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Stuart Murphy
(stu_m) - MLife
Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/28/2013 19:33:39 MDT Print View

I'm susceptible to ankle damage having previously torn ligaments in both ankles. I actively mitigate against possible further damage by using support bandages whilst hiking. I have tried after-market footbeds and the like as well as strengthening the ankles this has been sufficient to prevent any further serious sprains, but minor twists do occur with some regularity (though never serious enough to jeopardise continuing a trip).


1. What relatively lightweight footwear should I consider (I have a short but wide foot) and favour jogger like flexibility and cushioning as opposed to the rigidity of a a heavy leather boot with stiff sole. That being said, I also want to support my ankles as well as I can and am prepared to prioritise support above comfort/weight. Boots may be used off track carrying 18kg load (please do not advise me to lighten the load lol). I do not need crampon compatibility.

2. I am currently using a thick elastic bandage with velcro for ankle support while carrying a pack. This definitely helps a lot, but I was wondering whether people had recommendations on potentially better supports. As an example, this http://www.asoankle.com/ looks like it may be worth trying. Anyone had any good experiences with this or other braces?

Any advice appreciated.

Cheers
Stuart

Edited by stu_m on 04/28/2013 19:35:57 MDT.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Ankle support - best boots and braces?" on 04/28/2013 20:06:26 MDT Print View

I really like the Aso ankle support a lot. I've used one on my left foot for three years both hiking and nordic skiing. I find that it's actually MORE comfortable than a sock/figure eight velcro support. At the same time, it's about four times more supportive. It's highly adjustable.

I've never developed a blister from this support, which honestly surprises me. And greatly pleases me!

I've found--unfortunately--that a stiffer sole that resists torsional twisting is better for my weak ankle. I'd give anything to be able to go with a lighter, more flexible boot but it hasn't worked out for me. And I've done years of strengthening exercises. Everyone's different. The possible advantage of an ankle support is that it may let you go lighter on your boots, in the sense that the ankle brace compensates for the support that a lighter boot may lack.

It's been years and I'm still working this out. Good luck!

Mark Heiser
(74Kilos) - M

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Ankle Support on 04/28/2013 21:38:56 MDT Print View

I've never torn any ligaments in my ankle, but I have sprained them good. Both can bend to just about 90 degrees to the shin towards the middle of my body!

Anywho, the best policy with shoes is always to try them on first, you won't necessarily get trail experience, but with the type of experience you've had you should be able to get a good feel for how supportive they are. My inclination would be to lean towards a non-waterproof (if 3 season is the goal) mid to high boot. Considering the extent of damage, I would try high first. I've always had good luck with merrells, but have also heard great things about lowe (sp?) and asolo.

Also agreed a stiffer sole should treat you well.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ankle support - best is no boots on 04/28/2013 22:35:23 MDT Print View

Having little to no real ligament support left in my right ankle and surgery leaving it even worse (cartilage removal) and my Left ankle isn't much better I feel I can at least address you question with some experience about the subject.

1. "What relatively lightweight footwear should I consider". My answer to this is- lightweight trail runners. No on boots, they will just prolong your weak ankle problem. The best and only long term solution is to strengthen your ankles, period. Boots are just like crutches and if you never get off them your ankles will continue to atrophy.

2. "velcro for ankle support" Your ankle braces are just a little better at a short term solution then boots. Used with shoes you can move and feel the trail (necessary for brain to ankle movement and reaction). But get off/out of the braces ASAP.

Again, work on strengthening your ankles so you don't have to rely any false support. You can develop the necessary muscle strength to overcome the lack of ligament control (I know this from first hand knowledge).

Also do a search though some of the older threads on this very subject and read some of the articles here on BPL about this.

Yes, I have a bias, but I have earned it (you ought to see my x-rays).

Edited by bestbuilder on 04/28/2013 22:37:44 MDT.

