Ankle braces are used in several situations, whether you want to prevent an injury or are already recovering from an injury. Many people think that only athletes doing high-intensity sports require this piece of protective garment. In reality, ankle injuries are common among many people, even those with routine occupations.
What is an ankle brace?
An ankle brace is a piece of material that is placed around the ankle to protect it. It is used to immobilize the joint and, at the same time, provide compression to the bones.
Ankle braces gained popularity in the early 1990s. Since then, continuous improvements in their design are being developed as bracing the ankles to prevent injuries is becoming more and more common. A 2017 study in the United States confirmed that ankle sprains are the most widespread injury among athletes. Additionally, an ankle brace is not only an excellent tool to prevent injury, but it is also used to speed up, support, and stabilize the recovery from ankle surgery or sprain.
An ankle brace needs to have the proper fit and the right material to do its job.
- Proper fit – For size, ankle braces need to fit snug but not too snug as to cut off blood circulation. Typically, for the proper size, it is best to refer to your shoe size or ankle circumference on the sizing chart.
- Different types of ankle injuries will determine the best type of brace.
1. Soft braces tend to be of neoprene material, which is flexible and allows for a close fit to the body. It also helps provide heat insulation to the joints, ligaments, and muscles.
2. Semi-rigid braces are of two types, the lace-up and hinged. Both styles are recommended for mild to moderate support and are the most common braces used.
3. Rigid braces are made with hard plastic sides that extend up either side of the ankle and have Velcro straps for a more secure custom fit. They provide the highest level of protection and support.
How to make an ankle brace?
Twisting an ankle is fairly easy to do as it is a weak spot that can be sprained even with a slight slip of a rock or even down a step. Knowing how to make an ankle brace is a good survival skill, especially for hikers, campers, and anyone, for that matter.
Here are two easy and very useful ways to brace an ankle :
- SAM Splint
Sam Splint is one of the most useful pieces of first aid equipment anyone can have in their bags. They are created from a thin core of aluminum. They are lightweight, waterproof, versatile, and can be used for stabilizing an ankle injury. To use a SAM splint as a DIY ankle brace, you’ll need to place the injured foot at the center of the splint and wrap one half over the top of their foot and around the back of the Achilles tendon. Then, repeat the same motion with the other side. This is called the stirrup wrap method, which will create a sturdy foundation to stabilize the ankle.
- Tape Splint
One of the most common ankle injuries is an inversion injury, which occurs when ligaments are stretched or torn after a person’s ankle turns in. To avoid further complications like sprains, you can limit the movement of the ankle by applying a tape splint. Start by taping a bandage or self-adhering wrap on top of the big toe and wrap to the inside and under the ball of the foot, and then again above the foot to the inside of the ankle and finally anchoring the tape just below the calf. Add a series of alternating strips to form a weave and provide basic support to the ankle joints and minimize swelling.
Ankle injuries can happen to anyone at any age, not necessarily just to athletes. A rule of thumb is to prevent injuries like these is to use the proper footwear. Otherwise, it is always good to know how to make an effective and efficient ankle brace.