Ankle Taping vs. Bracing: Which is Better for Support?

If you play sports or you’re a runner, chances are you’ve had a few ankle injuries that kept you off the field for a few weeks – and maybe put you on crutches for a while.

Ankle sprains are the most common type of injury that takes a runner or athlete out of the game, but overuse injuries including tendonitis, heel pain, and stress fractures may not be far behind.

Unfortunately, a sprained ankle can cause ongoing discomfort even after healing – and it can be a source of ongoing problems.

That’s why many sports medicine doctors often recommend supporting the ankle by taping it or wearing an ankle brace during sports activity following an injury.

But, which is better – athletic ankle taping or bracing?

taped ankle runner
Ankle Taping vs. Bracing: Which is Better?

Both ankle taping and wearing an ankle brace during sports can reduce the risk of an ankle injury – but an ankle brace is generally considered the best choice for ankle joint protection.

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine compared the two forms of ankle protection by following 300 football players over a six-year period.

They found that wearing an ankle brace was twice as effective for avoiding injury as athletic ankle taping.

Taping Ankle Injuries vs. Wearing an Ankle Brace

Wearing an ankle brace has some benefits over taping an ankle. Taping is more time-consuming than putting on a brace and there’s greater room for error. If the ankle isn’t taped properly, it won’t offer enough support to reduce the risk of injury.

Once an athlete gets on the field, the ankle tape loosens up and doesn’t provide enough ankle support. According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, athletic tape loses up to 40% of its support after only ten minutes of exercise.

Ankle braces are thicker and more rigid than athletic tape, which means more support for the ankle. Ankle braces also lose some of their support after exercise, but they can be easily readjusted, which takes less time than re-taping the ankle.

The cost of an ankle brace can vary greatly depending on the material, quality, and whether the device is custom or over the counter. This may sound like a larger investment, but it’s more cost-expedient when you consider how often an ankle has to be taped, and the overall costs of possible re-injury.

The Bottom Line?

If you want to avoid an ankle injury, athletic ankle taping helps, but it’s not as effective or as cost-effective as using an ankle brace. No matter which you choose - if you’ve had an ankle sprain, give your ankle some support.

References: J. Bone Joint Surg. 44-A: 1183-1190. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: October 2000 - Volume 10 - Issue 4 - pp 291-296. Rehab Management. February 2002. “Bracing vs. Taping”