Pro-tec Ankle Brace Review
It's best not to need an ankle brace. If you are wearing one, it usually means you have turned and sprained an ankle before, and you want to make sure that never happens again. So you put on a brace, maybe with every activity, to keep precarious ligaments inside their prescribed limits.
Or maybe your brace is the post-surgical kind, clamped on by your doctor to prevent the ankle from moving too much and re-aggravating the original injury. One of these braces will practically prevent you from moving your ankle at all. Some sprains will be serious enough to need a heavy duty brace like this even with no surgery.
No matter what brace you wear, whether a light compression sock or a full on medical device, you need it to be breathable, light, durable, and effective. We rounded up ten of the most competitive braces for your review.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 20 hours of research
Fabric and coating are breathable and stain resistant
Has a stirrup strap
10 Best Pro-tec Ankle Braces
1. Nike Pro Combat 2.0
Fabric and coating are breathable and stain resistant
Has a stirrup strap
Does not provide enough motion control for long term injury recovery
This lightweight, machine washable wrap gives you the exceptional performance we've all come to expect from Nike. Compression is second to none, but you won't feel constricted while you wear the composite fabric wrap.Read more
The fabric is made mostly of nylon but features an interesting mix of polyester, Spandex, and a coating called styrene-butadiene rubber. SBR helps the wrap resist tears while also making sure your skin can breathe. You get a snug fit without giving up any flexibility.
As far as we're concerned, the best ankle brace is one you don't notice wearing. The Nike Combat Pro hugs your ankle like a second skin, protecting you from rolling your ankle or aggravating existing minor injuries. This isn't a healing or post-surgery brace, but it will do great for your everyday wearing during ankle intense sports or activities.
The wrap secures to your ankle with two thick velcro straps, one on the bottom of your foot and another at the top of your ankle. Since human bodies are made of curves, the straps sit diagonally instead of being parallel to each other. It's a great concession to anatomy that makes for nuisance-free comfortable long term wear.
2. Ossur Form Fit Ankle Brace
Long term injury recovery
Fast drying outer, for bacteria control
Figure 8 more effective than a stirrup
Does not allow much foot movement, so not good as proactive protection (suited to injury healing)
Ossur is a maker of serious stabilizing ankle braces to help with injury recovery as well as adding some stability for those of us with pesky ankles. If you are worried about rolling, the Ossur can help you be proactive and keep you in the game.Read more
These braces are sized by number. If you are ordering online, you can measure yourself according to the directions Ossur provides. Comfort comes from a low profile that slides into your sneaker, as well as nice vented fabric and a speed lacing system. You also get side stabilizers, covered in fabric, and figure 8 style double-strap closures.
The straps and overall design will limit your range of motion, much more than a wrap would, to promote healing with heat and compression. The fabric is tough but lightweight enough that you won't get any feelings of constriction. The laces also make it easier to get the Ossur on and off, even with a swollen or hurting ankle.
Ossur actually promises their brace is up to35 percent more protective than a typical stirrup brace would be. The fabric is treated for fast drying, so you get fewer foul odors and less chance for bacteria to grow. And, just so you don't have to stop in the middle of a game, the straps provide pull loops so you can adjust on the go. Whether you are kicking a soccer ball or pivoting on the basketball court, the Ossur will hold everything together to keep you safe and whole.
3. Gel Force
Slides on easily with no laces or straps
Fabric and gel lining provide compression
Ankle stability with freedom of movement
Spiral stays are less invasive than plastic stabilizers
Not made for strict motion control
We had trouble finding different sizes
This is another comfy brace that hugs your tender ankle to keep it from rolling, all while letting you move and breathe like normal.Read more
What makes this product special is the gel padding that surrounds and cushions your ankle. Pro-Tec makes a whole range of gel enforced protective and therapeutic braces, including knee sleeves. All their braces provide compression with a stretchy but form-fitting fabric. The fabric lets your skin breathe and keeps you dry at the same time.
Instead of rigid plastic or metal stabilizers, the Gel Force uses spiral stays. This is a flexible inner stitching pattern that bends and curves with your joints. Pro-Tec added lateral (side) spirals and also a medial (front and back center) spiral for the ultimate in non-constricting ankle stability.
This is a quality form-fitting brace, unobtrusive and invisible under your yoga pants, sweats, leggings, and even your jeans if you decide to wear the Gel Force off the court.
4. Mueller XLP
Stability with freedom of movement
Elastic heel cup
Does not go past the bottom of the ankle-your foot stays open
Added stability with foot silhouette stabilizers
Laces are the only closure-no finger pulls
The Mueller XLP is a maximum support ankle brace for injury recovery. It will immobilize your ankle while allowing you to continue most of your favorite physical activities.Read more
While providing maximum support for your ankle, the brace also stops at the bottom of your ankle, leaving the rest of the foot free to move about and bend. The lace closure is tight, though not as fast as straps, making a tight fit more difficult if you are already injured. The fabric, while not meant to be skintight, will shield your ankle bone and keep you in comfort during wear.
