The Best Ankle Brace

Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace

Our Top Pick for 2016: Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $53.45*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Ankle injuries are a common ailment among competitive and recreational athletes. A solid ankle brace that supports, stabilizes, and yet leaves mobility is an essential piece of sports equipment for those recovering from or looking to prevent ankle injuries. Ankles braces can also be a necessity for those with weakened ankles from multiple injuries or genetically weak ankles. There are many choices available from a simple compression brace to a full air cast, but some are better than others. The important factors to consider are what the brace will be used for, stability, support, and comfort. All of these factors will affect the braces ability to protect the ankle from injury.

Table of contents

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Lightweight
Anatomically Correct Fit
Stabilizing Straps
Low-profile Design
Easy Rear Foot Entry
Ballistic Nylon Boot
R3 (Rapid-Rigid-Ratcheted) Technology
Quick On-off Application
Superior Durability And Strength
Anatomically Designed Bilateral Hinges
Individualized Adjustable Fit
Elastic Cuff Closure
Easily Fits Into Your Shoe
Support Without Removing Shoe
Enhances Support

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace

Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $53.45*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Zamst A2-DX Ankle Brace, intended for moderate to severe ankle sprains, provides the ultimate in ankle support. It is used by professional and amateur athletes alike and comes in several different sizes to accommodate both large and small individuals. A series of adjustment and support features are used to give you the best stability possible, while providing a comfortable fit.

First is entry using the i-Fit open panel design. There are four panels in the back of the brace that open to allow for easy entry of the foot. This is particularly important for an already injured ankle that may too sore or swollen to pull an ankle brace over it. The panels crisscross across the back of the ankle, fastening with Velcro. The panels can then be used to adjust the compression level and fit of the brace.

Zamst also has an a-Fit feature that is meant specifically for a left or right foot, giving it an anatomically correct design. While having a brace that can fit on either foot may be economical, it does not make for the best support. a-Fit assures that you are getting the best fit and support possible and optimum stability. The benefit of having an anatomical brace is that the support can be focused on the vulnerable areas of the ankle with greater specificity.

A common complaint with braces is the stiffness and lack of mobility they cause in the ankle. Zamst addresses this issue with a pre-curved design that allows for a greater range of motion. Across the front of the ankle the brace curves to follow the nature line of the foot, thus not restricting the flexing motions of the foot. Consequently, speed and agility will not be compromised because of the brace.

Two of the possible ways an ankle can sprain is through inversion, rolling the ankle inward, or exersion, rolling the ankle to the outside. Using an Exo-Grid, the A2-DX focuses on stabilizing both sides of the ankle. Dual molded plastic structures on either side of the ankle support and promote correct movement. Working to keep the ankle moving as anatomically correct as possible, the plastic provides a tough barrier to injury.

This support structure also works, along with the anchor strap, to prevent high ankle sprains. High ankle sprains can occur where the bones of the lower leg meet the ankle. The anchor strap and Exo-Grid support this vulnerable area. There have been some complaints of these plastic pieces rubbing against the ankle bone. Zamst includes two pads that can be placed inside the brace to relieve this discomfort. The pads can also be used for help in fitting a small or thin ankle.

X-strap stabilizers cross over the front of the foot, around the bottom, and attach to the sides of the brace. The straps provide lateral (side), anterior (front), and medial (middle) support. Extra support of the ligaments and muscles of the ankle keep it from moving to the point of injury. The straps also have Grip Tech located on the bottom of the foot. Ankle braces frequently slide while in the shoe causing athletes to lose needed speed and agility. Grip Tech helps the ankle brace to stay in place and lets athletes play at their best.

The A2-DX comes only in black and unisex sizes. For men it will fit sizes 5 – 16.5, in sizes small to extra-large. For women, it will fit sizes 6 – 17.5. Hand washing is recommended and air drying away from sunlight. The brace may fade as a result of frequent washings. This ankle brace is wide and if you have a wide foot you may have difficulty fitting your foot into your shoe.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): DonJoy Velocity ES Ankle Brace

DonJoy Velocity ES Ankle Brace

View it on Amazon for $94.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe DonJoy Velocity ES Ankle Brace (Velocity ES) has a unique design meant to give you full range of motion while offering strong ankle support. There are several sizes, strengths, and widths available giving a greater range of choices than with many other ankle braces.

Anatomically correct design, left or right only, gives the brace an edge over universal designs. It also comes in three support levels light, moderate, and extra support. Included is an easily closed support wrap depending on which support level you choose. The light support wrap is small, fitting over only the ankle joint. The wraps cover more area of the foot the higher the support level, with the extra support wrap covering the ankle joint, heal, and arch of the foot. All wraps close using an easy one-hand close feature that tightens by pulling elastic bands and attaching at the back of the ankle. This feature allows you to moderate the amount of tension on the ankle.

