The athletic leaps and quick reaction times of volleyball are one of the most exciting features of the game. As a competitive volleyball player, I loved jumping high to block or drive a ball over the net. Unfortunately, frequent intense jumps and landings can have negative consequences for your ankles.
As a player, I found that ankle braces reduced the injuries I experienced and gave me a greater sense of security. As a doctor, I recommend ankle braces to my patients to reduce injury and reinjury of ankles.
Braces are one of my primary recommendations to help patients recover from common volleyball ankle injuries. Naturally, the next question is, what is the best ankle brace for volleyball?
These are the ankle braces that I recommend to my patients based on my 10 years of experience in sports medicine.
What to look for in an ankle brace
- Support. The primary goal of an ankle brace is to support your ankle. Your brace should keep your ankle from moving from side to side but allow it to move backward and forward naturally. If you want more mobility, you may choose an ankle brace with slightly less support.
- Compression. If you are recovering, you probably want a brace that keeps your ankles from swelling and keeps blood flowing as well as providing support.
- Breathability. You need a brace that lets your feet breathe while you’re in the game. If your brace offers cool breathability, you’ll be much more likely to be willing to wear it.
- Easy on and off. Some products provide great support, but take a significant amount of time to lace up and strap on. If you know that you’ll be annoyed by the delay, look for a brace that goes on and comes off quickly.
- Shoe fit. Some braces easily fit under almost all shoes, while others may be more bulky and require you to wear a particular type of shoe. Consider the shoes that you’ll be wearing with your braces.
- Weight. Heavier braces may make it harder for you to jump or move as quickly.
- Comfort. The last thing that you need is a brace that gives you a blister or sore. Choose a brace with few pinch points and make sure thick socks provide enough comfort.
What is the best ankle brace?
Each player has different needs from their ankle brace. Volleyball players recovering from ankle sprains have different needs than those trying to protect themselves from re-injury or worried about hurting themselves again.
Best ankle brace if you want serious support
If you are recovering from a recent ankle sprain or are still working on building your ankle strength, this brace might be the one for you. One study found that the Active Ankle Brace offered more dynamic stability when volunteers were landing compared to the Swede-O Universal lace-up ankle brace or no brace.
Best easy lightweight ankle brace
Sometimes the best volleyball ankle braces are the ones that you will actually wear. The POWERLIX Ankle Brace Compression Support Sleevehas a quick, easy-on design that may make you more likely to use it– for every game and practice.
Best braces for standard support
The Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer is a great brace for volleyball that offer good support and fit easily into your routine. These are some of the best braces that you’ll find for balancing support, comfort, and mobility.
Active Ankle T2 Ankle Brace
These are among the best volleyball ankle braces for preventing injury. This brace has rigid protection that is doctor recommended and study-suggested for avoiding injuries during volleyball. This brace prevented more injuries than another brace or not wearing a brace.
- Rigid brace offering the most solid ankle support
- Volleyball proven with studies supporting its effectiveness
- Lightweight design with a sleek frame
This brace is fast and easy to put on, but it offers outstanding support for volleyball players. These braces are durable and can handle the impact of competitive play. These are also excellent ankle braces when you need to recover from an injury.
- Adjustable to work well for either low-top or high-top shoes
- Fits either your left or right foot
- Custom-molded EVA padding to hug the contours of your ankles
- Full range of motion provided by anatomical bilateral hinge
- Fairly expensive, especially if you need two
- Doesn’t work with all types of shoes
- Some people find that they begin to squeak with extensive use
Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer
These are awesome ankle braces for everyday wear or during a recovery process. They allow your feet to move freely up and down, but provide fairly rigid support to keep your ankles from moving from side to side. A low profile helps these braces to blend in with your shoes.
- Stabilizing straps and laces to provide strong protection against ankle sprains
- Sturdy cuff makes laces and hook and loop fastening less likely to come undone
- Machine wash on the gentle cycle
This brace costs a bit more than similar braces, but if you want an everyday brace that you can toss in the washing machine, you may love this option. For those who have trouble with braces coming undone, you’ll cherish the cuff that keeps both laces and hook and loop fastenings in place.
- Figure-eight stabilizing straps protect and support the ankle from every direction
- Nylon boot for extra strength and durability
- Made in the US with high standards for quality control
- Low profile that looks discrete with most shoes
- Err on the side of smaller size if you’re unsure, as they tend to be big on some people
- Heel area is tight in some shoes
- A bit pricey compared to similar competition
Zenith Ankle Brace, Lace Up Adjustable Support
This brace provides a lot of support and outstanding adjustability that allows you to customize the fit to your needs. Reinforced laces and durable hook and loop fastening provide two ways to balance ankle protection, comfort level, and mobility.
- Lace-up brace with stabilizing strap offers a lot of support without sacrificing significant mobility
- Breathable nylon and neoprene construction
- Contoured side straps keep your foot immobilized while permitting you to walk, run, jump, and maneuver freely.
This is a great brace for those who don’t want quite as much rigidity as a solid brace but need more support than some soft braces have to offer. Protection from contoured side straps keep your ankle from twisting side to side while retaining full forward and backward motion.
- Customizable level of support, thanks to the 360-degree figure 8 straps
- Made of high-quality fabrics and seams are double stitched, so these braces will last for years
- Replacement or full refund if you’re not satisfied
- This is a wide brace may be too wide for some people’s feet
- Takes a little bit of time to put on and take off
- Pinch points, so wear them with longer socks
Ankle Support Brace, Breathable Neoprene Sleeve, Adjustable Wrap
Do you want good support without compromising on flexibility or paying a fortune? These quality braces made out of highly breathable neoprene material. They’re great for everyday wear and for frequent volleyball practice and they also offer some compression.