The rear panel is made of elastic material to give extra support and allow movement. You do get plastic lateral stabilizers, with a profile that matches the side of a human foot. It's both more secure and less constricting than the usual rodlike stabilizers that many braces feature.
Capping off the durability and safety features, your Mueller XLP ankle brace is lined with an antimicrobial material. This cuts down on odors, keeps bacteria in check, and resists some stains.
5. Athletics Ankle Wrap
Closed heel cup for stability
Padded tongue for comfort
Contains flexible steel for light support
Laces can't be adjusted on the fly
Old school sneaker laces and a foam inner filling make this light duty brace easy to wear all day, without sacrificing comfort and without overheating.Read more
In addition to the foam, this brace is lined with springy steel to keep your ankle stable and keep you on your feet. The brace will aid in preventing sprains and others, ensuring that you don't overextend or roll your ankle even during a fast-paced game or tough race. You get a glove-like fit, and the material is light enough not to cause discomfort or chafing.
Sizing is simple, but you will want to look at Pro-Tec's sizing chart. Sizes go by the circumference of your ankle, anywhere from small to extra large. Some users with unusually large or small ankles will need to find a different brace. Do yourself a favor and use the sizing chart on the Pro-Tec website, just to be safe, even if you buy from Amazon or another retailer.
User reviews indicate that the brace is good for arthritis sufferers and others with chronic ankle or lower leg pain. The brace is easy to don and remove. The soft material wraps around your feet and you don't have to worry about cloth or velcro straps.
6. Techware Compression Sleeve
Comes in pairs and is affordable
Comes in an array of colors
Causes no problems inside shoes
Does not offer much motion control
In the interest of variety and choice, we are adding this brace which isn't a brace at all--it is a one piece compression sleeve that promotes blood circulation by placing gentle consistent pressure on your hurting or healthy ankle.Read more
Though definitely not a serious sprain or post-surgical brace, Techware's offering can help relieve swelling and pain associated with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and Achilles tendon soreness. The sleeve is thin, lightweight, and invisible under clothing. The moisture-wicking fabric is at home inside any shoe and doesn't cause pinching or discomfort.
The compression encourages stability and offers you support, without the use of stabilizers, steel springs, or spiral stays. It is suitable for nearly any physical pursuit, able to stay in place without slipping or getting absorbed into your shoe. These are meant to take the place of socks, though some athletes will prefer covered toes. The Techware is open on the end.
The Techware ankle sleeve is made of nylon, with added Spandex for stretchiness. It comes in sizes from small up to XX-large. You will want to consult the sizing chart before purchase. The sleeves are universal, so the same sleeve will fit either foot.
7. Docbear Ankle Brace
Lots of flexibility
Easy to adjust with straps
Offers gentle compression
Has some pain relieving properties
Runs a bit tight on the top of the ankle
Docbear's ankle saver is somewhere between a brace and a wrap, with generous comfort features and gentle compression for better blood flow.Read more
The qualities of compression, circulation, and warmth are the point here. They will all help you heal from injury. The simple, ample crisscross style wrap lets you customize fit, lending stability with no stays or side rods. This wrap is designed for near continuous wear, helping you avoid injuries and stay active. You will have plenty of flexibility and comfort while you wear this sleeve.
The sleeve is sweat-absorbent and lets your ankle breathe. The elastic enforced fabric wicks moisture, keeping you dry inside and out even during high heat conditions.
The sleeves fit either foot and are sold in packs of one. We couldn't find much information about DocBear, but the company usually offers discounts and special deals on their sleeves.
8. Powerlix Compression Ankle Sleeve
Offers some support, stability
Sold in pairs, affordable
Fits inside shoes comfortable
Very little additional information
Sizing is tough
This is another socklike sleeve brace that applies pressure evenly and consistently over your ankle, so you can get relief from your sports-related injury or chronic condition.Read more
The sizing chart is your friend with this brace. With the right fit, your Powerlix product will support and protect you during outdoor activities, sports, CrossFit, dancing, or just extended time on your feet. The sleeve conforms to your body shape, but won't constrict or limit your movement.
Powerlix offers guarantees and a small warranty on its sleeves. Some reviewers indicated the sleeve is a bit tight at the top of the ankle.
The fabric is thin and porous to let your ankles breathe. You will stay dry even when you wear the sleeve for a long time. There really aren't a lot of extra features here; this is a low-cost ankle sleeve you can use for all-around wear. It isn't suitable for injury recovery but will give you a degree of protection and do so in comfort.
