The Med Spec ASO Ankle Brace is compatible with low hiking shoes and trail runners, so you can get back on the trail more quickly after a sprained ankle. While it is not as supportive as high-collared hiking boots (like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX), it does prevent ankle rolls, so you don’t re-injure the ankle. If you’re recovering from a sprained ankle, it can take months for it to feel normal again.
The human ankle is a very complex joint that integrates many different muscles and tendons that need to be trained to work together again and give you full range of motion. Wearing a brace can let you resume your favorite activities while allowing your ankle to strengthen gradually. The ASO Ankle Brace is so comfortable and innocuous, you can even wear it as a preventative measure against weak ankles if you want the ability to wear low hiking shoes or trail runners.
The ASO Ankle brace has three components:
- An interior lace-up bootie that encircles the Achilles tendon and keeps the brace centered on the foot.
- Two figure 8 stabilizing straps that stabilize the ankle but allow it to flex up and down for climbing.
- An elastic cuff to lock all the components together and prevent lateral rolls.
The lace-up bootie helps to keep the brace properly centered and aligned on your foot. It has a highly breathable air-mesh tongue that is soft and won’t irritate the top of your foot. I lace it up snuggly, but not too tight in order to keep it comfortable. The bottom of the bootie covers your foot from the Achilles tendon to the back of your foot with an opening for your heel. When lacing up the inner bootie, you want to be on the lookout for folds in the fabric that can cause discomfort inside a low hiker or trail running shoe. Pull the sides of the bootie up to make the folds disappear.
While it looks like it might trap a lot of heat and cause your feet to sweat, I’ve found the opposite even in hot and humid weather. I’ve worn the ASO Ankle brace for 10 hours at a time, hiking vigorously throughout, and have not noticed any unusual sweat production or damp socks, beyond the norm. The ankle brace including the inner bootie is made with a soft and slippery nylon so blisters are not a problem either. In fact, if you’re prone to heel blisters, you might want to try the ankle brace as a means to prevent them!
Figure 8 Stabilizing Straps
The lace-up bootie has long stabilizing straps on each side of the ankle that wrap around the top of your foot and then under the Achilles tendon, before attaching to velcro strips on the side of the inner Lace-up Bootie. You can experiment with how tightly you tension these. I like to pull the strap that begins on the inside of my foot and secures on the side of the ankle that rolled, tightly, because it helps prevent the roll from recurring. You don’t have to make these stabilizer straps super tight, because a moderate degree of firmness is usually sufficient.
The nice thing about this strap system is that it leaves your toes free to flex up and down, what your physical therapist calls plantar flexion and dorsiflexion. This is the movement you need to hike naturally and which is particularly important for hiking up inclines or down slopes. You can still sidehill or brake with your foot on an angle while wearing the brace, which provides extra support for your ankle while helping to prevent lateral rolls.
A top elastic cuff wraps around the upper part of the brace securing the tops of the figure 8 straps and covering the laces so they don’t come undone. It’s also secured with velcro and won’t come undone.
Fit and Care
The ankle brace will take up a little more room around the top of your hiking shoes or trail runners than a normal sock, but not much more than if you wore a liner sock under a regular hiking sock. The bottom of the ankle brace, below the ankle, will feel more normal fit-wise however. I wear fairly narrow trail runners, La Sportiva Ultra Raptors, and haven’t experienced any fit issues with the ASO brace.
When sizing the brace, use a tape measure to determine the circumference of your ankle for the best fit. You can also use your shoe size but it won’t be as precise.
The brace is made of nylon and can be washed and air-dried when it gets dirty or gross. I’ve worn mine on multi-day backpacking trips that include puddles, rain, bogs, and mud pits, and a simple rinse at the end of the day is sufficient for keeping the brace clean.
The Med Spec ASO Ankle Brace is compatible with low hiking shoes and trail runners, so you can begin hiking sooner after the swelling and pain have subsided from a sprained ankle injury. This ankle brace was recommended to me by a thru-hiking friend who used it while she was recovering from an ankle sprain. It’s also very popular with Olympic athletes and widely prescribed by physical therapists. I’ve found it easy to use to prevent a recurrence of my sprained ankle injury and while providing the range of motion required for moderate backpacking and peak bagging. While this brace has proven to be a big help in getting me back out on the trail, it’s not a cure-all for an ankle sprain. I’d still encourage you to build up your distance and speed slowly to give your ankle muscles time to reintegrate and heal and to reduce any future side effects from the original injury.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product.
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