S Long
(Izeloz) - M

Locale: Wasatch
Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/28/2013 22:59:19 MDT Print View

Start taking serrapeptase and hydrolyzed collagen peptides every day. Buy a wobble board from fitter first and practice on it at least five days a week. Also get a silver or gold theraband and look up posterior tibialis exercises on Youtube. All of this combined should fix up your ankles in no time.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/29/2013 07:22:32 MDT Print View

If you truly have deficient ligaments, then unfortunately strengthening is only going to help so much. Yes, absolutely work on posterior tibialis exercises, work on single leg standing balance (eyes open, then eyes closed, then eyes open on a squishy surface, then eyes closed on a squishy surface). Try playing catch while standing on one leg, that sort of thing.

But...the fact is depending on YOUR foot and ankle, you may actually need a brace. If the lightweight elastic stuff works well, then great. It's as minimal as you can go and doesn't do any harm in the long run (worsening the weakness). Those elastic things don't really provide any support, but they help cue your brain to your ankle a bit more and help with what we call "motor control."

If the little elastic thing isn't enough, then the best, most supportive brace is the lace up kind. Doesn't matter what brand, but those tight lace up braces will give you, by far, the most support you can get. Not sure how comfortable it would be while hiking, but you have the ability to adjust the laces to meet your needs.

Good luck

Johan Engberg
(luffarjohan) - M

Locale: Wrong place at the right rime
Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/29/2013 07:57:11 MDT Print View

There are dedicated ankle support shoes made for orienteering which basically is a orienteering-shoe (trailrunner with low heel and very aggressive lugs) with a brace which you could try. I have no personal experience in such shoes, but I do know that they're used by some runners who's destroyed their ankels in the woods.

I'd recommend training as a first option though but if that is not enough...

example:
http://www.vjsport.fi/en/shoes/high/

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Ankle support on 04/29/2013 08:04:59 MDT Print View

If you really need ankle support, I don't think you can beat the Active Ankle brace. You'll notice that about half of the indoor volleyball players wear them (if you watch that sort of thing). I dislocated both ankles in the past and had multiple other sprains after that. Then, I began wearing the Active Ankles. I have never rolled an ankle while wearing them. I am not sure you physically can. You can get some irritation with hem over long miles though. You can wear the Active Ankles with light shoes.

But I don't wear them any more. I now use a combination of low drop trail shoes and trekking poles in combination with some ankle strengthening. SO far, so good.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Salomon on 04/29/2013 08:17:34 MDT Print View

Try out the Salomon Synapse Mids. Good ankle support like a boot, but much lighter. The current AT Thru Hiking record happened in a pair.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Ankle support - best boots and braces?" on 04/29/2013 10:19:51 MDT Print View

It may be that I have the Active Ankle brace that Ben mentioned--looks like the Aso...anyway, the important thing is that you can use the finger loops on the figure 8 straps to pull up on both sides of your ankle and then fasten on the velcro strips. This, plus the lace up, gives a good custom fit.

Sometimes structural deficits limit how much strengthening you can do through exercise. For example, because of surgery performed when I was three, I can't lift my left big toe. There's nothing connected to lift it with. And so on. Strengthening has helped me tremendously and I hope to lose this wrap, which I only use when backpacking and nordic skiing. I may yet! In the meantime, it's a real help with little downside.

I do the kind of exercises that Jennifer mentions.

Steve Martell
(Steve) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Washington
Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/29/2013 11:47:49 MDT Print View

Stuart, Many bits of good advice in this thread--my opinion lies between what Tad and Jennifer listed.

What I've found to work best:

1. ALWAYS use trekking poles
2. Exercise those ankles (wobble board, etc.)
3. Low or mid boots/shoes only--as mentioned by others. Big boots mean poorly exercised foot muscles.
4. For strenuous hikes (cross country,etc.) consider pre-taping your ankle(s) with Leukotape or athletic tape. Properly applied tape is far superior to elastic bandages/braces (IMHO) but still allows for some movement. The tape sort of acts as a second set of ligaments on the outside of your foot-- greatly reducing ankle rolls.

Good luck Stuart and keep us posted on what ends ups working best for you.

Thomas Baker
(Shake_N_Bake) - F

Locale: WY
Stay away from boots on 04/29/2013 13:37:13 MDT Print View

"Having little to no real ligament support left in my right ankle and surgery leaving it even worse (cartilage removal) and my Left ankle isn't much better I feel I can at least address you question with some experience about the subject.

