While hinged braces might not be the most exciting topic in the world to discuss, it’s definitely an important one. Whether your joint has been injured, or you’re trying to prevent an injury from occurring, it is crucial that the brace you wear is effective in supporting and stabilizing your joint.
Two major components of a brace that dictate its effectiveness are the design features that set it apart from similar products and the materials in which it’s made.
Important Features of a Brace
One of the most common design features in modern bracing is the use of a hinge. You might think that the purpose of a hinged brace is to keep your muscles strong and enhance performance by allowing for full range of motion. While this is a perk of using a brace with a hinge, it’s not the main reason why the most advanced elbow, ankle, and knee braces are designed this way.
The main reason a hinge is used in knee, elbow and ankle braces is to achieve sustainable, long-lasting joint support. When the brace can move freely throughout a non-injury range of motion, the straps that hold the brace to the joint stay securely in place resulting in support throughout an entire practice or game.
Lace-up braces restrict all joint range of motion and since they aren’t working in conjunction with the joint, like a hinged brace, the laces and straps end up migrating, stretching, and rapidly losing support during activity. For this reason, tie-up elbow and knee braces that limit non-injury range of motion haven’t been used for decades, however, when it comes to ankle braces people continue to bind up their joints and limit their performance for minimal support in a lace-up ankle brace.
Quality and Effective Materials
While ankle braces were finally catching up with knee and elbow braces in the design department with the addition of effective hinges, they were still lacking in the materials used to create braces. When hinged braces first came on the scene in the late 1980s, they were big and bulky and consisted of a hard plastic that had a tendency to break and crack within a couple of months. Up until the late 1990s, this rigid plastic was the only material hinged braces were made out of. This forced people to choose between a soft, comfortable brace that provided minimal support or a hard plastic brace that provided ultimate support with full range of motion but could be very uncomfortable.
When it comes to wearing an ankle brace – people choose the more comfortable version almost every time. This, along with a lower price point, led to a resurgence in lace-up ankle braces, despite their minimal support and performance restricting design.
Knowing there was a better way, the innovators at Ultra Ankle set out to develop a new material for hinged ankle braces that is flexible and form-fitting, yet just firm enough to provide ultimate support to the joint. The Performathane soft shell found in the multi-patented Ultra Zoom and Ultra CTS ankle braces uses body heat to form-fit to your ankle creating the most comfortable ankle brace you will ever wear.
This premium material in Ultra Ankle’s hinged-cuff braces is a thermoplastic resin that will never crack, break, or tear resulting in multi-season protection from injury causing ankle inversion and rotation. When you invest in Ultra Ankle braces, you’re investing in long-lasting ankle protection – not a short term fix that you’ll soon have to replace. Instead of buying 2-3 ankle braces to last you one sports season, you can now buy one Ultra Zoom to last you multiple years.
You Get What You Pay For
When it comes to sports medical devices, especially braces for the knee, elbow and ankle, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is completely true. When evaluating the best ankle braces for your situation, make sure to consider the latest in ankle brace research, design, and materials to choose which is best for you. A premium hinged-cuff ankle brace that provides the comfort, support, and durability you need to protect your ankles will be worth the investment every time.
Our product specialists and athletic trainers have over 40 years of experience in ankle bracing and hold the most ankle brace design patents in the world. We’re here to help and answer any questions you may have - just send us a message.
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.