I officially have a bum ankle.
May 10, 2013 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I have sprained my ankle for the second time in three months.

The first time was bad (I fell down some stairs, went to the doctor, got a just in case x-ray, the two doctors looking at it called it "a really bad sprain" and "a nasty sprain" respectively, etc) and this most recent time was just that I had the audacity to be using my ankle like a normal person and it was all oh hells no and gave out and I ate it in the middle of the street. Rock.

So here's where we are: I have lost a LOT of stability in pronating/supinating my (left, if it matters) foot. I have pretty much resigned myself to this now being an ever-present problem, and I think I'll probably need to start wearing a brace all the time. Or at least most of the time.

The brace I currently have (and am currently wearing) was given to me by the doctor the first time I sprained this sucker, and is great in that it's got hard sides (so I can't succumb to wobble foot) but is not great in that it has laces and three velcro straps and is bulky and time-consuming and is not something I can wear every day.

I am looking for recommendations for every day ankle braces (something more in a pull-on sleeve style, I imagine?) that are known to actually provide side-to-side wobble support so I don't pronate or supinate my foot (too much).

My ankle thanks you.
posted by phunniemee to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
sports medicine people have pushed this whole field forward

there are pull on neoprene sport sleeves that have some structure in the heel as well as arch support that restrict the twisting in the ankle.

You won't be able to pull on while your sprain is healing (and that takes a long time) but definitely after.

Also, there are socks that are sewn with support in them that help secure your feet and ankle. I have been wearing Thorlo socks and they have sewn in arch support and are tighter in the ankle so I'm more aware of what my feet and ankles are up to.
posted by bobdow at 9:18 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't start wearing a brace all the time unless your doc has prescribed it and bodywork/PT/muscle-building exercises/daily strengthening routines don't work for some reason. I have a permanently stretched tendon in my ankle that made me prone to rolling it over and over, until I worked on strengthening the supporting muscles in my foot/lower leg. Even a silly-looking thing like putting on my socks and shoes from a standing position, by lifting my leg and balancing instead of sitting and reaching down, does wonders for strength/balance.
posted by headnsouth at 9:20 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hello! This was me 6 years ago. I fell off a 2.5 foot curb in Chicago and my ankle swelled up to the size of a cantaloupe. Needless to say I also have recurring ankle issues. I used to sprain it all the time. Walking, running, whatever it didn't matter. I have sprained it over a 2 cm crack in the curb. It sucked. I went to the doctor and the physical therapist and they told me nothing was broken and here are some exercises to strengthen x tendon and muscle and good luck.

The good news? It's pretty much better. The last time I sprained my ankle was 10-11 months ago? And it was minor and that's been it. It still aches when it rains and I know it's never going to be 100%, but it's a lot better than it's ever been.

The bad news is that this is going to take a while. I was also in college and didn't take as good of care of it as I should have, which meant I'm sure that I took longer than most to actually get it better.

One thing that was related to me by the medical professionals that I spoke with is that braces/air casts etc are fine when you reinjure it, but that if you wear them all the time you're not doing anything to restrengthen the affected area. Essentially I was told that if I ever wanted it to get better I'd have to risk it sans brace. I did and I'm on the mend! YMMV of course but I wanted to let you know that I've been in the same boat and recovery is somewhat possible.

Welcome to this shitty club! Sorry you're here! :)
posted by Carillon at 9:23 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The New York Times, reporting on current research, says balance exercises prevent reoccurances by reteaching your brain how to control your ankle to stay upright.
posted by hhc5 at 9:24 AM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Have they prescribed PT for you once you've recovered from the sprain? That will help a lot. You might also go to a good running store and get fitted for shoes with a lot of midfoot stability to help with pronation. I did that after breaking my ankle and doing loads of tendon damage 8 years ago. I still look for that in running shoes but wear normal shoes most of the time now. (never was a high heel wearer though and if you are that will probably have to stop for a long time). I wore a brace or taped my ankle when I did really active stuff for a year or so post break but not during regular activities on my physical therapist's recommendation. Look for soccer braces if you need something easier to get on and off in the short-medium term. I wore one like this and it did help.

It's likely to get a lot better - I did mine at 45 and haven't had significant trouble with it in years - am very active and haven't needed to coddle it for a long time. Be patient while you're healing tho - it can take a while!
posted by leslies at 9:30 AM on May 10, 2013

I injure my ankles a lot playing soccer and have had a lot of success with various ankle-strengthening and balance exercises (you can find lots of videos/instructions online) after the immediate injury has healed (ice and rest until then, give it at least a week or two). I do them while brushing my teeth, if I remember.

I wouldn't recommend wearing a brace long-term for daily activities - only if you're going to be stressing it more than usual (i.e. sports). Wearing braces long-term can weaken the muscles and make you really dependent on the brace. It's ok to wear one for a day or two after you're injured, though, to keep it a bit more stable - one of those elastic sleeves is good for that.

That said, I am not a physiotherapist and talking to one would be your best bet.
posted by randomnity at 9:37 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yep, I'm a few months out from having been in your shoes. I basically wore the brace untilI could handle hiking boots, then those till I could alternate in regular shoes daily. I see my GP monday and will ask him for a therapy referral to restrengthen that ankle and my toes on both feet (it was a spectacularly NASTY fall and subsequent furniture on foot combo).
posted by tilde at 9:47 AM on May 10, 2013

Three months isn't a long time for a serious ankle sprain-consider this recent injury to be a setback in your recovery, not an indication of a chronic condition. You are young and you will make a full recovery-not to 100% of ankle functionality, but close enough that you won't miss what you're missing. Wear your brace as much as you need, but as little as possible to build strength.

