Bouldering provides a fantastic workout for pretty much every muscle in your body. Unfortunately, the sport can also take a lot out of your ankles. Complex positioning demands a lot of work and flexibility from your ankle tissues, while the lack of a safety harness increases the risk of fall damage (even at lower heights). The good news is, though, that a pair of ankle braces for bouldering can help keep you safe. And in the event of injury, help you recover.
What happens to your ankle during bouldering
To see which ankle braces are best for bouldering, let’s first take a look at what the sport demands from the joint. To put it bluntly, the ankle has to go through a LOT of movement and stretching under pressure to get into that perfect position. While this is essential to powering you through your climb, it can also put surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments at risk of tears and overuse. For example:
- A Superior Peroneal Retinaculum (SPR) tear can develop from a sprain or even poor foot positioning.
- Ankle tendonitis (in the Achilles, Tibialis Posterior, Peroneus Brevis, etc.) results from overuse.
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis (inflammation of the fluid sacks sitting behind your Achilles tendon) can also occur due to overuse.
- An ankle sprain can happen when you overstretch an ankle ligament during a climb or land badly during a fall. One study found that out of the 123 participants who developed a foot or ankle injury, 27% had recurrent ankle sprains.
- And, of course, a fracture. Even though the heights are substantially lower than in regular climbing, free climbing (especially without a mat and in tight climbing shoes) puts your ankle bones at risk.
Weak ankle muscles, unaddressed or not fully healed injuries, and insufficient foot conditioning can increase your risk of sustaining such injuries. But as we mentioned, a good ankle brace can help.
The best ankle braces for bouldering
You’ll need a brace that supports your ankle while letting you stay mobile. Hence, compression braces will be a good fit. Keep in mind that your ankle brace will also need to be made of quality materials to ensure breathability and should fit you right to provide the best support.
Sports Ankle Support
Its compression knit fabric will warm up your ankle muscles, getting them ready for climbing. It will also activate these muscles for faster oxygen and nutrient delivery and better stabilisation. With your ankle muscles warmed up and working more efficiently to protect the joint, you’ll experience less fatigue and less risk of soft tissue injuries. (Though, of course, no brace can protect you from a bone fracture). The figure 8 strap, meanwhile, offers additional support and stability.
As an added bonus, this brace is made of thin, moisture-wicking, and breathable material, meaning it will easily fit into your climbing shoes and won’t cause an uncomfortable sweat build-up.
The best ankle braces for bouldering injuries
Similarly to the Sports Ankle Support, it has a figure-8 strap for stabilising and supporting the injured joint through movement. Its medical-grade compression knit will reduce swelling common to overuse injuries and sprains, and its viscoelastic pad will help relieve pain.
Remember, re-spraining is common in bouldering. So, you need a medical-grade, perfectly fitting ankle brace to speed your recovery and support you when your GP or physio clears you for climbing.
AchilloTrain Pro Ankle Support
If you have an Achilles tendon injury, we’d recommend the AchilloTrain Pro Ankle Support. Along with medical-grade compression, it has a specially placed viscoelastic gel pad to relieve pain around the Achilles tendon.
Like the MalleoTrain Plus, you can wear it while resting at home or climbing, but again, speak to your doctor before getting back on the rocks.
MelleoLoc Ankle Splint
Designed for Grade III ruptures and ankle fractures, it will provide robust support to your healing ankle and prevent it from rolling, twisting, or buckling. The brace features anatomically contoured plastic stays and adjustable straps for the perfect fit. To ensure your comfort, it also incorporates rubberised foam lining.
Ankle braces can go far in protecting your ankles, but you should always mix them with other methods for the best results.
- Do not get bouldering shoes that are too tight. A snug fit is necessary for maximum performance, but too-tight shoes inhibit circulation and scrunch your feet up, leading to strains while climbing and potentially more fall damage as the foot cannot absorb and distribute impact as effectively.
- Practice foot positioning. Work on your form and get your ankle accustomed to climbing movements, preferably from a safe height.
- Warm up. On that note, make sure to warm up your muscles before a climb to prep them. Try doing ankle rotations, calf raises, and plantar and dorsiflexion stretches.
- Strengthen. The stronger the muscle, the more resistant it will be to fatigue, and the better it can protect the ankle’s other tissues.
To sum up
When bouldering, the best ankle braces will be the ones that are thin, breathable, and support your ankle without sacrificing mobility. When recovering from a bouldering ankle injury, you’ll need a support suited to that injury. And, of course, no matter what the brace is for, it’s always best to pick quality materials and a good fit to ensure proper support.
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.
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