Ankle braces can help prevent ankle injuries and re-injuries (Barelds et al, 2018). This article will review some of the most popular ankle braces available to help improve ankle stability and reduce the risk of ankle sprains.
For the most tailored advice, we always recommend checking in with your local physical therapist for an assessment of your current ankle condition, as the phase of your injury recovery will likely factor into your decision. Nevertheless, we hope this guide will help get you started on making an informed decision for acquiring the best ankle brace based on your current condition.
Additionally, wearing ankle braces like the ones shown below can certainly help reduce the risk of injury, but they should not be a stand-alone treatment. Ideally, these are used as an adjunct to improving ankle stability via strength and proprioception exercises, so feel free to check out all our other articles on exercises for ankle instability.
Here are our selections of the top ankle braces to help with recovering from, and preventing, ankle sprains, hopefully allowing you to find the best ankle brace for your needs.
1. ASO Ankle Brace
Average Customer Rating: 4.5 / 5 (based on 27,316 customer reviews – Jan 27 2024)
The ASO (Ankle Stabilizing Orthosis) lace-up ankle brace is widely considered on of the best ankle braces for management and prevention of ankle sprains both in terms of daily activities and in sports.
This ankle brace incorporates a simple, but efficient, design, which allows it to be worn under a shoe without wearing different-sized shoes on each foot.
While this ASO ankle brace isn’t guaranteed to prevent foot or ankle injuries altogether, the firm nylon sleeve and straps provide substantial medial and lateral ankle support, which can help prevent you from rolling your ankle in either direction, thus reducing the risk of injury or re-injury, mainly in regards to ankle sprains.
The brace is interchangeable between sides and putting it on properly is pretty straight forward. It comes with simple instructions, and the lace-up sleeve and longer velcro straps allow you to adjust the fit depending on your socks, shoes, amount of swelling, sensitivity, etc.
I know a lot of athletes who wear these types of braces while playing sports, particularly sports like volleyball and basketball where there is an increased chance of landing awkwardly on the foot, for example, the conflict zone under the net in volleyball.
There is evidence showing that these types of lace-up ankle braces can reduce the incidence of ankle injuries in sports, for example, basketball (McGuine et al, 2011), but the jury is still out on if it can reduce the severity of injuries when they do occur.
It won’t make you invincible to ankle sprains, but as we mentioned above, it will help reduce the risk of such ankle joint injuries, and if sprains do occur, may reduce the severity of damage. Therefore, it’s a great supplement to exercise-based therapy aimed at improving ankle strength and stability.
One complaint I have occasionally heard from some patients is that it offers good support, but feels bulky under their shoe. While there is some merit to this, as the material is needed to firmly support the ankle joint, I think some of these complaints are also related to a discrepancy in expectations vs. reality, as well as personal preference (i.e. the sensation of bulkiness may irritate some people more than others).
Having used this brace for additional support when rehabbing my own ankle injury, I actually really liked it. I wasn’t able to tie my shoe as tight on that side, but that didn’t really matter, as everything fit regardless. It was comfortable enough to wear while walking around at work, and I used it quite a bit when I went back to golfing for the first time, and didn’t really think about it throughout the round.
Personally, I also like it because it’s simple. When looking for fitness or rehab products, sometimes simplicity is key, as you can focus on a smart design and high quality material. A good ankle brace doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to offer an appropriate level of protection, support, and comfort.
In terms of high ankle sprains, fractures, or injuries to the midfoot or forefoot, it is likely not appropriate in the early phases of recovery, especially for more severe injuries, as it won’t offer protection from impact forces and some subtle ankle movement is possible in this brace.
As such, if you have one of these severe injuries, including a severe ankle sprain, we highly recommend something with more support, such as a walking boot, or following the direction of your physical therapist on when it may be ok to transition to something more lightweight like this.
Overall, this is an excellent lace-up ankle brace for ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability, both in terms of value and effectiveness. If you are managing these types of simple ankle sprains or ankle instability, it’s a great starting point. Given it is additional material under your shoe, expect it to feel slightly bulky at first, but in my opinion, that’s a minor trade-off for the support that it provides.
2. Bauerfeind MalleoTrain Plus Ankle Brace
Average Customer Rating: 4.5 / 5 (based on 76 customer reviews – Jan 27 2024)
Some people consider this the best ankle brace for comfort that still provides increased medial and lateral ankle support by way of the crossing straps. There are some key differences between this Bauerfeind ankle brace and the ASO ankle brace reviewed above.