9. Fitpro Lace Up Ankle Brace
Comes in pairs
Unobtrusive under clothing
Backed by Amazon
Reviews indicate extra stiffness
This is an Amazon brand brace with basic features that you can wear comfortably with shoes while it helps your ankle injuries heal.Read more
The brace comes in sizes extra small to extra large. At the time of this writing, it only comes in black. There is no stirrup strap, which helps the brace slide into your shoe without causing discomfort. The brace will stay in place and not migrate, chafe, or sink into your shoe.
The sleeve will fit either your left or right foot. In addition to sprain treatment, the brace provides stabilization and roll prevention. The laces keep everything tight, allowing you a custom fit, but the laces also mean you cannot change the fit in the middle of a game. To find the right size, you will need to measure your ankle circumference, according to Amazon's instructions, and then use the size chart.
Reviewers agree the brace is a bit stiffer than expected, and that the tongue may move to the side. For a basic use brace, though, especially in a pinch, the FitPro will work just fine.
10. ComfiLife Ankle Brace
Silicone pads prevent friction
Easy to find your perfect fit
Design/closure takes some getting used to
This is a surprisingly effective one size fits all brace, with an open heel and a long velcro strap that wraps around your whole foot for effective closure.Read more
Support with comfort is the goal of this snug brace. It keeps your ankle neutral, so you don't reinjure it while healing from a previous sprain. The ankle wrap also works as a preventive help. The velcro backed straps also feature rows of silicone pads, making sure the strap will seal snug and not migrate or come loose as you move about.
Putting on and fastening the brace will take some getting used to. It is not a sleeve style. Instead, the brace looks like a long strip, with a rigid opening at one end that goes over your foot and the bottom of your ankle. You then follow a pattern to wrap the rest of the strip around your ankle, starting at the midfoot. Then, once it is on, the brace can be tightened with the velcro parts.
Construction is from breathable fabric with expansive elastic inseams. You can tailor the level of compression to where you need it most. You are able to wear the brace at all times if you wish, whether on the court or off. It comes with a lifetime warranty, too.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The brace has to fit perfectly, or you will be uncomfortable.
A proper fit often starts with measuring your ankle, before you order your injury prevention brace. Then once it arrives, you make the fit better with laces, straps, cuffs, or other closure devices, according to the brace style.
So, whatever brace you order, you need it to be adjustable. No two human feet are exactly the same after all. Typically, you want a brace that will hold on and move with you, like a second skin. The more severe your need for a brace, the tighter the adjustments have to be.
A thin compression sleeve can get away with having no adjustment features. They are made to slide on and pop into the outline of your foot and ankle. But you will notice not many of these one-piece sleeves made a high rank. That is because, if they don't fit right, you really don't have a way to adjust it short of returning it to the retailer.
Injuries are painful; recovery shouldn't be.
Of course, if you hurt your ankle badly enough to need a stability brace or even surgery, there will be recovery pain. A good brace minimizes that pain by cushioning, compressing, and immobilizing the foot. The tight weatherproof material will compress the swelling to make it go down.
The injury recovery brace is actually a medical device. It can't afford to have give in certain spots, any more than a cast can. But even with such a no-nonsense function, the best brace companies know that they have to include comfort features. Padding, gel, adjustable straps, less rigid stabilizers, open heels, and stirrups can all keep your foot and ankle as comfortable as possible.
It may not feel like it, but compression = heat = healing.
A brace that provides no compression really doesn't deserve to be called a brace. The compression helps with stability, even in a thin one-piece brace. For the more heavy duty braces, compression can be tighter and is augmented with the inner immobilizing padding as well as the stays.
Regardless of your injury, and regardless whether you get your brace at a retail store or from your doctor, compression is always key. We believe we have identified the braces that will make the quickest work of gently encouraging the swelling in your injured ankle to go away.
Like your shoes, all braces have to allow for some movement.
Even a major sprain isn't a bone fracture, so we don't need to take all the weight off the injured ankle and lock it down with hard plaster or bandages. While a cast allows for no flexibility or play, due to the nature of bone injuries, even the toughest ankle brace will allow you some flexion.
The ones in our buying guide allow for the safest possible level of bending and pivoting, according to the type of brace. Many of the braces we reviewed won't let you back on the court; nor should they, if your sprain took you to the doctor's office. But even if you can't play, you probably still have to walk. In many cases, walking and mild exercise are part of physical therapy. You will be grateful for the brace that lets your feet move as much as possible while your ankle knits itself back together.
Motion control is a matter of degree when it comes to ankle braces.
