The great outdoors offers individuals the opportunity to improve their fitness while enjoying the beautiful surroundings that nature has provided. Sometimes, however, those beautiful surroundings can offer unintended consequences – like twisting or spraining your ankle. It’s happened to almost everyone at some point in time – you didn’t see that hole underneath those leaves and now you have a grade 2 ankle sprain preventing you from temporarily enjoying the activity you love.
Even though foot orienteering is dramatically different than hiking, the way you’re injuring your ankle is usually similar between the two. Most often, participants are walking or running on uneven terrain when they accidentally turn their ankle excessively inward causing the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch or tear. This stretching/tearing of the ankle ligaments is what results in an ankle injury that is measured on a scale of 1-3 to diagnose severity.
Recovering from an Orienteering or Hiking Ankle Sprain
After seeking medical attention to evaluate and treat your ankle injury, there will come a time when you’re healthy enough to resume normal activity. Unfortunately, once ankle ligaments have been stretched during an injury they do not bounce back to their original state causing the ankle joint to become loose and unstable. This can potentially begin a cycle of injury where each time you twist your ankle the ligament expands more and more until you develop chronic ankle issues.
So, how do you stop this cycle of ankle injury when it comes to hiking, foot orienteering, or other outdoor activities? Aside from staring at the ground and being extremely careful with every step you take outside or ceasing activity altogether, you may also seek out a good ankle brace that will help prevent a future ankle injury or lessen the severity should an injury occur. When it comes to researching ankle braces it may seem like most are for geared for high intensity team sports such as football, volleyball or basketball – but which ankle brace is the best for hiking or foot orienteering?
The best ankle braces for hiking or orienteering require the following characteristics:
Comfort – It seems obvious that you would want a comfortable ankle brace if you’re trekking through hills and valleys for extended periods of time. When it comes to any type of brace, comfort is directly related to how the product is designed and what materials it’s made of. In the case of ankle braces, the most comfortable designs are the ones that take the shape of, and move with, your ankle joint.
Cheaper designs may be made of fabric or flimsy plastic, while advanced ankle braces designed for both comfort and support will use modern materials such as the Performathane technology used in Ultra Ankle braces. Performathane is a plastic material that uses body heat to custom-fit to the ankle and is known for it’s flexible, yet durable, properties that will never break or crack.
Long-Lasting Ankle Support – Because of the constant movement of the ankle joint, all ankle braces loosen a bit the longer you wear them. Some ankle braces, however, loosen significantly quicker than others due to the way they are designed and the materials they are made of. Any ankle brace made of cloth or that resists normal up and down ankle movement will lose support rapidly.
An example of this type of brace would be the fabric ones that wrap around your ankle like a corset with tight laces and straps. Unlike lace-up ankle braces, hinged braces move with normal ankle range of motions keeping the components of the brace, like the straps, firmly in place maintaining long-lasting ankle support.
Durability – Just like your other gear, due to hiking and foot orienteering occurring in all environmental conditions it’s important to consider how the outdoor elements will impact your ankle brace. Rain, mud and sweat have a way of accelerating the deterioration of all materials, especially fabrics. Not only will the material deteriorate and tear faster than usual, ankle braces made of fabric will also absorb bacteria that often times results in a foul odor.
If you’re a hiker or foot orienteering athlete and you have a history of twisting your ankle during activity, then wearing a preventative ankle brace might be right for you. Our athletic trainers are always available to answer any specific questions you might have so please send us a message or leave a comment below to get in touch!
Written by Rick Peters
Rick Peters is a Certified Athletic Trainer who has been advancing ankle bracing technology for three decades. Peters patented his first ankle brace in 1985, revolutionizing the industry by adding a hinge to traditional stirrup braces for greater mobility. In 1989 he was a founder and became President of Active Ankle Systems. In 1998 he co-founded Ultra Athlete LLC to develop the next generation of ankle bracing technology. Peters has 18 ankle brace patents and is considered an authority on ankle bracing technology worldwide.