Back in the 80′s my basketball coach required us to wrap our ankles. The previous years squad been decimated due to a stream of ankle injuries and Coach Clark would not allow this to happen again. Some years later it become common practice for top basketball programs to require all players to use some sort of ankle protection. I suppose growing up in Canada where the sports we played all required special gear, (ie helmet, stick, pads and skates = hockey) a little ankle wrapping was a minor inconvenience. Back then, we used cotton strips that were wrapped around the ankle and then taped or clipped into place. It took some extra time in the locker room, but that year our ankle injuries were reduced to zero.

In the early 90’s a new way to secure your ankle was introduced: the lace-up ankle brace. The big “advancement” was basically a corset for your ankle. It promised to be easier than taping or wrapping, and the basic design still stands as the basis for the modern ankle brace. As an early victim of ankles sprains I tried out a few of the early ankle braces only to be repeatedly disappointed. The early ankle braces were rigid and the seams had sharp edges. These edges would cut into your shoes or even worse the skin of your feet. Not a good experience, and with the limited support and the sharp pains I quickly went back to wrapping my ankles. After more than 20 years of development I’m happy to report that the technology behind the ankle brace has improved significantly. Materials have gotten lighter, the braces fit and support better and they even allow a satisfactory and in some cases, a surprising range of movement. I can recommend the top ankle braces in this review as a good alternative to ankle wrapping and an viable alternative to all but the most professional of tapping jobs.

At the start of this project I realized that going about this task with any sort of scientific a method would require good organization, and a core group of ankle brace testers. Luckily many of my friends are basketball players, and unluckily, we basketball players sprain our ankles. We have a nice basketball community here in Holland so I put out the word out on the court, both on the street basketball scene, indoor leagues and on the almighty Internet. The feedback came pouring in. After more than three months of running around with a bag of braces and gathering over 100 individual reviews I’ve come up with this comprehensive report.

For a brace to be included in this report I’ve required a minimum of 10 independent reports to qualify. Some of the more popular braces received as many as twenty-five reports through the standard paper and pen report form or through our Internet feedback form. The data continues to come in. I have however been especially interested in the feedback from people who have taken up the challenge to review multiple braces. With comparison reviews I can isolate the key qualities of a brace without the bias of a high scorer or a never happy reviewer. Thanks to “Hollywood” and Benny The Human Cannon Ball”, and of course street ball legend “Jesus”, your wise words are echoed in this report fellas.

We asked the biggest manufactures with the biggest and most popular brands to join in this report. An early entry was the Pro-Tec Ankle Brace, the recent winner in our search for the best Pattellar Knee Band. One of the biggest names in ankle braces, McDavid committed and then ducked out after discovering the heavyweight competition. Chicken!! This was a disappointment, but McDavid braces are so popular we were able to include two of their braces in our review, and often in a head to head comparison with another brace from the panel. ASO stepped up confidently and immediately sent their celebrated brace into battle. The ankle brace specialty company Swede-O forwarded their complete wide range consisting of five different ankle braces and we’ve reviewed three of them here.

So here our our results. I hope this help you to select the best brace.

Pro-Tec 

This nicely padded brace is made of a lightweight and soft material. Looking like a cozy quilt wrap for your ankle, it provides basic ankle support using the most basic of form factors. Many reports complain about the thick seams of this brace, especially when compared with the new low profile designs of the other braces in our test group. As for support, this brace is good for only the lightest of ankle support duty.

McDavid #199 

This very popular brace is also of the simple lace-up variety. This brace claims a poly/vinyl mesh fabric with interwoven steel spring stays for support. Despite the simple design this brace remains quite bulky with both a lined inner and outer shell. The overall support of the brace was reported to be low, and comparable to the Pro-Tec above. Initially this brace was reported to be quite painful on initial use, with comfort only improving over time. This brace also comes in a “T” versions standing for thin, but comfort and quality complaints were also received for this model.