I had a series of serious sprains to my left ankle as a teenager but at 31, the ankle isn't on my top five list of injury concerns and I still exercise vigorously and often.
posted by Kwine at 9:49 AM on May 10, 2013

Oh yes! I forgot also RICE will help, both now and if you reinjure it.


I found medical wrap to be better for me than a brace, but that's all personal choice.
posted by Carillon at 10:01 AM on May 10, 2013

I've got the strengthening exercises and such covered, and I thought I was through this first one, but when my ankle just crumpled on Wednesday I figured, well, this is my life now. It's good to know this (probably) won't be haunting me forever.

I tend to wear pretty practical shoes but 1) am clumsy and 2) my family has stupid wobble feet anyway, so wearing a simple brace for a while until this thing completely and totally heals up would probably be smart for me I think.

posted by phunniemee at 10:16 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the risk with a brace is that it makes it harder for you to build back the muscles you need to support the joint. And more important than the muscles is relearning the proprioception of the movement of your foot in space. I would definitely talk this one over with a relevant professional. My understanding of current treatment of sprain recovery is that they want you out there using the joint as much as possible as quickly as possible after the injury. IANAD or a physical therapist, however.
posted by yoink at 10:46 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that it's not just strengthening the muscles, it's also improving proprioception. I did a bunch of exercise for that (some of which were definitely not strength oriented since they weren't weight-bearing) and have mostly stopped rolling my ankle. Obviously this is stuff to do after your ankle is somewhat healed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:54 AM on May 10, 2013

This used to happen to me, to the point where I was told my ligaments were stretched almost to the point of needing surgery. I quit playing netball because I was sick of rolling my ankle every couple of months. The physio told me it's common to people with high arches so I wear inserts in all my shoes or only buy shoes with arch support. If I do any running on rough ground I'll strap it with tape. I haven't had any sprains in two years - but I take fewer risks too.

The brace is only good during the initial healing and to get your confidence back.
posted by tracicle at 11:07 AM on May 10, 2013

I am a member of the wobble-foot clan (not to be confused with the Proudfoot family of the Shire). In my twenties, my ankles would often spontaneously just buckle and send me toppling. I assumed this was the blowback from wearing platform sandals in college (hey, I wanted to see what it was like to be taller than 155 cm!)

After the last bad blowout, I actually just used an ace bandage on my ankle as a slight support / tactile reminder to pay attention to my wobble foot tendencies.

Nthing doing your strengthening exercises. Those weird toe-crunches that Pilates people do are pretty good too.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:21 AM on May 10, 2013

1. I thought I was through with this first one...

The acute pain from a sprain usually goes away within 1-2 weeks, but actual recovery takes from 8 to 12. What you experienced is actually a pretty normal hiccup in the process of recovering from a sprain.

2. I would really suggest that you see a physical therapist about your sprain. Wobbly ankles can be caused by knee and hip issues, and a PT will be the best person to help you fix this permanently. If you're good about doing your assigned exercises independently, you probably won't need that many sessions.

3. The problem with the brace is that while it will protect the injury somewhat while healing, it also further weakens the other muscles and ligaments of the ankle, and that can lead to problems later on. The brace basically kicks the can down the road. PT can actually solve the issue.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:25 AM on May 10, 2013

I am 8 weeks into recovering from three torn ligaments in my ankle (LULZ ALL THE TIME). I wear a brace every day, pretty much all the time because that's what my doctor and physical therapist have told me to do. It is pretty awesome in that I haven't re-injured my ankle. However, it is the kind you linked above, and it's all sorts of bulky. I would highly recommend talking to a physical therapist about the best brace for your situation, because they probably know of the awesome sports medicine ones that will work for you. Definitely get PT therapy if possible, because it will make all the difference. The strengthening exercises are good, but it's not the be-all-end-all of getting back to near 100%.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2013

In summer temperatures, you might be more comfortable in "elastic stocking-type" braces. They are available in drug stores in versions for ankle support, and just slip on.
posted by Cranberry at 1:49 PM on May 10, 2013

There is no reason you have to resign to it being an ever resistant problem. get a wobble board and youtube some ankle strengthening exercsies. Go hardcore into neuromuscular reeducation. If you have insurance go into physical therapy/rehab. If you don't have insurance: If you're rich, go into physical therapy/rehab, if you're poor go into physical therapy/rehab and have it paid for by their financial aid department.

I have sprained my ankles several times, and with the regimen above, and also use of one of the best ankle braces i could find in the world off of this guy's comparison blog ( I went with the ASO and it's basically impossible to sprain your ankle while wearing it, I love it). In time You should be good as new.

Good luck
posted by crawltopslow at 2:38 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Constant wearing of a brace is something I was always told was a bad thing. As psycheslamp mentioned, constantly wearing a brace gets to the point where the body relies on the brace being there, rather than strengthening the weak point. It's good, even necessary, to wear a brace for stability, but I've always been told that transitioning off the brace is a long term goal, at least in terms of 24-7 usage.

When I play sports, I definitely still wear braces (ugh, knee, ankle, elbow, now calf), but I take them off as soon as I'm done (partly because sweaty).

On the other hand, welcome to the weak ankle club. The upside is that, while you'll likely be susceptible to random stumbles, you'll find that even after your ankle moves in horrific ways, it will be much less likely to cause significant pain. The rubber bands holding you together have loosened a bit.

Last piece of advice: you need to become much more aware of where you walk. I live in a land of uneven sidewalks and sudden changes in elevation. My ankles suck to the point that if even half of my foot is in space, my ankles will fold, leading to lots of stumbling and pain. It's taken me time, but I've become a lot more aware of uneven ground, and my ankles and dignity thank me for it.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:33 AM on May 13, 2013

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