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Discussion: Ankle taping or braces

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

May 9, 2018 10:32 PM # 
I am quite new to orienteering and I was surprised I saw a race bulletin mentioning that the race is in a rocky terrain amd ankle taping is almost compulsory to avoid injuries.
I have not used any protection so far but it is true I have experienced twice a small ankle roll with no consequencies (I wear well cushioned big shoes which are good for my knees but not for the ankles..).
My question is: Should I wear ankle braces like active ankles in this type of races or maybe most of the races for protection even though I have no injury? Is taping or a lace brace a better idea?

I have also read that ankle support may weaken your muscles/ligaments long term but I also do stabilizing exercises and core training at the gym which should also help.
Thanks for your views/experience in advance.
May 9, 2018 11:33 PM # 
/I'm not a doctor or coach, but have talked to them following a bad sprain/

Braces/taping are largely for support after injury, to get you back in the woods if you have sustained a sprain or break. If you are doing ankle strengthening I don't think they would provide anything more, except perhaps extra confidence.
May 10, 2018 12:32 AM # 
I wear ankle braces every time I run off road, specifically the Active Ankle T2 and I wear them on both ankles. I do this to PREVENT a sprain. The velcro on the brace won't hold up to orienteering so I use two wraps of duct tape to keep it tight. I also remove the little strap that goes behind the leg (it just gives me blisters) as well as the pad on the bottom. I do not wear the braces for trail running.

I did ankle strengthening exercises for years but, I would still sprain my ankle if I didn't tape (before the ankle brace era). As for braces, the lace up kind and the elastic kind are inferior to taping or active ankle. Though, depending on how bad the twist, they may provide enough protection.

If you've been running in rocky terrain and your ankles are used to the twists without spraining, than you probably don't need anything. But, if your ankles aren't used to that terrain, I think you should use a brace or tape.
May 10, 2018 1:01 AM # 
Work in some ankle stretching in to your warm up routine. A football coach way back in the middle of the last century had our team doing an exercise he called pre-spraining. After rolling the ankle around a bit he would have us walk 2x25 yards (22m) walking on the outside of our feet. He called it pre-spraining the ankle.
When I started orienteering I incorporated the rolling and the pre-sprain in to my warm up routine. 49 years later after orienteering in all kinds of terrain still no serious ankle sprains. Yes, I sometimes go over on the ankle but -touch wood- so far I've always been able to 'run it off'.
As they say 28 gms of prevention is worth .45 kg of cure.
May 10, 2018 1:21 AM # 
It all depends on your ankles. Some people have ankles of iron, some of glass, some of rubber...
May 10, 2018 1:35 AM # 
It might be worth taping or wrapping to prevent I'm this first exposure to rocky terrain. For developing ankles (and all else that's involved in crossing rough terrain), I found that slower than race pace in terrain was a way to develop ability to run over rough terrain while still having enough reaction time to avoid ankle sprains. I'd also suggest looking up Feldenkrais lessons to improve your self use in running over rough surfaces, by improving your use of all joints.
May 10, 2018 3:28 AM # 
Wobble board.

jj is right, you need to find out what sort of ankles you've got - and the way to do that is . . . go orienteering!
May 10, 2018 8:17 AM # 
+1 jj - if you've got no ankle ligaments left... or there's more scar tissue than anything else...
I use active ankle braces for convenience (the velcro bits work just fine for me. The most important part I've found is making sure you use the shoelace loop).

I often switch to tape for major races where I want to feel faster or lighter on my feet (I realise this is mostly psychological).

I have, however managed to sprain my ankles multiple times while taped (it stretches each time you need it to catch you). My record for abandoning a course with fully taped ankles is 12 minutes and a hobble back to the start. I've never done this with the braces, so if an area is super-rocky...

That said, other people orienteer for decades and never hurt their ankles. If you have no history of injury, I wouldn't tape or brace.
May 10, 2018 2:22 PM # 
" If you have no history of injury, I wouldn't tape or brace."