The Velocity ES boasts a low profile design that can easily fit into your shoe. The level of support you need, such as the extra support wrap, however can add bulk making it more difficult to wear than the light support wrap. Being able to buy the level of support you want is nice, however, if the ankle does become injured you may not have the appropriate level of support that you need and would require you to purchase another support wrap separately.

DonJoy uses what they call R3 technology, meaning rapid-rigid-ratched, to provide the support for the upper ankle. Two rigid pieces on either side of the ankle, tightened with a dual closure anchor strap, compress the tibia/fibula bones where they meet the ankle bones. This works to prevent inversion of the ankle or exersion of the ankle.

Bilateral hinges let the foot flex naturally, allowing athletes to sprint, turn, and jump without loss of mobility. The hinge design also gives the Velocity ES a lower profile inside the shoe, especially when used with the low support wrap as this wrap may not even reach inside the shoe depending on the size of your foot. Hinges are attached to a foot plate that does not add bulk to the brace.

The foot plate is heat moldable to give better individual fit. This feature allows this brace to be tailored to the unique anatomy and needs of one individual for better comfort and to help the brace stay in place during use. It can be molded using a heat gun, manually shaped with gloved hands, and then allowed to cool. You can continue to mold it until you reach the desired shape.

Entry to the brace is from the top, but all straps and fasteners can be loosened to accommodate a swollen or injured ankle. To achieve the best possible fit, the Velocity ES comes in three different sizes small, medium, and large for the left or right foot with standard and wide calf sizes available, make for a wide range of fit options.

With two color choices, black and white, it can blend in with most shoe colors easily. The support wrap can be hand washed in cold water using mild detergent. Be sure to rinse completely as left over detergent can cause the deterioration of the material.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): ASO Ankle Stabilizer

ASO Ankle Stabilizer

View it on Amazon for $19.29*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe ASO Ankle Stabilizer (ASO) offers a traditional design that still provides good stabilization of the ankle. This brace has a universal fit so it can be used on either ankle. Entry is from the top through a ballistic nylon boot which is flexible enough to allow easy entry for an uninjured ankle. Flexibility and comfort are the top two reasons that users like this simple ankle brace.

Design of the ASO is based on the taping practices and patterns of athletic trainers. You can see this in the nylon straps which cross over the front of the ankle, around the bottom, and are Velcroed to the sides. The straps, which have finger loops to help tighten them, are then secured with an elastic cuff closure across the high ankle. Laces are also secured with the cuff closure so they do not come loose during activity.

The basket weave pattern of the nylon straps, which mimics the taping patterns used by trainers, restricts the movement of the heel. Adjusting the straps for comfort can be done quickly and easily without removing the shoe. This feature is beneficial because many times athletes cannot tell if an ankle brace is adjusted too tight until they’ve begun competition.

The ASO has a small profile, fitting into shoes easily. The six sets of eyelets allow for further adjustment for comfort and stability. While the ASO does not provide the same level of support for the upper ankle as the previously reviewed braces, it does offer more flexibility for the foot. With no plastic pieces or hinges, the ASO more readily moves with the foot, allowing the user to move naturally.

The tongue is made of CoolFlex material that is lightweight and contours to the foot effortlessly. CoolFlex is also used at the back of the boot to prevent rubbing in the Achilles area of the ankle. Laces are attached directly to the tongue so the tongue stays centered and doesn’t shift during use.

The ASO works best for injury prevention. Putting the ASO on an already injured ankle can prove to be difficult and painful. This brace has top entry which requires pointing the toes and pulling the nylon boot over the entire foot and ankle which can be problematic for a sore or swollen ankle even with the laces loosened. It may not provide the protection needed for an already badly injured ankle.

The ASO comes in a wide variety of sizes from XX-small up a XXX-large. Sizing is based on measuring the circumference around the ankle and across the widest part of the heel. This roughly means the brace fits men sizes 6 – 15 and women sizes 5 – 14. This brace can be machine washed on the gentle cycle and air dried.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Bracoo Breathable Neoprene Ankle Support

Bracoo Breathable Neoprene Ankle Support

View it on Amazon for $20.60*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe Bracoo Breathable Neoprene Ankle Support (Bracoo) can be found online for less than $12. Neoprene allows good fit and comfort because of the stretch and flexibility it provides. The neoprene also retains heat for better circulation over the ankle area. Because of the simplicity of the design, this brace fits into shoes with little extra bulk. It has a universal fit so it can be used on either the left or right ankle.