Swede-O X8 

This brace uses two additional “figure-8″ support straps. These are basically two straps which are wrapped around the ankle in a a figure 8 and attached on the high side of the ankle with Velcro. These straps work effectively giving significantly more support and strength to the brace and the remainder of the ankle braces reviewed by this report all use a form of this design. This brace that also includes a set of two high ankle stabilizer inserts, or stiff plastic sleeves which can be removed if not needed. For the purposes of this report the high ankle inserts have all been removed. This brace is recommended for football but not for athletes who are protecting against a high ankle injury.

Swede-O Inner Lok 8 

This lace-up brace is a great combination of comfort and easy of use. It features a lace-up design with the figure-8 straps ingeniously placed inside the brace. This makes the brace extremely easy to put on and take off. The seamless bottom (found in all of the Swede-O braces) was reported to be extremely comfortable. With thinner, less adjustable straps the overall support of the brace is slightly less than it’s other Swedo-O brothers, but good just the same. If you can accept a bit less support, then this elegant brace is for you.

McDavid #195 

This high quality and popular ankle strap is of solid construction and incorporates thick wrapping bands in the figure 8 style that are featured in the other top ankle braces. This brace is also quite bulky with it’s soft inner lining. This thickness has caused some people to complain of problems with the brace fitting into their shoes. This brace features a good solid construction of a poly/vinyl material with quality elastic touches in the heal. The inner lining of this brace deteriorates and this reported to limit the effective lifetime of the brace to a maximum of two years.

Swede-O Strap Lok 

With so many versions of their ankle brace Swede-O is bound to get it right. This ankle brace is light, thin and strong. It uses the now familiar lace-up design with figure-8 straps and a high ankle wrapping strap.  The lace up boot has numerous anchor points (9) giving the brace a highly customized fit but this does make it more difficult to remove or to put back on. The boot or shell of the brace uses a two piece design and we feel this gives this brace a slightly bigger range of motion than the ASO but with similar support. This brace is of a lighter construction so we expect this brace to last two seasons of heavy use at the most.

ASO Ankle Brace 

Bring on the champion. The ASO is just plain quality. Most people love the feel of this brace from the moment they put it on, as the quality construction and attention to detail is just extraordinary. The champion uses the figure-8 strap system with has a thick two piece upper ankle strap. When placed “head to head” the range of motion of the ASO is more limited when compared to the Swede-O Strap Lok, but then the support and quality is also better. With only 6 lace up rivets, the brace is easy to put on and take off. Made of a super high quality ballistic nylon, this brace has glowing reports of service even after 3 years of heavy use. This is the people’s champion, people who use this brace swear by it, love it, and will not use another.

.

Cost Comfort Ease of Use Looks Quality Effectiveness Overall
ASO 

Ankle Brace

€70 9.0 9.3 9.3 9.7 8.9 9.4
Swede-O 

Strap Lok

€30 8.0 8.0 7.9 8.0 8.3 8.1

McDavid

#195

€55 7.7 7.7 8.6 9.0 7.6 7.9
Swede-O
 

X8

€30 8.9 7.4 7.3 8.0 7.8 7.8
Swede-O
 

InnerLok8

€30 8.9 8.7 8.0 8.1 6.3 7.0

McDavid

#199

€38 7.0 7.4 7.7 7.7 6.6 7.0
Pro-Tec 

Ankle Brace

€25 5.2 7.4 7.9 7.6 6.6 6.6

*Combined results of at least 10 reviews for each brace

Results

The ASO ankle brace got the top scores in every category. Comfort, Easy of Use, Looks, Quality, Effectiveness and even the very subjective Overall category. The designs of the top braces, although relatively similar with a “figure-8″ or “figure-6″ strap provided the highest level of support, but the superior class of the ASO is in the details. A late charge by a thin and flexible Swede-O Stap Lok took the second place from the McDavid #195 with better Comfort, Effectiveness and the subjective Overall score. We suspect this may be due to a bit of the “devil you know” factor when placed in critical head to head comparison. The testers were impressed with the range of Swede-O Ankle Braces with their slim design and varied features, but the ASO showed it’s class early and never looked back. The ASO Ankle Brace just oozes quality, comfort and superior ankle security.  The ASO Ankle Brace is the very best ankle support and is simply worth the price.

ASO Ankle Brace

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