1. "What relatively lightweight footwear should I consider". My answer to this is- lightweight trail runners. No on boots, they will just prolong your weak ankle problem. The best and only long term solution is to strengthen your ankles, period. Boots are just like crutches and if you never get off them your ankles will continue to atrophy.

2. "velcro for ankle support" Your ankle braces are just a little better at a short term solution then boots. Used with shoes you can move and feel the trail (necessary for brain to ankle movement and reaction). But get off/out of the braces ASAP.

Again, work on strengthening your ankles so you don't have to rely any false support. You can develop the necessary muscle strength to overcome the lack of ligament control (I know this from first hand knowledge).

Also do a search though some of the older threads on this very subject and read some of the articles here on BPL about this.

Yes, I have a bias, but I have earned it (you ought to see my x-rays)."

***********

I agree with everything said above. I have one ankle that is literally holding on by a thread. I went the boots and braces route for a while until I noticed one day that my bad ankle was half the size of my good one. Right then I lost the brace and boots and started strengthening my ankles.

Good trail runners are much more stable than boots. It is the foot bed that matters not the height up your leg. And on those rare occasions when I do lay my foot on its side I do not hurt my ankle. Because of the lower shoe allows my ankle to move in the arc it was designed to move in instead of the one imposed by the boot.

The end result of this is that I have had no ankle injuries or pain since losing the boots and brace over 7 years ago. With the boots I would hurt it almost every trip to at least some degree.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/29/2013 16:29:45 MDT Print View

Why must I always have the contrary perspective?

My experience with trick ankles:
I agree that it's important to strengthen the muscles, in a mild safe low risk environment, such as at home, at the gym, at the office, or a 1 hr mild hike.

But on trail where the failure risk is high due to uneven terrain, higher than usual strenuous conditions, and disconnected from medical support system ==> USE BOOTS.

The long distance trail is not the place to take chances and antagonize the weak ankle muscle. ==> USE BOOTS.

Stuart Murphy
(stu_m) - MLife
"Ankle support - best boots and braces?" on 04/29/2013 17:33:07 MDT Print View

Thanks guys,

Plenty of options for further research for me.

Jennifer -- what is a "squishy surface". Is carpet squishy enough?

I tend to think, that a combination of the strategies is best for me i.e. strengthening/balance control but always with some kind of strapping. Since I have still had minor rolls with the elasticated support, I'm going to try a lace up brace. I would only wear this during sport or bushwalking - not eg. when "training" walking around suburban streets.

Unfortunately resolving this problem is probably in part a process of trial and error for an individual (that takes time and effort) to find what works best for them but you guys have definitely pointed me in the right direction I feel.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/29/2013 18:48:42 MDT Print View

"Why must I always have the contrary perspective?"

Hey, that's my line ;)

I am a big advocate for light shoes... my normal hiking shoes are probably more minimalist than many here. Also I harp a lot about getting into hiking shape.

However, getting advice on an Internet forum for dealing with a serious injury is not prudent. The advice should come from an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor.

Several folks here have shared how they overcame injuries by strengthing the injured area -- and that would be my first strategy. One would think that for most injuries this is the solution. But it may not work for everyone. To me a boot or ankle wrap is just a bandaid for a problem and does not address the root cause; but for some that might be the only solution.

If someone is starting a long hike after an injury, I would expect they have done enough hiking before hand to know if they are healed or not.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/29/2013 20:30:33 MDT Print View

Nick...that is a perfect post. My thoughts exactly.

It is very, very true that you should certainly try (and continue) strengthening the surrounding muscles. In terms of the ankle, you need to work the posterior tibialis and the intrinsic muscles of the foot. I generally hate orthotics, superfeet, braces, etc. I think people (and podiatrists) jump to that far too soon.

But having said that, there are plenty of feet and ankles in this world that are far beyond strengthening to fix. Once the ligaments are deficient enough, and the tendons stretched or torn enough, and possibly the arthritis setting in enough, you don't have a choice but to support your feet as best as you can with orthotics, braces, etc. You want to do what you do and many times those assistive devices are the only way you're going to be able to do it safely. We tend to call these "floppy feet."