Front entry allows you to put this brace on without pulling or tugging the brace over a sensitive injury. The front entry also allows for increased adjustability of the brace. The upper and lower closures can be adjusted to fit comfortably on different parts of the foot. In particular, the lower closure adjusts well over the arch area of the foot which can be problematic for many users because of high arches or flat feet.

Ankle injury can leave an ankle feeling weak and shaky but this brace can reassure users by providing comfortable support on a daily basis. The brace is ideal for all day support while an injured ankle heals or for an ankle weakened from multiple injuries. This can give users much needed peace of mind and relief.

An open heel feature gives full range of the motion to the foot. Sores and blisters can also be prevented by leaving this heel area unrestricted. Putting the foot in the shoe is easier because there is no extra bulky material over the heel area to get caught or to push the foot unnaturally forward in the shoe. The low profile also means you can wear this brace with a wider variety of shoes, not just those that are adjustable enough to fit a large bulky brace.

You must keep in mind that the Bracoo is not necessarily the best choice for use during athletic events. While it can provide extra support, it does not have the necessary support system to prevent a rolled ankle during heavy physical activity. There is no support for the upper ankle as found with other braces, leaving this area open to injury. But if you are looking for something to help outside of athletic events, this brace offers an easy to use, comfortable design that will help your ankle feel more secure.

The Bracoo comes in one size fits all up to an 11in. arch circumference. It can be hand washed in mild detergent and line dried.


Pre-purchase considerations

What is the brace to be used for?

This is the first consideration because what the brace is used for will determine the level of stability that you need. If you plan to use an ankle brace primarily for athletics, you will need a brace with full upper and lower ankle stabilization. The extent of current and previous injuries and the nature of activities you plan to participate in can help you determine how rigid you need this support system to be.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an ankle brace that you can wear all day to stabilize an injury or support weak ankles, you may need something as simple as a compression type sock that can easily fit in a shoe. There are a variety of braces that provide light support and still remain comfortable for use all day long.

Stabilization

The purpose of an ankle brace is to stabilize the ankle. The features used in the brace for this purpose are of the upmost importance. For use in sports, look for a brace that stabilizes both the upper and lower ankle through straps and a rigid support system. Stabilization should be targeted for problem areas like the ankle joint.

Protection from inversion and exersion is important. Look for a brace that addresses both the inside and outside of the ankle, yet leaves the ankle free to flex. The best support can be found in anatomically correct braces that cater to only the left or right foot. However, a universal brace, designed properly, can provide good stabilization.

Support

Once the ankle is properly stabilized, support becomes an important factor. A weak ankle can leave you feeling wobbly and unsure, but with the right support you can go about your athletic and everyday activities with confidence. A good ankle brace should provide enough support to make your ankle feel strong while still leaving it mobile enough to accomplish your objectives.

Lace up braces can let you adjust your support level as can braces that come with different levels of support systems. Whatever level of support you choose, be sure it meets your individual needs.

Comfort

An uncomfortable ankle brace can leave your feet bruised, blistered, and sore for days. Because each foot is unique, there is no one brace that will work for everyone. If possible, try on the ankle brace before you purchase. If you cannot try the brace on, read all instructions for measuring and fitting carefully. Many braces that can be purchased online have instructional videos to teach about proper fitting and adjusting.

The materials used to make the brace can make all the difference in the comfort level. Look for materials that breath well, offer flexibility around the heal and curve of the foot, and allow you to adjust the tightness of the brace.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Ankle injuries are common occurrences but you can find relief in a good ankle brace. Always keep in mind the nature of previous injuries and the activities that you want to do before purchasing an ankle brace. When you keep these factors in mind, you should be able to find a brace that meets your needs.

Prevention is the number one way to ensure ankle health. Remember that a brace, coupled with good stretching, and a consistent fitness routine can increase the safety of your ankles. Taking proactive steps to prevent an injury can mean long term strength and stability for your ankles for years to come.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. Andrea Hamel, What to Look for in an Ankle Brace, blog.muellersportsmed.com, November 10, 2015
  2. ASO Ankle Brace, ASO Ankle products
  3. Bracoo Breathable Neoprene Ankle Support, comfytopia.com
  4. Christie Carlson, Top 10 Ankle Braces, livestrong.com, August 18, 2013
  5. DonJoy ES Ankle Brace, DJOglobal.com
  6. Zamst A2-DX, Zamst products website
  7. Medspec.com, Medical Equipment Specialists
  8. What to Look for in an Ankle Brace, athletictrainers.myindustrytracker.com

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