Pros: The Bauerfeind ankle brace uses a medical-grade compression knit for the sleeve component, which provides improved comfort and a level of uniform compression not offered by standard lace-up ankle braces. Many athletes find it feels less bulky than the ASO ankle brace.
Cons: Depending on where you get it, the Bauerfeind ankle brace can be 2-3x more expensive than the ASO lace-up ankle brace. Additionally, some people have found it a little challenging to find the correct fit, and sometimes a little difficult to put on by pulling the foot and ankle through the sleeve, especially when in the acute phases of injury (pain and swelling).
Just like the ASO ankle brace, this Bauerfeind ankle brace is meant to provide an additional level of ankle stability to prevent further injuries, thus reducing the risk of medial or lateral ankle sprains, or setbacks when going back to activity after recovering from an ankle injury.
If you suffered a high ankle sprain, ankle fracture, midfoot injury, or forefoot injury, this likely isn’t a suitable option, especially in the early or middle phases of recovery, as it won’t really protect the structures typically injured in those scenarios. However, it may be suitable way down the road when you are at near-full or full recovery, but this should definitely be guided by your physical therapist who can assess your condition in person.
Overall, if you can find the correct size and have the budget available for this Bauerfiend ankle brace, it’s one of the best ankle braces for providing an additional level of ankle support while minimizing the burden of bulkiness and improving comfort relative to the more popular ASO ankle brace.
3. Freeto Ankle Brace
Average Customer Rating: 4.3 / 5 (based on 2,080 customer reviews – Jan 27 2024)
The Freeto ankle brace is a lace-up style ankle brace similar to the ASO ankle brace that we listed at the top of this page. The main difference here is that it uses less material, which has its own pros and cons.
The benefit to less material is that it’s lightweight and some people may find that more comfortable, especially when wearing over a sock and under a shoe. As such, it also comes in at a slightly lower price point, which is great if you are on a tight budget.
The drawback is that it may offer less support than the ASO ankle brace, as some people have found their ankle can still move a little more than they expected with this brace. Some movement is necessary, but you want to make sure you feel secure around the ankle, so I personally wouldn’t use it for much more than a mild ankle sprain.
Looking at the design, I’m also skeptical in terms of the level of comfort over the top of the foot where the straps cross. On bare skin, this looks like it may pinch the skin at the intersection point of the straps, or just dig in at the edges of the straps altogether, whereas the ASO ankle brace’s sleeve continues under these straps to avoid that potential issue. It’s probably not a big problem, but may warrant wearing socks to ensure the skin on the foot doesn’t become irritated.
Additionally, I’m a little skeptical about the “strong metal support on both sides” that uses “fish scale stabilizing metal”. It sounds like a good idea, but to me, it just seems like this is something that could break down with use, so I would be a little hesitant to go all in on this one if you have severe ankle instability.
One customer review described the metal support to be more like a plastic boning that you would find in a corset. So while it may offer effective medial and lateral ankle support, I wouldn’t count on it being high quality and durable, especially considering the highly affordable price point.
All that said, there is a large sample size of positive customer reviews that, given the price point, suggests this is still a good ankle brace for many peoples’ needs. Additionally, with lots of customers providing their takes on fit, pros and cons, and issues they noticed over time, you can be a little more confident in making an informed decision on if this is the correct brace for your needs.
Like the other ankle braces listed in this article so far, it’s certainly not meant to protect healing fractures or ligaments involved in high ankle sprains, but rather, will provide mild support to help minimize the risk of these low ankle sprains.
4. Zamst A2-Dx Ankle Brace
Average Customer Rating: 4.4 / 5 (based on 2,171 customer reviews – Jan 27 2024)
The main thing that separates this ankle brace from all the other ones we reviewed so far are the hard plastic supports on the medial and lateral sides of the ankle with the associated circumferential strap above the ankle joint, which makes it a more rigid brace and may be suitable for those with a history of more severe ankle sprains.
This company markets their ankle brace as being suitable for providing a higher level of medial and lateral ankle stability, which I would agree with based on its design that provides an extra level of support.
In fact, one study reported these types of double upright ankle braces that offer extra support can be effective at preventing ankle injuries in college volleyball players when wearing a more rigid ankle support similar to what this brace offers (Pedowitz et al, 2007).
