How Do Basketball Players Support Ankles?

Basketball is one of those sports that involves quick lateral movements, jumps, and sometimes impacts. These types of motion can often put a lot of pressure on your ankle joints. Many athletes want to support their ankles to protect them from injuries like sprains. How do basketball players support their ankles? In more ways than you might think!

Why Support Your Ankle?

Some sports, like basketball, can make your ankles more prone to injury. Those that require fast movements laterally, jumping and landing, and sudden blows pose a particular threat. Experts have found that basketball has a high rate of ankle injuries. Most injuries are sprains that occur when the ankle’s ligaments twist or stretch improperly.

Some basketball players wear ankle braces to prevent overstressing the joint’s ligaments. These devices offer more rigid support and allow the wearer to be more mindful of their ankle position. However, braces are not the only type of ankle support available.

How Do Basketball Players Support Ankles?

The types of support outlined below range from least supportive to most supportive.

> Ankle Sleeves. Ankle sleeves are similar to compression socks. However, typically the toes are left exposed. These sock-like sleeves are thin and flexible. Individuals who don’t want to deal with athletic tape but are looking for something less bulky than a brace will find ankle sleeves a happy medium. 

Typically, ankle sleeves are the least supportive. Made of lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics, they’re pretty breathable. Some offer padding and knit technology that restricts movement in targeted zones, increasing their support. You can effortlessly pull them on and off; and wear them inside your shoe.

The compression from an ankle sleeve promotes circulation, making them ideal for recovery.

> Tape. There are two types of tape available. Kinesio, or KT tape, is flexible and excellent at offering support. Athletic tape is more rigid and often provides support by restricting movement. Athletic tape isn’t ideal for injury prevention and is worn post-injury to prevent further irritation and promote healing.

On the other hand, KT tape is stretchy and won’t impair motion. It is an excellent choice to prevent injury and instability or if you have a recently healed injury and are newly back to playing basketball. Aside from being stretchy, it is also waterproof and loose enough to be worn for almost five days without restricting circulation.

Taping your ankle with kinesiology tape requires knowledge and practice. If taped improperly, it will fail to do its job. Ankle taping is a good idea for those who want light support with little bulk. Those who prefer not to remove and re-tape would be better suited to an ankle support device that can slip on and off.  

> Supportive Basketball Shoes. A good pair of basketball shoes can offer a lot of support. The best basketball shoes for ankle support often provide security in more than one way.

Like the Nike Kyrie, Shoes have higher sides around the heel and ankle. A high ankle cuff offers more rigidity to the joint. A broader heel and a great lockdown from the upper and laces help support a more stable base. The wide heel and the lockdown usually go hand in hand, providing a large base for a player to land on when jumping or moving laterally and minimizing foot movement.

Supportive basketball shoes are a must for anyone who plays regularly. Some basketball players choose to rely solely on their shoes. However, other athletes opt for complete support by choosing to add an ankle brace.

> Ankle Stabilizers and Braces. Ankle stabilizers, or a ankle braces, come in a wide variety of designs. Typically, they look like an ankle sleeve, covering the foot, ankle, and lower calf while exposing the toes. They are made of fabric, and some incorporate velcro straps, laces, or rigid plastic splints.

Less-structured ankle braces differ from the rigid and restrictive braces worn after injury. Active-type ankle braces provide support while not impairing an athlete’s ability to play. Often, they are lightweight and fit well inside the wearer’s shoe. Ankle braces and stabilizers are bulkier than the other supports on this list and costlier. However, they offer unsurpassable support and usually have the most extended lifespan.

Which Support Is Right for You?

It can take some trial and error to decide which level of support is best for you. Remember, each type of support can take some getting used to. Ankle braces and stabilizers commonly need to be broken in before they feel comfortable. In the end, the best ankle support is one you will wear routinely.

The next article in this series looks at whether low-top basketball shoes have ankle support, and whether there are any further risks to ankle injuries. You will see that studies are not able to make a direct correlation between injuries and low tops, so this will be an interesting read.


Written by Mark

Having researched and advised on hundreds of footwear products, I'm confident you'll find my articles insightful to the most common questions that's currently being asked online.

February 19, 2022

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