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Ankle support - best boots and braces?
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Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Salewa on 04/30/2013 09:51:52 MDT Print View

After spraining my ankle badly a few months before a big trip I tried on a bunch of boots and ended up with some salewa mountain trainer mids. They have a few different boots ranging from more shoe like to full on mountain boots but I've found the wire ankle yoke system works really well. You can crank them down for added support when sidehilling off trail and they offer more support then most "mid" height boots.

Ankle brace wise I got a neoprene and elastic velcro thing at rei I really like though I don't see it on their site anymore. The elastic was stiffer then a normal ace bandages thanks to some sort of structured stripes that seemed to have stiff fibers. Something this style:
(no idea if those are reputable online retailers)

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
+1 on Active Ankles on 04/30/2013 10:00:48 MDT Print View

Back in my 20's I used a pair of Active Ankles for volleyball ALL the time (due to a previous injury), and started using them for backpacking because they offered much better support than my Asolo 555's ever did. That plus trekking poles and "Superfeet" mid soles,I could use any low top shoe or sandal that I wanted to. My footwear decision was then based on a shoe's ability to absorb impact than it was for ankle support.

Nowadays, I always use poles, but would only bring one Active Ankle along in a first aid if I were doing a long trip, due to my history. My knees are more a concern for me now, especially going downhill :(

Whatever you do, try it out different methods on small trips first and "see what fits" for you.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Ankle support - best boots and braces?" on 04/30/2013 10:16:40 MDT Print View

Re: squishy surface. One legged stands on a bosu ball--that's the half ball with a flat bottom. I stand on the round part; I've seen people flip it and stand on the flat part. You can get 'em cheap at Target.

Also: on one leg lean over and touch the floor, straighten, repeat; on one leg, move the other as if running/skiing with the appropriate arm motion; one one leg, move the other leg out to the side and back; etc.

Toe raises too--on one leg or both.

Edited by book on 04/30/2013 10:18:00 MDT.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Boots on 04/30/2013 11:28:37 MDT Print View

I've read on here many, many times that boots do not provide ankle support (I disagree). If that's true, how can using them be considered a band-aid? Or has the prevailing thought shifted to boots providing some ankle support?

Loren B

Locale: London UK, Greenville USA
Re: Boots on 04/30/2013 14:52:32 MDT Print View

I guess it depends what you mean by support. I think there are in general two main differences between a low profile trail shoe and your standard hiking boot.

Firstly the boot has extra material which encloses some or all of your ankle. The amount of compression this gives makes it harder for your ankle to move as freely as it would if barefoot and the main effect of this is no different whatsoever to wearing a good ankle brace (perhaps someone can correct me here if I'm wrong though). To evaluate this part, all we need to do is ask ourselves is it better to wear an ankle brace while hiking or not? I think it is really up to the individuals particular circumstances.

I am of the opinion that while wearing a brace may weaken your ankle muscles over time, this is very unlikely to be a problem if you only hike every few weeks for a couple of days (probably this is most people). So for infrequent weekend trips I would say that the benefits of wearing an ankle brace (or boots for the same purpose) may outweigh the drawbacks. If, however, you hike every few days, or for weeks at a time, then the brace will surely start to have some negative effect over time.

Secondly, and in my opinion, more importantly, boots often have much thicker soles which are supposed to provide more cushioning thus reducing the stress per second your joints endure upon every foot strike. The unfortunate drawback to this cushioning and increased height from the ground is that stability in general is far reduced. There is a large reduction in your ability to sense what is underfoot in order to compensate and make adjustments to your movements as needed. When you do misstep on a loose rock, the thicker sole works against you. When your ankle begins to roll, it is REALLY going to roll and no amount of 'support' (aside from rigid ski boot style shoes) can help because your full body+pack weight will be acting to roll your ankle further onto the flat edge of the side of your thick boot sole. Once your foot goes past the angle of no return, a quick recovery from the mis step is also made more difficult as a result of the extra sole thickness which gets in the way of any last second adjustment.

My personal opinion is that ankle support is really not the main issue to consider when attempting to reduce the likelihood of severe ankle injury. Ankle support in one form or another will be beneficial to some, but not others. The main area which I think can help in reducing sprains etc. is to increase your overall stability while hiking, thus reducing the likelihood of a catastrophic sprain. I think that the main ways to achieve this are:

-carry less weight. The less you carry, the less cushioning you will require. This is BPL after all so I think we pretty much have that one covered ;)
-try to improve your walking style. I saw a specialist a couple of years ago who analysed my walking gait. The information he gave me helped greatly when it came to picking out shoes and also allowed me to change my walking style slightly
-use trekking poles. add a lot more stability especially going up and downhill
-shoes with thinner soles which allow greater levels of proprioception

Anyways that's enough out of me for now. lol

Edited by ljamesb on 04/30/2013 15:03:44 MDT.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
Boots!!!! on 04/30/2013 14:55:20 MDT Print View

I have an ankle that is about as bad as it can get. I use soloman boots(not shoes) and I loove them! I also wrap my ankle with athletic tape I feel that this gives it really good support with low bulk.
Im not sure how bad your ankle is though. My ankle will have to be replaced in the near future and only has about 5 percent of normal mobility. If your ankle is as bad as mine it does not matter what you "try" to do to excercise it, in fact you would likely just do more damage. But only you know what is feezible for you. but I would consider the athletic tape for ankle support.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
I had glass ankles on 04/30/2013 14:59:58 MDT Print View

I suffered my whole life with ankles rolling. I have had many sprained ankles.