One claim that is unique to this brace compared to the others is that it is a good brace for high ankle sprains. The rigid plastic supports with circumferential strap may help a little with high ankle sprains, but that claim that this is an ankle brace for high ankle sprains should be interpreted with caution for the following reasons:
With a high ankle sprain, the ligaments connecting the ends of the shin bones together can be injured, and as such, when healing, need to be protected. One thing that can place stress on these ligaments is anything that splays the bones apart, which seems to be address with the plastic supports combined with the circumferential strap.
However, in their video describing the product, they mention this brace allows for full range of motion (presumably they are referring to plantarflexion and dorsiflexion range of motion). One thing that can cause the ends of the shin bones to splay is end range dorsiflexion, which is one of the reasons why we usually defer to walking boots to protect a high ankle sprain while the ligaments heal.
Therefore, while this ankle brace may offer support that could protect against some factors involved in aggravating a high ankle sprain, I’m skeptical that it will prevent aggravating a high ankle sprain altogether. As such, if you do have a high ankle sprain and are return to activity, we would suggest discussing this brace with your physical therapist in person, as they can guide you on its suitability based on your level of recovery.
Additionally, we would suggest scanning some of the customer reviews, as there can be valuable information about what to expect in terms of fit and comfort in addition to level of support offered by the brace. Given there are hard plastic supports, comfort may be compromised in some situations, but support may be enhanced.
I also find customer reviews helpful for any attire or wearable items, as there is usually more context provided in terms of sizing and what to expect relative to what’s marketed.
Otherwise, the medial and lateral ankle support is certainly robust, as it combines a nylon strapping system like most ankle braces as well as the hard plastic medial and lateral ankle supports. The price point isn’t too bad, somewhere in the range of the ASO ankle brace, which we would consider mid-range.
Overall, this ankle brace could be worth considering if you have a history of high ankle sprains, but are in the advanced phases of recovery, ideally back to sport and looking for a little extra high ankle support in addition to medial and lateral ankle stability.
5. Benchmark Ankle Sleeves
Average Customer Rating: 4.3 / 5 (based on 1,638 customer reviews – Jan 27 2024)
The Benchmark Ankle Sleeve should not be considered an ankle brace, as it is not meant to provide the level of stability required for ankle injury rehab and prevention of ankle sprains.
The reason we included it in this article is because many people simply want improved comfort in their ankles with activity, as opposed to purely addressing ankle instability, especially if there is a history of old ankle injuries that they have already recovered from, but are still causing chronic ankle pain with activity.
These ankle sleeves provide a very light amount of support by way of comfortable elastic compression, so many people with ankle arthritis, old ankle injuries that tend to ache with activity, and sometimes even plantar fasciitis, may find them quite helpful for improving comfort with activity and overall chronic ankle pain.
Given that they only provide very light medial and lateral ankle support, we certainly wouldn’t rely on these to address ankle instability and minimize the risk of ankle sprains or other acute ankle injuries that involve impact, sudden twisting, or high forces in general.
Overall, these ankle sleeves are quite affordable especially considering you receive a pair of them, and the ample number of positive reviews suggest they can help aid in improving ankle comfort with activity, so they can be a great option for people looking to improve ankle comfort knowing that they are not meant for injury prevention, especially in terms of preventing a severe ankle sprain.
We hope this information and added context to the ankle braces listed above helps inform your decision of the most appropriate ankle brace for your needs. When in doubt, always check in with a physical therapist for more catered advise, and don’t forget about the importance of building strength and stability around your ankle with exercise-based therapy as well!
Barelds, I., van den Broek, A. G., & Huisstede, B. M. (2018). Ankle bracing is effective for primary and secondary prevention of acute ankle injuries in athletes: a systematic review and meta-analyses. Sports Medicine, 48, 2775-2784.
McGuine, T. A., Brooks, A., & Hetzel, S. (2011). The effect of lace-up ankle braces on injury rates in high school basketball players. The American journal of sports medicine, 39(9), 1840-1848.
Pedowitz, D. I., Reddy, S., Parekh, S. G., Huffman, G. R., & Sennett, B. J. (2008). Prophylactic bracing decreases ankle injuries in collegiate female volleyball players. The American journal of sports medicine, 36(2), 324-327.
The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.