“Which volleyball ankle brace should I choose?”
That’s the question I hear all of the time as an athletic trainer with over 30 years of experience specializing in ankle injuries and ankle injury prevention. For as common as ankle injuries are in today’s sports (over 25,000 ankle injuries occur each day in the U.S.), it surprises me that there isn't more available information about which ankle brace is the most effective for the various sports and athletes.
Before you blindly take my opinion or assume that I’m only going to promote my own products and not give an unbiased review, let me share with you why I’m considered by others a leading expert in the ankle bracing field and have been evolving the ankle brace market for 35 years. In 1983, as an athletic training student working with a college football team, I knew there had to be something that supported ankles more effectively than a century-old, corset style lace-up support.
That thought led me to invent my first ankle brace product and start my own company which quickly grew into a volleyball household name by the mid 90s – that company is called Active Ankle® and is still producing ankle braces to this day. Shortly after leaving Active Ankle® in the late 90s, I realized that my original design concepts could be pushed even further and really revolutionize the ankle bracing industry with product designs it had never seen before. I then started Ultra Ankle® and invented the first hinged-cuff technology ankle brace product line that you can see on our website today.
Since lace-up ankle supports were invented in the 1800s and I happened to invent the technology behind the other leading volleyball ankle braces, produced by Active Ankle® and Ultra Ankle®, I wanted to share my ankle bracing expertise with you and point out the differences in the most common volleyball braces used today.
Comparing Lace-Ups vs. Active Ankle® vs. Ultra Ankle®
As opposed to listing out individual features and dissecting each one at a time, I wanted to instead share this quick reference chart with you comparing:
- Lace-up ankle supports – Based off of a corset-style design that uses laces to tightly join a flexible piece of cloth down the front center of the ankle. Common brands for this type of sports brace include: ASO®, Active Ankle®
- Hard plastic ankle braces – Utilizes a hinge with foam padded stirrups on each side of the ankle joint connected with a piece of Velcro that wraps around the stirrups. Common brands for this type of sports brace include: Active Ankle®, Shock Doctor®
- Soft-shell ankle braces – Composed of a flexible plastic material known as Performathane® lined with custom-fitting PerformaFit® foam. The hinged-cuff design wraps completely around the ankle and utilizes two Velcro straps to secure the top and bottom cuffs. Only brand for this type of sports brace: Ultra Zoom® by Ultra Ankle®
While all three types of braces claim to offer significant ankle support, you can see by the chart above that just isn’t the case. Let’s discuss some important key takeaways from this information:
- The primary reason for wearing an ankle brace is to help prevent ankle injuries, but this is impossible to do when an ankle brace cracks or tears during a game/practice when it’s protection is needed most. If you’ve ever worn an ankle brace that has cracked/torn it’s important to start evaluating other ankle braces that can protect your joint during all high-impact and potentially hazardous situations.
- High and low ankle sprains are two different types of ankle injuries caused by two different movements of the ankle. High ankle sprains are caused when the joint twists outward and the injury occurs above the ankle while low ankle sprains occur when the ankle turns excessively inward or outward to the side. Hinged-cuff braces are the only braces designed specifically to help prevent both twisting and turning ankle injuries.
- Both hard plastic and soft shell braces have a hinge design, which means that they don’t restrict your natural ankle range of motion and allow the muscle to work as it’s supposed to without impacting performance.
Just as with other technologies, products that used to be considered state of the art are now outdated and being replaced with more advanced, functional, and effective devices. In the case of sports ankle braces, this is especially true when looking at the evolution of bracing from the century old lace-up to the semi-rigid Active Ankle® braces to the invention of the hinged-cuff Ultra Ankle® braces.
If you’re looking to upgrade to the latest ankle bracing technology and give the hinged-cuff brace a try, check out our Ultra Zoom® product page and read one of the many ankle brace reviews left by our Ultra athletes. If you have questions or hesitations about our brace, take a second to send a quick message to our certified athletic trainers and they would be happy to hear about your ankle bracing concerns and if a hinged-cuff brace would be a great fit for your athletic needs.
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.