If you quickly want to know what my pick is for the best ankle brace for basketball, then I’d recommend the McDavid 195 Ankle Brace as the best one.
Ankle sprains are the most common injuries that plague basketball players. While recovery from an initial sprain typically takes a few days to heal, the risk of recurrence is high. Repeated sprains may require reconstructive surgery and a few months of postoperative rehabilitation. Can ankle braces help in the prevention of this injury?
In this article, I’ll review five of the best ankle braces for basketball and explore what basketball players can do to reduce their risk of ankle sprains.
- McDavid 195 Ankle Brace
- Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace
- Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer
- Bodyprox Ankle Support Brace and Wrap
- Powerlix Ankle Compression Sleeve
How does ankle sprain happen?
Ankle sprains in basketball games usually occur when: (1) there is a sudden inversion and internal rotation of the ankle with low levels of plantarflexion or (2) sudden inversion without internal rotation. These were the results of a 2017 analysis which looked at four video footages of basketball games where an ankle injury was captured.
What causes frequent ankle sprains?
Stephen Curry is one of the most popular professional basketball players right now. He is also someone who had a lot of ankle injuries in his career.
This video reviews his ankle injuries and provides information on why people who had previous ankle sprains are more prone to injuring the same ankle.
You will see that his right ankle twists very easily and always ends up in awkward positions when landing from a jump or even while running. The ligaments in his ankles have been stretched out and loose and can no longer support his movements. Stephen Curry had two surgeries, went on a rehabilitative program and wore ankle braces to get him back on track.
How can you prevent ankle injury?
There are two options that you can look at to help prevent ankle injury according to a 2019 study. Both of these protect your ankle from the sudden inversion and rotation.
- Preventive exercise programs to strengthen key muscles in the lower body and improve proprioception. Proprioception is a person’s awareness of his or her body’s position in relation to space. By strengthening muscles in your lower body and improving proprioception, your body can react promptly and will naturally be able to reduce the force on the ankle ligaments. This will prevent the awkward positions that will cause them to stretch out.
- The use of ankle braces. Ankle braces provide additional external support to keep your ankle in the proper position to avoid stretching out the ligaments.
Surgery can be considered if both have not been effective or if the degree of injury is severe. Please consult a doctor when considering such treatments to get the best advice for your specific situation.
Types of ankle braces
There are a few types of ankle braces and each one has a specific use case.
- Ankle sleeves or soft braces
The main purpose of ankle sleeves is to provide compression to the area. Compression helps relieve mild discomfort and pain like swelling and stiffness. These are usually made of highly stretchable materials like neoprene or elastic fabrics. Sleeves that are made of neoprene can also deliver warmth to the area. This has the lowest level of support across all the types of ankle braces.
- Ankle braces with straps
These are typically neoprene ankle sleeves with straps that you wind across your ankle area in a criss-cross pattern. The straps help keep your ankle in proper position to prevent rolling. It is a good option if you are looking for compression and a stronger ankle support than a plain ankle sleeve but without the bulk of more rigid braces.
- Lace up braces
As the name suggests this type of ankle brace has laces that go up the front part of the brace. The laces provide the utmost level of adjustability to the fit of the ankle brace. This is helpful not only for a more comfortable fit but also for stronger and a more customized support. Most lace up braces also come with straps to offer even better stability. Lace up ankle braces are sometimes also classified as a type of semi-rigid ankle brace.
- Semi-rigid ankle brace
These ankle braces provide a very high degree of support while still allowing movement. They are most useful when recovering from injury. Semi-rigid ankle braces will have plates typically made of sturdy plastic. These are positioned on both sides of your ankle and secured by straps to prevent the joint from moving out of place.
- Rigid ankle brace / orthosis
Rigid ankle braces provide the highest level of support and is used for severe injuries and recovery post operation. These will have rigid plastic plates in the ankle area which usually extends all the way to the sole of the feet to ensure maximum support and stability for the joint. This type of configuration will limit the range of motion for the ankle and is not suitable for active sports activities.
What to consider when looking for an ankle brace?
- Suitable for your intended purpose
You must first make sure that you have a clear view of the concern you are trying to address. Once you have this information then you will be able to determine the most appropriate type of ankle brace using the previous list.
- Fit and comfort
Ensure that you follow the measurement guidelines provided by the manufacturer to determine the most appropriate size. An ankle brace is meant to be snug however, it should not be too tight to the point where it cuts off the circulation from your foot.
- Allow movement
If you are intending to play basketball with an ankle brace then you definitely need one that still allows a good range of motion. The ankle braces included in this review are from the first four types which can be worn while playing basketball.
- Your doctor’s recommendation
If you suffer from chronic instability or had a severe injury then you will likely need to take a break from playing basketball in order to fully recover and strengthen your ankle. Make sure that you are working with a doctor to determine the best type of treatment and ankle brace that you will need for your specific condition.
5 Best Ankle Braces For Basketball
Now that we have an understanding of the different factors to consider, let’s go and decide which best ankle brace for basketball to buy.
The McDavid 195 ankle brace provides maximum support for your ankle to prevent injury or help you recover from it. The straps on this brace simulates an athletic tape wound in the figure six pattern. Taping helps to improve proprioception and keep the joint in place.
This ankle brace has a lace up design which allows you to customize the fit to the shape of your foot and ankle. It also comes with a comfortable thick top strap for additional adjustment options. Once you have found the right fit, the brace can be re-adjusted without the need to unlace which is very convenient. It has a padded lining for added comfort and made of a single-layer of polyester to keep it lightweight. It will not interfere with your movements or weigh you down.
