The ankle is among the joints in our bodies that are subjected to the most strain. It is critically involved in every single step, taking on a variety of important tasks and bearing the complete body weight. It links the foot to the lower leg, enabling us to take stairs, jog or climb mountains. To do that, it needs to be stable, able to bear weight and agile at the same time. Since it is made up of many delicate components and at the same time needs to resist extreme amounts of strain, it is unsurprisingly prone to injury. Find out here which conditions and injuries are common, how they are treated and what you can do to support your ankles’ health.
The most common ankle injuiries and conditions at a glance
Structure of the ankle joint
It is what gets us from A to B every day, but still, most of us hardly know anything about its anatomy. How is the ankle joint structured? First of all, the ankle is made up of two major joints: the upper ankle (1) and the lower ankle (2). The upper ankle connects the talus bone with the shin (3) and calf bones (4). Its function is similar to that of a hinge, allowing you to lift and lower your foot. The lower ankle joint allows you to move your foot to the side and twist it towards the inside and the outside.
The ends of the bones are covered by cartilage. This reduces friction and absorbs shocks. As the ankle conjoins several bones, it needs muscles and multiple tendons and ligaments to keep it together and stabilize it.
What to do about ankle pain?
Ankle pain can have many different causes: ankle injuries are common because of the high strain the joint is subjected to. For football players, they are almost part of their routine, but a moment of inattention when doing housework or wearing high heels can also be enough to slip and twist your ankle. The result is often a sprained or even torn ligament. That is why you should absolutely see a physician if you experience acute pain. Apart from pain caused by an immediate injury, inflammatory and degenerative conditions such as arthritis or osteoarthritis of the ankle can be the cause of problems. If you suspect any of these conditions, you should also consult your physician.
Depending on the type and severity of the injury or condition, your physician will prescribe targeted treatment. Generally, cooling, resting and elevating the injured ankle helps alleviate the pain. Ankle supports are also very helpful. They accelerate the reduction of edemas and stabilize the joint.
Ankle supports – everything you need to know:
Choosing the right support or orthosis depends on the particular problem. While a support is suitable in the case of bruising or sprains, an orthosis is advisable for more severe injuries. Ideally, you should talk to your physician or an expert at the medical supply retailer, who can advise you on what form of treatment will work best for your situation.
Although supports and orthoses are available online nowadays, you should still seek advice before buying one (from your physician for example). An expert at the medical supply retailer can also advise you on which model is best suited to your symptoms and can help you find the right size. They can also show you how to put on the support/orthosis and answer any other questions you may have.
there is a medical reason for using a support or orthosis, your physician can write you a prescription. In this case, your medical insurance will then cover most of the costs. You will only have to pay a small up-front payment – the amount will depend on the model you choose.
Of course, you can also purchase a support or orthosis without a prescription, but you will have to pay the full price yourself in this case.
A good support is shaped to perfectly fit the anatomical contours of the foot. If you look at your ankles, you will notice that the inner and outer parts have different shapes. Ankle supports from Bauerfeind take this difference into account in order to provide optimum support to the individual structures of the ankle. For this reason, you should only wear the support on the side it is designed for – not on the other side.
Generally speaking, supports can be worn in any shoes, from lightweight sandals through to sports or work shoes. There is no need for special shoes. You simply need to make sure that there is no constriction in the region of the integrated pressure pads. In any case, it is advisable to try out your shoe with the support before going on long walks or practicing sports. If you require an orthosis following an ankle injury, it is recommended that you wear a sturdy shoe. This combination will provide the optimum level of effectiveness and stability.
We advise that you never wear supports over clothing. The additional material can lead to chafing and will also prevent the support from doing its job properly. Direct contact with the skin is the only way to achieve the proprioceptive effect that creates additional stability in the joint. This is also the case for the sensorimotor function, which can only be activated and trained in this way. In addition, wearing clothing beneath the support will impair the function of specific elements that work to relieve strain, compress the joint, or provide a massaging effect, which is why it should never be done.
For orthoses, however, it is generally recommended to wear a stocking underneath the product.
Unlike orthoses, which restrict or prevent certain movements of the ankle, supports primarily serve to provide stability during activity. This is also where the term “active support” comes from: the full effect of these supports is only experienced during movement, for example the massage function or intermittent compression. Therefore, you can give your ankle a bit of freedom overnight and take the support off for sleeping or long periods of rest.
Tips for healthy ankles
There are a number of measures you can take to prevent ankle problems in the first place. As with all joints, regular activity is beneficial. This promotes the production of enough synovial fluid in the joint. To prevent pain and injuries, stabilizing the joint is also important. Here, targeted exercise helps strengthen the ligaments and muscles, reducing the risk of twisting your ankle. One exercise that you can easily integrate into your daily routine is tiptoeing.
It is also beneficial to walk barefoot as often as possible. By doing so, you don’t only strengthen the muscles in your calf and foot, but also your sensory perception, which in turn improves your balance. If you’re planning a longer hike, you can wear supports to stabilize your ankles and minimize the risk of injury.