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Ankle support – best boots and braces?


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  • #1302306
    Stuart Murphy
    BPL Member

    @stu_m

    I'm susceptible to ankle damage having previously torn ligaments in both ankles. I actively mitigate against possible further damage by using support bandages whilst hiking. I have tried after-market footbeds and the like as well as strengthening the ankles this has been sufficient to prevent any further serious sprains, but minor twists do occur with some regularity (though never serious enough to jeopardise continuing a trip).

    1. What relatively lightweight footwear should I consider (I have a short but wide foot) and favour jogger like flexibility and cushioning as opposed to the rigidity of a a heavy leather boot with stiff sole. That being said, I also want to support my ankles as well as I can and am prepared to prioritise support above comfort/weight. Boots may be used off track carrying 18kg load (please do not advise me to lighten the load lol). I do not need crampon compatibility.

    2. I am currently using a thick elastic bandage with velcro for ankle support while carrying a pack. This definitely helps a lot, but I was wondering whether people had recommendations on potentially better supports. As an example, this http://www.asoankle.com/ looks like it may be worth trying. Anyone had any good experiences with this or other braces?

    Any advice appreciated.

    Cheers
    Stuart

    #1981410
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    I really like the Aso ankle support a lot. I've used one on my left foot for three years both hiking and nordic skiing. I find that it's actually MORE comfortable than a sock/figure eight velcro support. At the same time, it's about four times more supportive. It's highly adjustable.

    I've never developed a blister from this support, which honestly surprises me. And greatly pleases me!

    I've found–unfortunately–that a stiffer sole that resists torsional twisting is better for my weak ankle. I'd give anything to be able to go with a lighter, more flexible boot but it hasn't worked out for me. And I've done years of strengthening exercises. Everyone's different. The possible advantage of an ankle support is that it may let you go lighter on your boots, in the sense that the ankle brace compensates for the support that a lighter boot may lack.

    It's been years and I'm still working this out. Good luck!

    #1981430
    Mark Heiser
    Member

    @74kilos

    Locale: Mid-Atlantic

    I've never torn any ligaments in my ankle, but I have sprained them good. Both can bend to just about 90 degrees to the shin towards the middle of my body!

    Anywho, the best policy with shoes is always to try them on first, you won't necessarily get trail experience, but with the type of experience you've had you should be able to get a good feel for how supportive they are. My inclination would be to lean towards a non-waterproof (if 3 season is the goal) mid to high boot. Considering the extent of damage, I would try high first. I've always had good luck with merrells, but have also heard great things about lowe (sp?) and asolo.

    Also agreed a stiffer sole should treat you well.

    #1981446
    Tad Englund
    BPL Member

    @bestbuilder

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Having little to no real ligament support left in my right ankle and surgery leaving it even worse (cartilage removal) and my Left ankle isn't much better I feel I can at least address you question with some experience about the subject.

    1. "What relatively lightweight footwear should I consider". My answer to this is- lightweight trail runners. No on boots, they will just prolong your weak ankle problem. The best and only long term solution is to strengthen your ankles, period. Boots are just like crutches and if you never get off them your ankles will continue to atrophy.

    2. "velcro for ankle support" Your ankle braces are just a little better at a short term solution then boots. Used with shoes you can move and feel the trail (necessary for brain to ankle movement and reaction). But get off/out of the braces ASAP.

    Again, work on strengthening your ankles so you don't have to rely any false support. You can develop the necessary muscle strength to overcome the lack of ligament control (I know this from first hand knowledge).

    Also do a search though some of the older threads on this very subject and read some of the articles here on BPL about this.

    Yes, I have a bias, but I have earned it (you ought to see my x-rays).

    #1981452
    S Long
    BPL Member

    @izeloz

    Locale: Wasatch

    Start taking serrapeptase and hydrolyzed collagen peptides every day. Buy a wobble board from fitter first and practice on it at least five days a week. Also get a silver or gold theraband and look up posterior tibialis exercises on Youtube. All of this combined should fix up your ankles in no time.

    #1981505
    Jennifer Mitol
    BPL Member

    @jenmitol

    Locale: In my dreams....