Each package has one ankle brace which can fit in either the left or right ankle. Take your measurement by winding a measuring tape around about one inch above the center of your ankle bone. Ensure your foot is flat on the floor when doing this. Check this measurement against the list provided by McDavid to get the appropriate size. The fit should be snug for the best support but not too tight that it blocks off blood circulation.
- Provides good ankle stability
- Lace up design allows a more custom fit
- Easy to wear; option to slip on without undoing and retying the laces is possible
- Sizing can be tricky and usually runs small. Take a size up if you are in the top end of the size bracket
The Zamst A2-DX ankle brace has several key features that together provide the strongest support for moderate or even severe ankle sprains.
The elastic part of the brace that slips into your foot is designed with the a-Fit and i-Fit technologies to bring an individualized fit in spite of not having a lace up closure. The a-Fit technology is applied to the front part of the brace and ensures an anatomically correct fit regardless if you wear the brace on your left or right ankle. The i-Fit technology on the other hand, refers to the adjustable fasteners at the back of the leg. These fasteners are comfortable and can be slightly tightened if one prefers some compression to the ankle area to relieve soreness.
The most prominent feature of the A2-DX are the dual Exo-Grid (Xternal) support structures on both sides of the ankle. These two solid support structures provide medial and lateral stability to prevent your ankles from rolling inward (inversion) or outward (eversion) during pivot or cutting movements which are common in basketball. Further support is provided by the X-Strap stabilizers along the front of the brace which are connected to the Grip Tech straps under the foot to prevent excessive rotation and forward shifting of the foot.
The sizing for Zamst depends on your shoe size. Choose the larger size in case you fall between two sizes. Each package contains a single ankle brace that can work for either the left or right ankle.
Stephen Curry, whom I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this review, is one of the prominent users of the Zamst A2-DX. He uses the brace in practice and games.
- Solid support for moderate and severe ankle sprains
- Does not limit movement in spite of the strong support
- Fully-adjustable for an individualized fit
- More expensive than other options
- The multiple straps and adjustment options may take a while to get used to
The Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer is a lace up ankle brace that is reinforced by a complete figure eight stabilizing strap. This combination provides the medial and lateral ankle stability to prevent against inversion or eversion. There is an elastic cuff closure at the top to keep the laces and stabilizing straps secure. When using this brace, ensure that the stabilizing straps are tight to ensure proper support.
The boot that slips on your foot is made of nylon and has a low overall profile to easily fit into any type of shoe. A package comes with a single ankle brace that can fit either the left or right foot.
There are two ways to determine your size for this ankle brace. You can use your shoe size or your ankle circumference. I recommend using your ankle circumference to get the right size as it is more accurate than using your shoe size. Place the measuring tape diagonally across your ankle such that one side is looped around the bottom of your heel and the other at the top front of your ankle. If in doubt or in between sizes, select the smaller size for a snug fit.
The shoe laces have to be done when putting on and undone when taking off which makes it more cumbersome to use than other options in this review. This is an alternative to the McDavid 195 if you are looking for a similar style.
- Does a good job of stabilizing the ankle
- Can easily wear with any shoe due to the low profile
- Difficult to put on
- The boot material is not very stretchy
The Bodyprox Ankle Support Brace is in the category of ankle brace with straps. It is made of 70% neoprene, 20% nylon and 10% polyester. The neoprene material is breathable, stretchable and provides adequate compression and heat to the ankle area. It comes with figure eight straps which serves two purposes: add stability and support to keep ankles in place and adjust the fit of the brace for better security.
This ankle brace provides light to moderate support while still remaining flexible to allow a good range of motion. Do note that this may not provide the same level of protection from ankle rolling as previous products in this review. It is one of the more affordable options in the list and worth considering if you are not looking for a high amount of support.
Each package includes a single ankle brace which can fit either the left or right foot. It comes in a single size that can fit feet of up to eleven inches arch circumference.
- Provides light to moderate support. Allows a good range of motion for the ankle.
- Secure and adjustable fit due to the velcro straps
- Easy to put on and take off
- Made of thick material and may not fit with most shoes
- May be too big for ladies with small feet (below size 6)
The Powerlix Ankle Compression Sleeve provides support for a mild sprain. It has a 20-30 mmHg compression rating which can bring relief from swelling, muscle fatigue and pain. Due to the absence of a sturdy external plate and straps, this sleeve provides the widest range of motion out of all the options in this list. While it does provide some level of support for your ankle, the level of stability will not be the same as the other types of ankle braces. I recommend using this more for light support, relief of swelling and pain rather than ankle stability.
The fabric used on this sleeve is breathable and moisture-wicking to keep your feet free from odor. In addition, the smooth and soft texture of the fabric will keep you comfortable through many hours of use. It has a special knitted design with a four way stretch capability to deliver the right amount of pressure on the ankle joint.
This ankle sleeve comes in a variety of sizes. Measure your ankle circumference to get the corresponding size. You can obtain your ankle circumference by looping a measuring tape diagonally across your ankle. One side looped around the bottom of your heel and the other in the top front part of your ankle. If you happen to be in between sizes, choose the smaller size if you want extra compression and the larger size if you prefer reduced compression.
- Adequate level of compression for light support and pain relief
- Allows a wide range of motion due to the flexible material
- Comfortable to use for extended periods due to soft and breathable fabric
- A package contains two ankle sleeves
- Support is not as strong as the other options but good for an entirely different use case
The Awesome Choice
My choice for the best ankle brace for basketball is the McDavid 195 Ankle Brace. The product provides the maximum support for your ankle to help in injury prevention and recovery. The figure six straps stabilize your ankle and improve proprioception. The lace up closure and additional thick strap at the top give you a customized and secure fit.
One great plus that puts this at the top of the list is the convenience. Although it is a lace up ankle brace, it is easy to put on and take off. You will get a lot more use out of it because of this and better value for your money.