Last week in basketball practice: During a 5 -on-5 drill, my teammate on the left wing got beaten by a vicious crossover. When the opponent slashed to the hoop and went for the layup, I decided to come over from the weak side to try to block the shot.
Well, I didn't actually block the shot. But, I was able to alter it enough that it didn't go in. Success!
Or, so I thought. Unfortunately, I landed on the foot of my own teammate and badly rolled my right ankle.
Every serious basketball player knows the horrible pain of an ankle sprain like that. In fact, almost 40% of all basketball-related injuries are ankle sprains. You can try to prevent sprains by strengthening the ankles with wobble boards and other exercises, but there is little you can do when you land with full force on someone else’s foot.
In this scenario, the only chance to prevent an injury is an ankle braces, which would absorb the impact of the landing and make sure the ankle doesn't roll. In this article, I will help you find the best ankle braces for your needs, ranging from cheap ankle sleeves to high-performance ankle braces like the Zamst A2-DX , worn by 2x NBA MVP Steph Curry.
You can check the comparison table here, or click on any of the ankle braces to read a more detailed review.
There are a lot of different reasons why athletes use ankle braces. Gaining extra stability and confidence for sore ankles, preventing low or high ankle sprains, or recovering from injuries suffered in the past. There are ankle braces specifically tailored for these different needs. Get a professional opinion about your ankles to find the perfect fit for you.
If the fit of an ankle brace is too loose, it won't deliver the necessary stability and protection you want. On the other hand, if it is too tight, your feet can get numb because of restricted blood flow. So, you will want to make sure to buy the right size.
Most manufacturers offer charts to help you find the best fit depending on your shoe size. If you have really narrow or wide ankles, you might need to go one size up or down to ensure a proper fit. Also, make sure to wear sturdy basketball socks to minimize any friction on your skin.
There are some cheaper options lacking the elasticity quickly and, therefore, don't offer the same protection after a while. Make sure to buy quality products that don't lose form and will remain firm enough to support your ankles even after heavy use.
These days, there is a huge variety of ankle braces on the market. In this post, I want to give an overview of the different options so you can find the best ankle brace for you!
Overview of Features:
Made of tight-fitting, elastic material, these sleeves offer compression and stability for sore ankles. They are very light, comfortable and provide pain relief, however, they cannot actually prevent ankle sprains from happening.
The McDavid 511 is a very basic ankle sleeve made of breathable, non-neoprene knitted elastic. These are basically very tight socks offering a small amount of added stability. They can be useful for athletes who lack confidence after an injury and don't want to wear bulkier and less comfortable ankle braces.
As ankle sleeves are not “foot-specific”, you can buy just one, and use it on the left or right foot as needed.
These are far bulkier than ankle sleeves, but offer maximum protection helping to prevent or to recover from common ankle sprains. They come in different styles with either just a lace-up/strap combination or with additional stays or plastic inserts that increase stability even further.
These ankle braces deliver stability solely through the lace up system and the straps. The omission of inserts makes these braces lighter and more comfortable. In return, they offer less protection, especially for high ankle sprains.
This ASO ankle brace is one of the most popular models and provides excellent lateral and medial support while not hindering quick athletic moves because of its lightweight construction. The heel is safely locked in by figure-8 straps, which greatly reduce the likelihood of an ankle sprain. The material needs a bit of break-in but, after a few weeks, you will hardly notice you are wearing it.
The ASO ankle stabilizer is a great choice when you are looking for a moderately priced ankle brace, especially if you are recovering from a low ankle sprain. Make sure to buy it a size small as they tend to run large.
This ankle brace is constructed of single-layer polyester fabric for full support and minimal weight. The construction of this ankle brace doesn't use any inlays, but mimics the function of athletic tape. It is, therefore, very light and fits comfortably even with narrow shoes.
In the beginning, the brace can feel a bit stiff, but after a short break-in period, the material feels really nice. The McDavid has 9 sets of eyelets (compared to 6 of the ASO), which makes it a bit bulkier and more difficult to put on. In return, it also offers a bit more stability compared to the ASO.
Overall, the McDavid 195 ankle brace is a high-quality product that offers good protection while still being relatively lightweight and comfortable.
Ankle braces with inserts or exterior support structures offer more protection and are especially useful if you want to prevent a high ankle sprain or if you are recovering from one. However, they are heavier, less comfortable and restrict your movements to a higher degree than the previously-presented, lighter options.
The Zamst A2-DX ankle brace became very popular when Stephen Curry started to wear it in the 2012/1013 season to protect his often-injured ankles. He credits it with finally giving him the full confidence to play without the fear of re-injuring himself. Check out this Youtube video to find out more.
This is also the ankle brace I currently use myself and I couldn't be happier about it - the Zamst A2-DX is definitely the Mercedes of ankle braces. As soon as you put your hands on one of these, you will notice the quality is on another level.
Putting on this ankle brace for the first time will probably take you a little while. I almost had to read the instructions and I never do that. Overall, there are 4 velcro fasteners around the heel and one anchor strap above the ankle to ensure your feet are secure.
Despite the added bulk, the Zamst remains very comfortable. In fact, I barely notice this ankle brace when playing basketball. This is achieved by the very good fit of the plastic support splints as well as the added padding on the inside of the ankle brace.
The Zamst A2-DX is an expensive, high-end ankle brace made especially for athletes with serious or recurring ankle problems. If you want to treat your ankles to the best brace on the market, go with the Zamst A2DX.
The McDavid 199 is another very popular ankle brace offering serious protection through the combination of steel spring stays and removable medical inserts. The construction is durable and lightweight, but needs some time to break in. Lacing them up takes a while, but eventually, you get used to it.
It offers a little less support compared to the Zamst but, overall, the McDavid 199 is a great option for athletes on a moderate budget who need maximum protection from ankle sprains.
There are a lot of ankle braces to choose from and the best ankle brace for you will vary depending on your needs and prior injury history.
Ankle sleeves like the McDavid 511 are a great choice if you want a simple way to add a little bit more stability. Get the great combination of support and flexibility of an ASO ankle stabilizer if you want to prevent low ankle sprains. Or choose the Zamst A2-DX if you have problems with recurring high ankle sprains and need the best protection available.
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