    If you truly have deficient ligaments, then unfortunately strengthening is only going to help so much. Yes, absolutely work on posterior tibialis exercises, work on single leg standing balance (eyes open, then eyes closed, then eyes open on a squishy surface, then eyes closed on a squishy surface). Try playing catch while standing on one leg, that sort of thing.

    But…the fact is depending on YOUR foot and ankle, you may actually need a brace. If the lightweight elastic stuff works well, then great. It's as minimal as you can go and doesn't do any harm in the long run (worsening the weakness). Those elastic things don't really provide any support, but they help cue your brain to your ankle a bit more and help with what we call "motor control."

    If the little elastic thing isn't enough, then the best, most supportive brace is the lace up kind. Doesn't matter what brand, but those tight lace up braces will give you, by far, the most support you can get. Not sure how comfortable it would be while hiking, but you have the ability to adjust the laces to meet your needs.

    Good luck

    #1981517
    Johan Engberg
    Member

    @luffarjohan

    Locale: Wrong place at the right rime

    There are dedicated ankle support shoes made for orienteering which basically is a orienteering-shoe (trailrunner with low heel and very aggressive lugs) with a brace which you could try. I have no personal experience in such shoes, but I do know that they're used by some runners who's destroyed their ankels in the woods.

    I'd recommend training as a first option though but if that is not enough…

    example:
    http://www.vjsport.fi/en/shoes/high/

    #1981519
    Ben C
    BPL Member

    @alexdrewreed

    Locale: Kentucky

    If you really need ankle support, I don't think you can beat the Active Ankle brace. You'll notice that about half of the indoor volleyball players wear them (if you watch that sort of thing). I dislocated both ankles in the past and had multiple other sprains after that. Then, I began wearing the Active Ankles. I have never rolled an ankle while wearing them. I am not sure you physically can. You can get some irritation with hem over long miles though. You can wear the Active Ankles with light shoes.

    But I don't wear them any more. I now use a combination of low drop trail shoes and trekking poles in combination with some ankle strengthening. SO far, so good.

    #1981523
    Max Dilthey
    Spectator

    @mdilthey

    Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com

    Try out the Salomon Synapse Mids. Good ankle support like a boot, but much lighter. The current AT Thru Hiking record happened in a pair.

    #1981576
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    It may be that I have the Active Ankle brace that Ben mentioned–looks like the Aso…anyway, the important thing is that you can use the finger loops on the figure 8 straps to pull up on both sides of your ankle and then fasten on the velcro strips. This, plus the lace up, gives a good custom fit.

    Sometimes structural deficits limit how much strengthening you can do through exercise. For example, because of surgery performed when I was three, I can't lift my left big toe. There's nothing connected to lift it with. And so on. Strengthening has helped me tremendously and I hope to lose this wrap, which I only use when backpacking and nordic skiing. I may yet! In the meantime, it's a real help with little downside.

    I do the kind of exercises that Jennifer mentions.

    #1981621
    Steve
    BPL Member

    @steve-2

    Locale: Eastern Washington

    Stuart, Many bits of good advice in this thread–my opinion lies between what Tad and Jennifer listed.

    What I've found to work best:

    1. ALWAYS use trekking poles
    2. Exercise those ankles (wobble board, etc.)
    3. Low or mid boots/shoes only–as mentioned by others. Big boots mean poorly exercised foot muscles.
    4. For strenuous hikes (cross country,etc.) consider pre-taping your ankle(s) with Leukotape or athletic tape. Properly applied tape is far superior to elastic bandages/braces (IMHO) but still allows for some movement. The tape sort of acts as a second set of ligaments on the outside of your foot– greatly reducing ankle rolls.

    Good luck Stuart and keep us posted on what ends ups working best for you.

    #1981658
    Thomas Baker
    BPL Member

    @shake_n_bake

    Locale: WY

    "Having little to no real ligament support left in my right ankle and surgery leaving it even worse (cartilage removal) and my Left ankle isn't much better I feel I can at least address you question with some experience about the subject.

    1. "What relatively lightweight footwear should I consider". My answer to this is- lightweight trail runners. No on boots, they will just prolong your weak ankle problem. The best and only long term solution is to strengthen your ankles, period. Boots are just like crutches and if you never get off them your ankles will continue to atrophy.

