Expert-tested, editor-approved

Gear Guy

Q:

Does wearing an ankle brace when hiking create a dependency on it?

Does wearing an ankle brace when hiking form a dependency, preventing your ankle from getting stronger? Also, do you advise wearing an ankle brace on both ankles for extra protection, or just on the ankle with which I have previously had problems? Ben Hagerstown, Maryland

Does wearing an ankle brace when hiking form a dependency, preventing your ankle from getting stronger? Also, do you advise wearing an ankle brace on both ankles for extra protection, or just on the ankle with which I have previously had problems? Ben Hagerstown, Maryland

A:

For a lot of people, myself included, ankle braces are indeed necessary. And I don’t mean a light, elastic-type wrap. I’m talking about the ballistic-nylon, wrap-around, lace-up models that sell for $30 to $40 (such as the ASO Ankle Brace). If you have a balky ankle, it’s the only thing that will hold it in place. Not even heavy boots really help that much.

ASO Ankle Brace

ASO Ankle Brace

Certainly, a brace takes a lot of strain off your ankle, so I suppose one answer to your question about dependency is, “Yes, wearing a brace can reduce your ankle’s ability to strengthen itself naturally." But that’s also not the worst thing in the world. The brace reduces the risk of re-injury, and every time you roll over on your ankle, you reduce the tendons’ ability to recover. Meanwhile, in consultation with a credible source—such as your orthopedist or physical therapist, and not someone like, um, me—you embark on a rigorous in-house or in-gym strengthening program.

My bad ankle is the right one, so that’s where the brace goes. I’ve never had a problem with the left ankle, so there’s no brace there. An ASO brace fits pretty nicely under nearly any footwear; I’ve worn my very similar brace with probably 15 different boots, from day hikers to plastic mountaineering boots. They’re made from neoprene and nylon, dry reasonably quickly, and are washable.

So go forth, well-braced, and enjoy the world!

The 2008 Summer Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From riding to trail-running to camping, get reviews of nearly 400 gear must-haves.

Filed To: Footwear

Obsessed with Gear?

Thank you!

Pinterest Icon