Be careful...people say they want "arch support," but many times that means a big chunk of something under the arch. But the arch is not a weight bearing surface...your weight goes through your heel, the ball of your foot at your big toe and at your little toe (like a tripod). Many, many things throw this off and that's one reason why getting Internet advice about this stuff is so hard. Every single foot is different...

Anyway, enough of that soap box.

Stuart: the squishy surface can be anything unstable. The more unstable the better (meaning your toes are digging in, your ankle moves all over the place to try to hold you up). Try a couch pillow, cushion, bed pillow, or roll up a bit of a closed cell foam pad (that would be perfect!). Keep making it really, really hard to stand on one leg.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
ankle issues on 04/30/2013 04:30:39 MDT Print View

This may not work for you, but...

I had ankle problems for the duration of my pre teens, teens, and a good chunk of my adult life. My ankles seemed to be perpetually sprained. Running seemed out of the question. I now can trail run and hike without issue. For me the answer was less rather than more support. I found that relying on external support was a crutch that caused me to just rely more on it and never really strengthen my ankles, develop the reflexes to un-weight my ankle if it started to roll, or avoid the rolling in the first place. I had to go gradually at first, but now I seem to be well over the problem.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Cynical me... on 04/30/2013 04:49:03 MDT Print View

"However, getting advice on an Internet forum for dealing with a serious injury is not prudent. The advice should come from an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor."

I think you have more faith in the medical profession than I do. In my 62 years I have gotten more bad advice from doctors than good when it came to sports injuries, and strangely, sports medicine specialists have not on average been any better. I have found good advice from some doctors and try to stick with the ones that gave advice that worked. That said sometimes I think that random advice from a stranger isn't much worse than what I got from a lot of doctors. For example back when I was very in to ww kayaking, the kayaking community seemed to have better advice about shoulder injuries than >95% of the doctors treating them. They also seemed to know who the <5% of ortho docs were that had good knowledge of how to treat kayaking injuries.

Physical therapists I have been treated by had a better apparent competency rate than doctors who I have seen, but apparent competency was still pretty spotty.

When it has come right down to it for chronic problems that do not require surgery I think I have done better with random advice filtered with a bit of common sense and a lot of patient trial and error. Most of the time the best answer was rest followed by careful gradual conditioning and long term maintenance of that conditioning.

Loren B
(ljamesb)

Locale: London UK, Greenville USA
Re: Ankle support - best boots and braces? on 04/30/2013 05:09:29 MDT Print View

I badly injured both my ankles a few years ago doing something very stupid (won't be making that mistake again). I would second the idea that the sooner you can get your ankles off braces/support, and the strength back in your ankles, the better. Here is what I would suggest:

-follow your doctors advice. If he/she is giving you bad advice, find another doctor.
-always use trekking poles if you aren't already.
-choose the trails you hike more carefully. It might be beneficial for you to stay off the trails for a couple of months until you can strengthen your ankles. Maybe do some more walking on flatter ground with fewer inclines or walk on a treadmill (barefoot even to completely remove shoes from the equation).
-ankle exercises which others have mentioned
-try lighter trail runners with thinner soles. They would offer less cushioning, but would give you much more stability and ground feel which may help prevent any further injury.

Edited by ljamesb on 04/30/2013 05:13:34 MDT.

John Finney
(guavarex) - M

Locale: Z├╝rich, Switzerland
Good boots for injured, bony ankle on 04/30/2013 08:51:59 MDT Print View

I broke one ankle very badly many years ago, requiring extensive surgery and resulting in an ankle with limited mobility, larger size (a bony mass), and prone to inflammation during exercise, hiking included.

While I have found relief with braces, my "go to" boots are Meindl Vakuum, which feature a very thick layer of memory foam in the collar that is both supportive, and forgiving when the swelling starts. While these leather boots are not light, they are far lighter than others in the Meindl line. When I wear these and pop a few NSAIDS before the hike, I can go many hours before the hobbling starts.

Also, as mentioned above, use trekking poles. Great aid for bad ankles.