    2. "velcro for ankle support" Your ankle braces are just a little better at a short term solution then boots. Used with shoes you can move and feel the trail (necessary for brain to ankle movement and reaction). But get off/out of the braces ASAP.

    Again, work on strengthening your ankles so you don't have to rely any false support. You can develop the necessary muscle strength to overcome the lack of ligament control (I know this from first hand knowledge).

    Also do a search though some of the older threads on this very subject and read some of the articles here on BPL about this.

    Yes, I have a bias, but I have earned it (you ought to see my x-rays)."

    ***********

    I agree with everything said above. I have one ankle that is literally holding on by a thread. I went the boots and braces route for a while until I noticed one day that my bad ankle was half the size of my good one. Right then I lost the brace and boots and started strengthening my ankles.

    Good trail runners are much more stable than boots. It is the foot bed that matters not the height up your leg. And on those rare occasions when I do lay my foot on its side I do not hurt my ankle. Because of the lower shoe allows my ankle to move in the arc it was designed to move in instead of the one imposed by the boot.

    The end result of this is that I have had no ankle injuries or pain since losing the boots and brace over 7 years ago. With the boots I would hurt it almost every trip to at least some degree.

    #1981715
    Mobile Calculator
    Spectator

    @mobile-calculator

    #1981738
    Stuart Murphy
    BPL Member

    @stu_m

    Thanks guys,

    Plenty of options for further research for me.

    Jennifer — what is a "squishy surface". Is carpet squishy enough?

    I tend to think, that a combination of the strategies is best for me i.e. strengthening/balance control but always with some kind of strapping. Since I have still had minor rolls with the elasticated support, I'm going to try a lace up brace. I would only wear this during sport or bushwalking – not eg. when "training" walking around suburban streets.

    Unfortunately resolving this problem is probably in part a process of trial and error for an individual (that takes time and effort) to find what works best for them but you guys have definitely pointed me in the right direction I feel.

    #1981760
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    "Why must I always have the contrary perspective?"

    Hey, that's my line ;)

    I am a big advocate for light shoes… my normal hiking shoes are probably more minimalist than many here. Also I harp a lot about getting into hiking shape.

    However, getting advice on an Internet forum for dealing with a serious injury is not prudent. The advice should come from an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor.

    Several folks here have shared how they overcame injuries by strengthing the injured area — and that would be my first strategy. One would think that for most injuries this is the solution. But it may not work for everyone. To me a boot or ankle wrap is just a bandaid for a problem and does not address the root cause; but for some that might be the only solution.

    If someone is starting a long hike after an injury, I would expect they have done enough hiking before hand to know if they are healed or not.

    #1981787
    Jennifer Mitol
    BPL Member

    @jenmitol

    Locale: In my dreams....

    Nick…that is a perfect post. My thoughts exactly.

    It is very, very true that you should certainly try (and continue) strengthening the surrounding muscles. In terms of the ankle, you need to work the posterior tibialis and the intrinsic muscles of the foot. I generally hate orthotics, superfeet, braces, etc. I think people (and podiatrists) jump to that far too soon.

    But having said that, there are plenty of feet and ankles in this world that are far beyond strengthening to fix. Once the ligaments are deficient enough, and the tendons stretched or torn enough, and possibly the arthritis setting in enough, you don't have a choice but to support your feet as best as you can with orthotics, braces, etc. You want to do what you do and many times those assistive devices are the only way you're going to be able to do it safely. We tend to call these "floppy feet."

    Be careful…people say they want "arch support," but many times that means a big chunk of something under the arch. But the arch is not a weight bearing surface…your weight goes through your heel, the ball of your foot at your big toe and at your little toe (like a tripod). Many, many things throw this off and that's one reason why getting Internet advice about this stuff is so hard. Every single foot is different…

    Anyway, enough of that soap box.

    Stuart: the squishy surface can be anything unstable. The more unstable the better (meaning your toes are digging in, your ankle moves all over the place to try to hold you up). Try a couch pillow, cushion, bed pillow, or roll up a bit of a closed cell foam pad (that would be perfect!). Keep making it really, really hard to stand on one leg.

