used to treat mild ankle sprains and tendonitis. These types of braces are made of lightweight stretchable materials which allow normal rotation and movement of the ankle. They are designed to provide joint support, enhance balance and reduce swelling. Compression braces also help keep the ankle joint warm and decrease muscle stiffness. They can usually be worn on either the right or left ankle, and are typically sold by shoe size.
- Lace-up braces: Lace-up braces are semi-rigid. They are used to treat mild to moderate ankle sprains. Lace-up braces limit side-to-side and up-and-down movement of the joint. They provide more support than compression braces, and most types will fit into the shoe. Like compression braces, they are designed to be used on either the right or left ankle.
- Hinged braces: Hinged braces are also semi-rigid. They prevent the ankle from rolling from side to side but do not hinder up-and-down movement. Hinged braces typically have padded sides for comfort and Velcro straps so they can be easily adjusted or removed. Unlike lace-up or compression ankle braces, hinged braces are specifically made to fit either the right or left ankle.
- Rigid braces: Doctors often prescribe rigid braces to athletes or active people to help them recover from an ankle sprain or stress fracture. This type of ankle brace is made from hard plastic that extends up either side of the ankle and is secured with Velcro straps. While rigid braces provide excellent support, they may not fit inside shoes. Depending on the condition, a doctor may recommend that a patient switch to a less limiting type of brace after the ankle begins to heal.
While ankle braces can provide a temporary solution, they should only be used during the initial phase of recovery unless a doctor recommends otherwise. Be sure to make an appointment if you have had an injury or are experiencing ankle pain.