I used to overcome the problem by wearing mid-height shoes to reduce the range that my ankle would bend when I rolled them, which was a lot. This helped.

BUT, I now wear low top trail runners without issue. This is because of advice from many experts on BPL.

I started by hiking a few times a week on relatively easy trails so that there was some side to side ankle motion to strengthen my ankles, but not enough to make my ankles roll.

After a while my ankles stopped rolling and on those rare occassions when they did roll, my reflexes and muscle strength reduced the angle of the roll and so no more sprains.

So yes, I now agree that ankle strength is the key. Support just prolongs the issue.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: NO- Boots!!!! on 04/30/2013 16:59:09 MDT Print View

Josh, even though you think your ankle is as bad as it gets-

Mine is worse! So there.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Boots on 04/30/2013 20:10:55 MDT Print View

> Or has the prevailing thought shifted to boots providing some ankle support?
Ever tried walking in Darth Vaders? (That's normal white plastic downhill ski boots.) Lots of ankle support there! Pity the walking is 'not so easy'.


Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Proprioception, not strength on 04/30/2013 22:16:57 MDT Print View

The main reason people repeatedly "roll" their ankles is not so much a question of weakness, although that does play a bit of a role. More importantly is proprioception - your body's ability to know where it is in space. This means when you are about to put your foot down on the ground your body actually knows what position the foot is in before it touches the ground. Those who have had major sprains, or multiple small sprains, tend to have severe deficits here, and this is why they continue to roll their ankles: they can't really control how the foot strikes the ground because the body doesn't really know the exact position of the foot.

In a lab we can do rather elaborate assessments of what the foot does during the swing phase of gait (which is exactly what you think it is); then right before heel strike the foot either has aligned properly to strike properly...or it hasn't. In this latter case the foot either has to make a last minute correction before heel strike, or the correction is done at the ground contact. Either way the risk of injury is greater.

Boots with high ankles do provide a small bit of actual structural support IF tied appropriately, but the reason those with "weak" ankles tend to like them so much is that the greater contact area of the ankle increases the proprioceptive input to the brain during stepping activies.

And the reason "training" in minimalist shoes can reduce ankle rolling is not because your ankle is actually's because you've improved your proprioceptive input and processing. This is a major component of rehab after an ankle sprain...not strengthening so much, but proprioceptive and balance training.

(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
+1 for Jennifer on 04/30/2013 22:31:44 MDT Print View

She is right, I'm a DPT as well. If you watch pro basketball you'll notice lower cut BB shoes over the last several decades due to the science.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Proprioception, not strength on 04/30/2013 22:39:29 MDT Print View

That's a great bit of insight. I always suspected there was a kinesthetic component to injuries, but I'd never heard it explained like that. Thanks for taking the time to write that.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
+1 for Jennifer on 05/01/2013 03:42:05 MDT Print View

Thanks Jennifer.

I think it was Roger who made that point when this came up once before.
I argued against the concept, but now totally agree and my experience is proof.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Boots on 05/01/2013 05:22:38 MDT Print View

Larry's good question raises others. Maybe if a given pair of boots doesn't provide enough support to prevent an ankle injury it's not going to impede the development of some relevant strength (or proprioceptive sense) through hiking or other exercise.

It'd be nice if there were more scientific tests of the current hypotheses, and also if there were a bit more standardization of terminology. What folks here think of as heavy boots might pass for light hikers in other circles.

Bill S.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Darth Vaders on 05/01/2013 08:38:49 MDT Print View

"Ever tried walking in Darth Vaders? (That's normal white plastic downhill ski boots.) Lots of ankle support there! Pity the walking is 'not so easy'."

Certainly, but if they had a different forward angle or more forward movement they would be east to walk in.

Not sure what that has to do with my question...

Daniel Fish

Locale: PDX
... on 05/01/2013 08:42:04 MDT Print View


Edited by on 06/09/2013 00:58:01 MDT.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Ankle support - best boots and braces on 05/01/2013 08:57:15 MDT Print View


Sort of off subject, but...
Although barefoot shoes are supposed to be good for many foot problems, including fallen arches and heel spurs, I don't know what benefit they have for ankles except maybe reduce the pronation issues that can cause the ankle to roll.

You may want to check out huaraches as another option for barefoot hiking. An inexpensive option to try is the XeroShoe. Or make your own from an old tire.

Most barefoot shoes tend to wear out quick when trail hiking.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Good boots for injured, bony ankle on 05/01/2013 09:22:33 MDT Print View

I'd argue that where minimalist shoes will help with ankle issues is that they force you to be aware of foot placement. In my experience, boots do the opposite.
If what Jennifer is saying is true, I would imagine that the minimal footwear might help retrain your sense of foot placement/awareness due to the constant subtle feedback.

I've always suspected that so called "weak ankles" were more of a balance, reflex, and foot placement issue. Most people spend their entire lives in overbuilt footwear on perfectly flat surfaces; it's no wonder so many have trouble with rolling ankles when on uneven terrain.

Daniel Fish

Locale: PDX
... on 05/01/2013 09:28:04 MDT Print View


Edited by on 06/09/2013 00:57:30 MDT.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Ankle support - best boots and braces on 05/01/2013 09:30:36 MDT Print View


Now that I think about it, you are probably right. I notice that I am more aware of foot placement when I wear barefoot type shoes. You sense the ground before you apply much weight and so your reflexes are more apt to react quicker.

Also, walking barefoot style means that your foot strikes the ground in a more stable position and so potentially less chance of rolling on uneven terrain.