Whether you are trying to prevent ankle injuries, chronic ankle pain or are recovering from ankle injuries, ankle braces are essential protection. Ankle braces provide support and protection for a variety of ailments and injuries, including arthritis, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, sprains, ankle pain and inflammation.
Ankle instability or weakness
You may have purchased ankle sleeves to treat unstable or weak ankles. If so, you should probably wear it when you're about to perform physically strenuous activities that can put stress on your joints.
However, wearing sleeves will only protect your ankle from possible injury and will not solve the underlying problem. If you are not receiving physical therapy for ankle weakness or instability, you should continue to wear the sleeves for now.
On the other hand, you may be undergoing a physical therapy exercise program to reduce your ankle instability and strengthen the joint. In this case, our advice is that you only need to wear the brace until your physical therapist recommends that your ankle is strong enough to withstand the demands of your particular sport.
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to 3 months to complete a physical therapy program. The exact time will depend on your personal fitness level. It also (of course) depends on how well you adhere to the physical therapy program prescribed to you. Regardless of the period, once you have regained your normal ankle range of motion, you can stop wearing the ankle wrap.
Another reason to wear an ankle sleeve can be persistent stiffness in your joints. In this case, the sleeve is expected to provide therapeutic warmth to the soft tissues of the ankle. Doing so keeps the ankle ligaments and tendons supple and reduces the risk of ankle injuries, such as sprains or strains.
If you wear an ankle brace for this purpose, we recommend wearing it before starting any physical activity. Ideally, you should consider wearing the sleeves when not sleeping, as this will provide the most protection. But you should definitely wear it for any activity that might put stress on the soft tissues of your ankle.
In this case, the answer to the question "how long should you wear ankle braces" is "as long as you plan to participate in sports or other vigorous activities on a regular basis."
Other types of ankle braces
In addition to ankle sleeves, you can also purchase ankle braces with straps, stirrup braces, or lace-up ankle braces. These ankle braces are used to provide a higher degree of lateral ankle support and protection from rolling the ankle.
There are 2 possible reasons to buy these types of ankle braces:
You have a sprained ankle and want to protect your ankle from further stress while it heals;
- You often do an ankle-demanding exercise and want to actively protect it from injury.
Again, the answer to "how long should you wear an ankle brace" depends on which of these reasons apply to you.
If you wear an ankle brace to treat a sprained ankle, you will need to continue wearing the brace at least until:
your doctor confirms that your sprain has healed; and
- you feel no pain; and
- You have fully regained your original ankle range of motion.
This in turn depends on the severity of the injury and your own fitness level. As we mentioned above about ankle instability or weakness, it also depends on your willingness to stick to the treatment your doctor prescribes.
That being said, minor sprains may only take a few weeks to heal. However, a grade 3 sprain (complete tear of the ligament) can take up to 3 or 4 months to fully recover.
Active prevention of ankle sprains
Young man playing basketball. One of the factors that influences the answer to the question "how long should you wear ankle braces" is how long you plan to continue participating in activities such as basketball.
Basketball poses an ongoing risk to ankle health that can be reduced by using an ankle brace.
Ankle braces provide lateral support for the ankle. In doing so, they can help you avoid varus and valgus sprains. Sports such as basketball, football or tennis require frequent and sharp changes of direction, and there is a constant risk of ankle sprains.
It should be noted that activities that are not normally considered sports can also pose a threat to your ankle. Examples might include frequent hikes on rough or uneven surfaces. This type of activity can also lead to ankle rolling and consequent inversion or valgus sprains.
Buying ankle braces for protection while doing these types of activities is a very reasonable (and indeed sensible) course of action.
If you purchased your ankle brace for this type of protection, we recommend that you keep wearing it for as long as you plan to continue participating in activities that place stress on your ankle. Remember that as you age, you will need the protection of the brace more and your joints will lose their original strength and flexibility.
Here are some tips on how to choose the best ankle brace:
Choose the most comfortable ankle brace
Ankle braces provide excellent support, but braces that don't fit or use the wrong material can end up being uncomfortable. To make sure your ankle brace is as comfortable as possible, consider the following:
Proper fit: Ankle braces are usually sized based on your shoe size or ankle circumference, so be sure to check the size chart for the best fit and support
- Neoprene vs. Fabric: Neoprene is a flexible material that fits snugly against the body and provides support and insulation to prevent constant pain. However, neoprene is not breathable and may be too hot for all-day use. Fabric and knitted materials will generally breathe easier and keep feet cool, but without the therapeutic heat of neoprene.
When should I wear ankle braces?
Should I wear an ankle brace while sleeping or overnight?
Ankle braces can be used in a variety of situations, from everyday activities to high-intensity sports. If you frequently experience ankle pain due to tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, or general pain, an ankle sleeve with primary protection and compression can help relieve pain. Ankle braces are a great tool to help prevent future injuries or re-aggravate old ones when you're exercising. Additionally, when recovering from ankle surgery, ankle braces help keep the ankle supported and limit movement to aid the recovery process.
Types of ankle braces
There are many types of ankle braces, including sleeves, braces with shoulder straps, and lacing braces:
Ankle sleeves are made of neoprene or knitted fabric and are designed to provide primary protection and moderate compression. Ankle sleeves provide support and relieve pain, swelling and inflammation and are often recommended for people with tendonitis, arthritis, plantar fasciitis or injuries.
- Ankle support with straps is similar to an ankle sleeve, but uses an additional strap system on the sleeve for advanced protection and increased compression.
- Lace-up ankle straps are designed with laces for maximum support and allow you to customize the tightness of the laces from top to bottom.
How tight should the ankle brace be?
Every athlete will feel differently about how tight it feels, but in general, you'll want your ankle to feel "locked in." The stent should not restrict blood flow in any way, or cause any pain from being tight. The level of protection you decide on will also determine how tight the stand feels, with lower protection levels feeling more flexible and maximum protection being very stiff. Take the time to adjust your laces or straps for the perfect compression and protection without cutting off circulation or causing pain.
How to Choose the Best Ankle Brace
The perfect ankle brace for you will depend on your needs, but luckily there are multiple options for all use cases.
Comfort: Make sure to choose the correct size and material for the ankle brace, considering how breathable you want the brace to be
- Frequency: Depending on your needs, you can wear the ankle brace for a short period of time or throughout the day
- Types of Ankle Supports: Sleeves, braces with straps, and lace-up ankle supports all offer varying degrees of support, protection, and compression
- Tightness: Take the time to adjust your ankle brace not to be too loose or too tight, multiple adjustments may be required, but a perfect fit is essential