    #1981851
    Pete Staehling
    BPL Member

    @staehpj1

    This may not work for you, but…

    I had ankle problems for the duration of my pre teens, teens, and a good chunk of my adult life. My ankles seemed to be perpetually sprained. Running seemed out of the question. I now can trail run and hike without issue. For me the answer was less rather than more support. I found that relying on external support was a crutch that caused me to just rely more on it and never really strengthen my ankles, develop the reflexes to un-weight my ankle if it started to roll, or avoid the rolling in the first place. I had to go gradually at first, but now I seem to be well over the problem.

    #1981853
    Pete Staehling
    BPL Member

    @staehpj1

    "However, getting advice on an Internet forum for dealing with a serious injury is not prudent. The advice should come from an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor."

    I think you have more faith in the medical profession than I do. In my 62 years I have gotten more bad advice from doctors than good when it came to sports injuries, and strangely, sports medicine specialists have not on average been any better. I have found good advice from some doctors and try to stick with the ones that gave advice that worked. That said sometimes I think that random advice from a stranger isn't much worse than what I got from a lot of doctors. For example back when I was very in to ww kayaking, the kayaking community seemed to have better advice about shoulder injuries than >95% of the doctors treating them. They also seemed to know who the <5% of ortho docs were that had good knowledge of how to treat kayaking injuries.

    Physical therapists I have been treated by had a better apparent competency rate than doctors who I have seen, but apparent competency was still pretty spotty.

    When it has come right down to it for chronic problems that do not require surgery I think I have done better with random advice filtered with a bit of common sense and a lot of patient trial and error. Most of the time the best answer was rest followed by careful gradual conditioning and long term maintenance of that conditioning.

    #1981854
    james
    BPL Member

    @jamesbhikes

    Locale: London UK, Greenville USA

    I badly injured both my ankles a few years ago doing something very stupid (won't be making that mistake again). I would second the idea that the sooner you can get your ankles off braces/support, and the strength back in your ankles, the better. Here is what I would suggest:

    -follow your doctors advice. If he/she is giving you bad advice, find another doctor.
    -always use trekking poles if you aren't already.
    -choose the trails you hike more carefully. It might be beneficial for you to stay off the trails for a couple of months until you can strengthen your ankles. Maybe do some more walking on flatter ground with fewer inclines or walk on a treadmill (barefoot even to completely remove shoes from the equation).
    -ankle exercises which others have mentioned
    -try lighter trail runners with thinner soles. They would offer less cushioning, but would give you much more stability and ground feel which may help prevent any further injury.

    #1981888
    John Finney
    BPL Member

    @guavarex

    Locale: Zürich, Switzerland

    I broke one ankle very badly many years ago, requiring extensive surgery and resulting in an ankle with limited mobility, larger size (a bony mass), and prone to inflammation during exercise, hiking included.

    While I have found relief with braces, my "go to" boots are Meindl Vakuum, which feature a very thick layer of memory foam in the collar that is both supportive, and forgiving when the swelling starts. While these leather boots are not light, they are far lighter than others in the Meindl line. When I wear these and pop a few NSAIDS before the hike, I can go many hours before the hobbling starts.

    Also, as mentioned above, use trekking poles. Great aid for bad ankles.

    #1981904
    Ryan Bressler
    BPL Member

    @ryanbressler

    After spraining my ankle badly a few months before a big trip I tried on a bunch of boots and ended up with some salewa mountain trainer mids. They have a few different boots ranging from more shoe like to full on mountain boots but I've found the wire ankle yoke system works really well. You can crank them down for added support when sidehilling off trail and they offer more support then most "mid" height boots.