Are you an avid soccer player looking to avoid the same injury that sidelined a friend? A light wrap or compression sock may be all you need. It seems like you can move a sleeved ankle as much as a bare one, but even the sockiest of socks will provide some rolling protection while it gently squeezes to simulate blood flow.
On the other end of the spectrum, post-surgical braces are hold-steady devices that lock your foot down and won't let it budge an inch. Wearing one of these for protection would be total overkill. We hope you never need a heavy immobilizer, but if you do, we are glad to have given you the tools you need to make an informed and educated decision.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
A lot of received wisdom floats around in groups of athletes. Most of us have been around enough to see the inside of the doctor's office, usually more than once. Athletes in groups will trade war stories and tips. Some of these tips are fine, some are partly true but not best practice, and some are just plain inaccurate. Let's take a look at some of the ankle injury advice that falls in the third category.
First, just because you can move your foot after an injury, that does not mean it isn't broken. You could have a hairline fracture, which feels more like a sprain than a broken bone. Any time your ankle hurts enough that you can't put pressure on it, go get an X-ray.
While we're at it, don't underestimate a sprain. In sports, even a minor injury can take a turn for the worse, probably too fast to be stopped. A sprain is a serious injury, and failing to provide aftercare could cause permanent loss of performance.
Finally, one of the most prevalent myths we have seen is that you should submerge your freshly hurt ankle in warm water. We really have no idea where this one came from, or why it still persists. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are still the best first aid for an ankle or foot injury. The acronym is RICE, not WARM.
The word "sprain" refers to a very specific type of injury that happens when ligaments in your ankle stretch past the point they are designed to. They are often the result of all the running, jumping, twisting, and footwork that is part of most vigorous sports. But sometimes, you can get a roll or sprain just from walking on wet, uneven ground.
When you sprain an ankle, you will usually remember a popping or tearing sound, followed by bruising, tenderness, and persistent pain. There will always be an inciting incident when you rolled your ankle, perhaps landing after a difficult shot on a basketball court.
If you suspect a sprained ankle, the best thing to do is get to an ER, where you can rest the ankle and get an X-Ray to see the severity of the damage. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) are still the best treatment for a sprain, until you can get to a doctor for a closer look.
Other Factors to Consider
Stability refers to a brace's ability to hold your foot still or keep it from too much lateral motion that can result in a sprain. Some braces are for being proactive, while others are for post-injury treatment.
No matter why you wear a brace, support is just as important as stability. We mentioned stability first because it and support go hand in hand. For your injured ankle to be stable, the brace has to have adequate support. Support includes the padding inside the brace, but also the closures. A strap, whether X shaped, figure eight, or some other pattern, will always be more supportive and will provide more stability than a lace closure system.
The upper is simply the material the brace or sleeve is made from. We thought it was important because some materials are more rigid than others. A rigid brace, with stabilizers, will typically be made from neoprene. Thinner sleeves or socks will be made from nylon, with a stretchy inseam. Some manufacturers use coiled steel spring inside the fabric of their sleeves.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What are spiral stays?
Spiral stays are a newer form of technology that takes the place of older flat rodlike stabilizers. It is formed from tight stitching of compressed fabric, with the stitches in a spiral pattern for ultimate strength. The spiral stays provide flexible stabilization and does not feel as constrictive as plastic or metal stabilizers.
q: Why do so many braces use the rod style side stabilizers?
The rigid rod stabilizers have been used traditionally for a long time, and they are familiar to people. Any time you see someone being carried off a field with their leg in a splint, to keep it from moving, you will see large side splints. Spiral stays may be more comfortable, but many patients and providers prefer the older style even though there is no scientific proof that the old style stabilizers are more effective.
q: Why can't I machine wash my new brace?
Your new brace has synthetic fibers and chemical coatings and infusions that are too sensitive to be exposed to the prolonged heat, water pressure, and agitations inside a washing machine. The brace may even have plastic or metal rods that can shake loose and cause tears in the wash. Unless the manufacturer's directions or care tag say otherwise, you should always assume that your brace is to be hand washed only.
q: Are wraps effective?
Yes, when used according to directions and equipped with secure straps, a wrap can help you avoid injury and provide light surgical recovery. Usually, the wrap is put in place after four to six weeks, when the ankle is almost healed but still highly vulnerable to injury. Almost universally, wraps are not designed for injury recovery and should only be used as protective measures.
q: Won't lace closure braces always come loose?
No. The material used in braces is made to be more form-fitting than the material used to make your shoes. So the brace adapts to your body and the laces are tight enough to make sure it stays snug. Brace laces. too, are thicker and more substantial than shoelaces. So you can rest assured that your lace-up brace will always stay where you put it and provide protection for your ankle.