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Ankle Supports vs Ankle Braces: What's the Difference?

Monday, 20 July 2020  |  Frances

If you're trying to choose between an ankle support and a brace, you might be confused by the difference between the two, especially when the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. To avoid causing more harm than good to your ankle health, it's important you understand this difference.

At Health and Care, we don't want to make your decision more complicated than it needs to be. That's why we've put together this simple guide to help you find the perfect ankle product for you.

What Do Ankle Supports and Braces Do?

Ankle supports and ankle braces both protect ankle health, but they do this in different ways. Generally, ankle supports prevent injuries while ankle braces are designed to treat them. There can be some overlap, with some ankle braces offering more versatile use. Because of this distinction, it is recommended you always consult a doctor before selecting an ankle brace or if you suspect you have an ankle injury.

To start with, we'll be comparing high performing products from opposite sides of the spectrum to really highlight the differences. The structure of our guide will continue as follows:

Best Ankle Support for Preventing Injury

Donjoy Strapping Elastic Ankle Support

Donjoy Strapping Elastic Ankle Support

The Donjoy Strapping Elastic Ankle Support is a great example of a classic ankle support. Like many ankle supports on the market, it is designed to prevent injury with a thin, lightweight construction that can be worn continuously. Instead of fully immobilising the area, it compresses it, removing pressure without restricting movement.

Beneficial Features:

  • Thin and lightweight
  • Elasticated fabric enables dexterity
  • Fits comfortably under socks and shoes
  • Stabilises and compresses the ankle area

Perfect for:

  • Preventing ankle injuries
  • Continuous use
  • Individuals with weak ankles or discomfort
  • Participating in sports or other physical activity

Not Ideal for:

  • Treating existing ankles sprains or injury

Best Ankle Brace For Treating Injury

Aircast Air-Stirrup Universe Ankle Brace

Aircast Air-Stirrup Universe Ankle Brace

The Aircast Air-Stirrup Universe Ankle Brace is intended to treat injury and should be worn in the immediate rehabilitation period. Unlike an ankle support, it immobilises the area and removes pressure to facilitate healing. At the same time, duplex aircell technology compresses the ankle to reduce swelling caused by sprains or other ankle conditions. 

Beneficial Features:

  • Rigid construction removes pressure on injury
  • Immobilises the ankle to facilitate healing
  • Duplex aircell technology compresses ankle to reduce swelling
  • Supports ambulation (e.g. light walking) to promote healthy rehabilitation

Perfect for:

  • ​Acute ankle injury
  • Ankle sprains (graded one to three)
  • Chronic instability
  • Post-operative use

Not Ideal for:

  • Continuous use
  • Preventing injury

Bridging the Gap

While many ankle braces like the Aircast Air-Stirrup Universe Ankle Brace are designed for treating acute ankle injuries, others are intended for less serious conditions or allow for more versatile use. Some braces can even be used to provide extra stability during sports. A couple of examples are outlined below.

Best Ankle Brace for Milder Injuries

Aircast AirSport Ankle Brace

Aircast AirSport Ankle Brace

The Aircast AirSport Ankle Brace can be worn when you've almost recovered from an injury, but aren't ready to fully use your ankle. The semi-rigid shell supports and protects the area, preventing drastic movements. Foam-filled aircells reduce swelling while an ATF cross strap compresses and stabilises the ankle to prevent further injury.

Beneficial Features:

  • Semi-rigid shell prevents drastic movements
  • Foam-filled aircell technology is specially designed to reduce swelling
  • Duplex aircell technology compresses ankle to reduce swelling
  • ATF cross strap provides compression, stability and pain relief

Perfect for:

  • Preventing further injury
  • Acute ankle distortion
  • Chronic ankle instability
  • Ligament lesion
  • Mild ankle sprains
  • Post-operative applications
  • Prophylaxis

Not Ideal for:

  • Continuous use

Best Ankle Brace for Sports

Aircast A60 Ankle Brace

Aircast A60 Ankle Brace

The Aircast A60 Ankle Brace performs very similarly to an ankle support as it prevents injury rather than treating it. It offers a little more support and stability than the average ankle support, but is suitable for use during sports and other physical activities. It holds the ankle at a 60° to provide a comfortable angle of rest without completely immobilising the area.

Beneficial Features:

  • Plastic stabiliser allows your ankle to rest at a comfortable angle
  • Comfortable, fairly lightweight and breathable
  • Can be worn with most shoes or trainers

Perfect for:

  • Preventing rollover and ankle sprain
  • Sports or other physical activities

Not Ideal for:

  • Treating an existing ankle condition

Protect and Recover the Right Way

Selecting the right product when treating ankle pain is important, it can be the difference between a fast recovery and reoccurring problems. As demonstrated by this guide, the main difference between ankle supports and braces lie in their ability to either prevent or treat injury. If you suspect you are suffering from an acute injury or strain however, always consult your doctor before selecting an ankle brace.

For more information, check out our Ankle Supports & Braces information page, where you're presented with a wide selection of our different braces and ankles ranges.

Do you have any questions about the difference between ankle supports and braces? Share your thoughts below or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Tags: Ankle Pain, Ankle SupportsFoot and Ankle PainRehabilitation


 
 
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