    Ankle brace wise I got a neoprene and elastic velcro thing at rei I really like though I don't see it on their site anymore. The elastic was stiffer then a normal ace bandages thanks to some sort of structured stripes that seemed to have stiff fibers. Something this style:
    http://www.healthlinemart.com/lp-support-ankle-support-strap-728.html
    http://www.opentip.com/Health-Personal-Care/Oppo-Ankle-Support-p-553007.html#.UX_oLSvF1_k
    (no idea if those are reputable online retailers)

    #1981907
    Matt Dirksen
    BPL Member

    @namelessway

    Locale: Mid Atlantic

    Back in my 20's I used a pair of Active Ankles for volleyball ALL the time (due to a previous injury), and started using them for backpacking because they offered much better support than my Asolo 555's ever did. That plus trekking poles and "Superfeet" mid soles,I could use any low top shoe or sandal that I wanted to. My footwear decision was then based on a shoe's ability to absorb impact than it was for ankle support.

    Nowadays, I always use poles, but would only bring one Active Ankle along in a first aid if I were doing a long trip, due to my history. My knees are more a concern for me now, especially going downhill :(

    Whatever you do, try it out different methods on small trips first and "see what fits" for you.

    #1981914
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Re: squishy surface. One legged stands on a bosu ball–that's the half ball with a flat bottom. I stand on the round part; I've seen people flip it and stand on the flat part. You can get 'em cheap at Target.

    Also: on one leg lean over and touch the floor, straighten, repeat; on one leg, move the other as if running/skiing with the appropriate arm motion; one one leg, move the other leg out to the side and back; etc.

    Toe raises too–on one leg or both.

    #1981946
    Larry De La Briandais
    BPL Member

    @hitech

    Locale: SF Bay Area

    I've read on here many, many times that boots do not provide ankle support (I disagree). If that's true, how can using them be considered a band-aid? Or has the prevailing thought shifted to boots providing some ankle support?

    #1982026
    james
    BPL Member

    @jamesbhikes

    Locale: London UK, Greenville USA

    I guess it depends what you mean by support. I think there are in general two main differences between a low profile trail shoe and your standard hiking boot.

    Firstly the boot has extra material which encloses some or all of your ankle. The amount of compression this gives makes it harder for your ankle to move as freely as it would if barefoot and the main effect of this is no different whatsoever to wearing a good ankle brace (perhaps someone can correct me here if I'm wrong though). To evaluate this part, all we need to do is ask ourselves is it better to wear an ankle brace while hiking or not? I think it is really up to the individuals particular circumstances.

    I am of the opinion that while wearing a brace may weaken your ankle muscles over time, this is very unlikely to be a problem if you only hike every few weeks for a couple of days (probably this is most people). So for infrequent weekend trips I would say that the benefits of wearing an ankle brace (or boots for the same purpose) may outweigh the drawbacks. If, however, you hike every few days, or for weeks at a time, then the brace will surely start to have some negative effect over time.

    Secondly, and in my opinion, more importantly, boots often have much thicker soles which are supposed to provide more cushioning thus reducing the stress per second your joints endure upon every foot strike. The unfortunate drawback to this cushioning and increased height from the ground is that stability in general is far reduced. There is a large reduction in your ability to sense what is underfoot in order to compensate and make adjustments to your movements as needed. When you do misstep on a loose rock, the thicker sole works against you. When your ankle begins to roll, it is REALLY going to roll and no amount of 'support' (aside from rigid ski boot style shoes) can help because your full body+pack weight will be acting to roll your ankle further onto the flat edge of the side of your thick boot sole. Once your foot goes past the angle of no return, a quick recovery from the mis step is also made more difficult as a result of the extra sole thickness which gets in the way of any last second adjustment.

    My personal opinion is that ankle support is really not the main issue to consider when attempting to reduce the likelihood of severe ankle injury. Ankle support in one form or another will be beneficial to some, but not others. The main area which I think can help in reducing sprains etc. is to increase your overall stability while hiking, thus reducing the likelihood of a catastrophic sprain. I think that the main ways to achieve this are:

    -carry less weight. The less you carry, the less cushioning you will require. This is BPL after all so I think we pretty much have that one covered ;)
    -try to improve your walking style. I saw a specialist a couple of years ago who analysed my walking gait. The information he gave me helped greatly when it came to picking out shoes and also allowed me to change my walking style slightly
    -use trekking poles. add a lot more stability especially going up and downhill
    -shoes with thinner soles which allow greater levels of proprioception

    Anyways that's enough out of me for now. lol

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