- One size for feet up to 11″ arch circumference
- Open heel design to provide support and freedom of movement
- Designed to be flexible enough to provide for a full range of motion
- Velcro closure is easy for most people to put on
This might be a great choice for those who want a little more flexibility in their ankle brace. This brace offers decent support, is easy to put on, and maintains ankle mobility.
- Affordable enough that you get a few dirty and still have a few in your drawer.
- Neoprene is breathable and prevents skin irritation.
- Fully hand washable and retains flexibility
- May wear out fairly quickly with frequent use
- Not supportive enough for some people who want a firmer brace
POWERLIX Ankle Brace Compression Support Sleeve
This pullover ankle brace is a fast, no-hassle way to provide protection and therapeutic compression. If you want something that is as sleek and low-profile as possible while still providing decent support, this ankle brace is hard to beat.
- Even compression across your ankle joint to relieve pain effectively
- Offers light support to retain mobility
- Designed to work with any type of shoe
For athletes who are recovering from injuries, compression is an important fearure of an ankle brace. Good compression can be especially important for pain control, circulation and to minimize swelling. This sock gives excellent compression and some stability in a comfortable design that you won’t mind wearing all the time.
- Breathable compression fabric keeps body heat from building up in your feet
- Absorbs sweat to keep your feet dry and give you grip
- Very quick and easy slip-on design
- Double silicone gel material to keep the sock in place no matter how active you are
- Doesn’t offer enough support for many volleyball players
- Fabric is heavier than some people would prefer
- Blue color draws a lot of attention to itself
Should volleyball players wear ankle braces?
Volleyball players are susceptible to ankle injuries. Ankle injuries were the most common body parts injured in several sports, including volleyball. Ankle braces may be an effective defense against ankle injury. However, not every volleyball player chooses to wear ankle braces. There is some debate about whether volleyball teams should wear braces consistently or not.
What are ankle braces used for in volleyball?
Historically, volleyball players have been more likely to wear ankle braces if:
- They’ve had a previous injury. Wearing an ankle brace after the first injury makes it less likely that another sprain will occur.
- There is a higher risk of an ankle injury. Athletes with “loose ankles” may be more prone to spraining their ankles.
- They take risks. Volleyball players who tend to jump, block and spike at the net are more likely to land on other players and injure ankles, so such players may be more likely to wear braces.
Pros and cons of ankle braces for volleyball
There is a strong argument to be made that ankle braces are sufficiently effective at preventing injury that all players would wear them during practice and at games. However, anke braces can impair performance. Some coaches and players recommend that only players who have a particular need for ankle support should wear ankle braces. These are the pros and cons of ankle braces.
- Significantly more study participants who didn’t wear ankle braces were injured compared to those who wore braces. The study authors recommend that ankle braces be worn consistently.
- High school volleyball players who had not previously injured their ankles suffered fewer ankle injuries when they wore ankle braces.
- Female collegiate volleyball players injured their ankles less often than their peers when they wore ankle braces.
- Professional volleyball players found a reduced injury rate when they wore ankle braces.
- Volunteers were studied landing on a surface with one foot after exerting themselves. It was found that those wearing ankle braces stabilized themselves faster, making them ready to act again faster.
- Less mobility. Wearing ankle braces may make you less able to move quickly and adapt your movements as you move.
- Possibility of increased risk to the knee. Some research has suggested that wearing ankle braces causes you to land differently, which may or may not affect your knees.
- Lower jump. Wearing braces may slightly lower your overall jump height, which can make a big difference in a sport where every inch matters.
- Weak ankles. If you wear ankle braces all the time your ankles may become weak and more prone to sprain. Make sure to use braces for the shortest duration possible and perform ankle rehabilitation exercises regularly.
Ankle Support FAQ
How do you strengthen your ankles for volleyball?
- Alphabet. While sitting, lift your leg into the air and draw the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Then, do it with the other leg as well.
- Rolls. While sitting, lift your leg into the air and roll your ankle clockwise. Make several small, medium, and large circles. Now do it counterclockwise. Switch legs and do it again.
- Toe touch. Stand on one leg. Squat down and touch your toe with the opposite hand. Switch legs. Repeat several times as you are able.
- Tension band. Sit on a bench with your right leg extended so that your ankle and foot are hanging off the bench. Loop the band around the arch of your foot. Hold the ends of the bands with both hands and pull with the left hand so that your ankle stretches to the left. Switch sides.
Do liberos wear ankle braces?
Liberos hold a unique position specializing in defensive skills. Not surprisingly, they have particular considerations in choosing to wear ankle braces as well.
- Jumping. Since liberos can’t attack a ball above net height, they may not jump as high as often. This means that they may be less at risk of injury. They may also be less likely to be negatively affected by the possibility of jump height impairment.
- Because liberos are so mobile on the court, they may be more likely to have ankle injuries sliding back and forth across the court or diving for a ball. Ankle braces may reduce speed and mobility somewhat.
In the end, every libero needs to make their own decisions about whether braces would benefit them or not.
How much are ankle braces for volleyball?
Ankle braces for volleyball range from around $10 to $35, depending on the type of brace and the features that are offered. It is important to remember that braces are often sold individually, so you may need to buy two.
If you play often or want to wear the brace during times when you’re not playing, you may want to purchase more than one or two pairs so that a clean one is available when you need it.
Some products wear out faster than others. Durability varies depending on how often you use the braces, how often they’re washed, and other factors. Remember that you may need to replace your braces regularly.