We have found, after many years of helping thousands of people heal their sprained ankles fully and quickly, that ankle braces are not helpful and may actually cause more harm than good. Here’s why people end up using them in the first place…
If your ankles heal badly, because you’re relying on rest and ice and hoping your ankles will magically heal on their own, they will end up weak and unstable. At that point, you will most likely use ankle braces to protect your ankles from another injury. But, there’s a steep price you may pay for that protection.
Here are the top 3 reasons NOT to use ankle braces after a sprained ankle. (And just for reference, anytime we mention ankle braces, you can include ankle wraps and tape too. They all basically do the same thing…)
The #1 Reason NOT to use Ankle Braces
They weaken your ankles
Ankle braces are like a crutch… They wrap your ankle and make it hard to move. Yes, it can support weak ankles and lower the risk of injury, BUT your ankle will NOT have natural mobility. And that means it will never regain its natural strength and stability before your injury.
So, that means you will have to continue wearing ankle braces forever (and most people do!)… Even worse, your ankles will continue to weaken over time, ensuring you can never play sports without them. In fact, most people’s ankles get so weak with ankle braces, that anytime they are not wearing them (even without playing sports), they are at a high risk of an ankle injury, especially if they are walking on natural, uneven ground (grass, sand, etc…).
Instead of going down this path, we have found it MUCH more beneficial to naturally rehabilitate your ankles after an injury. With a great ankle rehab program, you can get your ankles 100% back to their original strength, stability and healthy range of motion. In fact, most people find their ankles get even stronger than pre-injury. And that means your ankles will be more protected naturally without the need for ankle braces. More importantly, it means your ankles will move naturally and safely, like they were meant to.
The #2 Reason NOT to use Ankle Braces
You’ll be slower and lose balance
If your ankles heal poorly, because you did not use a good ankle rehab program, you will find yourself with weak and unstable ankles. They may even still be painful and sore anytime you play sports, go for a run, etc… So, you’ll turn to ankle braces, wraps, or tape to help give you some more support and protection.
But, that support INHIBITS natural movement of the ankle. So, not only will your ankles get weaker over time, they will also lose their natural power, strength and stability, which will make you unable to move in the same way. That means, you will lose natural balance, speed, agility, jumping ability, etc.
As time goes on, it will only get worse. All those little muscles in your ankles will atrophy and lose their natural ability to generate power and keep you balanced. You will probably notice a dramatic loss of speed and balance in sports and everyday activities. And until you rehabilitate your ankles fully, it will never come back.
Alternatively, if you rehabilitate your ankle back to full health, you may even notice an improvement in balance and speed, since your ankle could very well be stronger and more stable than pre-injury.
The #3 Reason NOT to use Ankle Braces
They can hurt your knees, hips and low back
This is super important and NOT something most people understand…
Your ankles are a mobile joint. You can wiggle them all around and they move in all ranges of motion. That makes sense, since your feet come into contact with the ground and your ankles need to move a lot to adjust for different types of surfaces safely.
But, the next joint in your body is the knee and that is NOT a mobile joint. The knees are a STABLE joint. Your knee can only move a few degrees safely. If you force it beyond that, those ligaments (ACL, MCL, etc) can tear. And that is a much more serious injury than an ankle sprain.
So, if you take a mobile joint (the ankle) and you make it IMMOBILE with an ankle brace, when you go to move, your body may be forced to find that range of motion in the next joint up the kinetic chain (the knee). And that means, you put yourself at a MUCH higher risk for a serious knee injury when you wear ankle braces. Read more about knee pain and ankle braces >>
Plus, since ankle braces can put a lot of strain and stress on the knees, we find that many people get tremendous relief in their knees once they fully regain their natural range of motion in the ankles and stop wearing the braces.
In addition, since you are messing around with the way the body naturally moves once you put on an ankle brace, you may also get into trouble with your hips and low back. Again, the hips are mobile and the low back (core) is stable. But, once, you start messing around with the natural mobility of the ankle, things can get messy in the joints above it. If you lose natural mobility in the ankles, you also increase your risk of injury to your hips and low back.
Again, it is just SOOO much better to naturally heal your ankles with rehab, so they can move naturally and safely. Rehab makes your ankles strong and stable, lowers your risk of future sprains, improves speed and balance and helps protect your knees, hips and low back.
It is worth the small investment and amount of time it takes to heal properly vs. relying on unnatural equipment that makes you weak and throws your whole body out of whack.