I second this as a bottom line, and much of above as well.
May 11, 2018 12:58 AM # 
I have twisted both of my ankles quite badly while orienteering, and it has taken ~6 months for them to heal fully. I now tape my ankles for all races, and it has drastically reduced my rate of injury - I have still managed to twist them, but not nearly as catastrophically.

I have tried a number of braces and all of them have resulted in giving me blisters, or chaffing, while I dont seem to have nearly as many issues with tape.

If you have strong ankles and haven't twisted them, I'd say your better off not wearing anything, but at some point all the ankle exercises in the world don't seem to be enough for those of us with weak ankles.
May 11, 2018 2:11 AM # 
Discover whether you have any allergic reaction to tape.
May 12, 2018 1:25 AM # 
All athletic tape is not the same. I was stuck with some bad athletic tape once and as I started sweating, the tape would loose it's bond. Usually though, that it not the case.

I do think I get more support out of tape than my active ankles but, the braces are good enough, cheaper in the long run, and they are quicker to put on. Plus, I don't have to shave my ankle & lower leg.
May 12, 2018 1:56 AM # 
As a frequent ankle turner, I have found taping and elastic braces to be next to useless. With Active Ankle I have experienced no turns in the past 15 years. In that time I have stepped into some pretty big holes. BTW, the same pair has lasted all these years and is still in fine shape.
May 12, 2018 7:25 AM # 
I managed ok without ankle support for my first several years of orienteering, much of which was in very rocky terrain. But after a while I gradually began to twist my ankles more and more frequently, and more severely. Once you overstretch those ligaments and tendons, they're never the same again.

So for a number of years I used AirCasts every time I went running off-trail, and sometimes on-trail too, especially if rocky. It pretty much stopped the twisting but I was constantly battling chafing and blisters. I tried Active Ankles briefly too but didn't find them better than the Air Casts. This was 30 years ago, they may have changed significantly.

I also tried taping but it used up a *lot* of time and tape, and it didn't protect very well.

Finally 15 years ago I learned of the existence of VJ High Top Integrator shoes. (The Integrator also comes in a regular low-top shoe, so asking for "Integrator" is not enough to get the High Tops.) They have saved the day for me and made orienteering enjoyable again. They are almost as quick to put on as a regular shoe, way faster than taping, and not fussy to adjust like the ankle braces. They do weigh a several more ounces than a regular shoe, and a little less flexibility in foot movement (but that's the whole point, isn't it?) that perhaps costs a tiny bit in extra effort to run. I've never had any chafing problems.

But for me, the slight penalties of weight and freedom of movement are trivial in comparison to the peace of mind. I used to live in fear with every step of that sharp pain and hobbling that is the result of an ankle twist, especially when running in rocky terrain, or while looking at the map on the run, or when the footing is obscured by tall grass or lowbush blueberries or similar vegetation. Now I run fearlessly in all those situations. It really has been almost miraculous for me.

Those shoes aren't cheap. But then what good shoes are. I've paid between $100 and $200 a pair over the years for the several I've bought, usually about in the middle of that range. It may actually be cheaper to buy them in North America than in Europe: the shipping may be cheaper (assuming your O-supplier is ordering a batch of shoes and not just the one pair for you) than the taxes in Europe.

Another problem is that the O-suppliers in North America generally don't stock them so you can't try them on to get the size right. But it turns out not to be an issue, because the regular Integrator is built on the same last, and your O-supplier probably stocks those, so try them on for size before you order the high tops. You will then have to wait several weeks to several months depending on your O-supplier's ordering cycle.

More power to those who don't need this level of ankle protection. But for those who do, the high-tops are by far the best solution, at least for me.
May 12, 2018 12:13 PM # 
Beware of plantar fasciitis if you get poorly fitting shoes (as the high tops were for me).

Better to strengthen ankles regularly to avoid injury.
May 13, 2018 5:01 PM # 
Thanks everyone for the answers, these are really helpful !
I did the race without injury but at some points (especially at the end with fatigue) I did not step right several times but I just recovered balance.
I will continue with the core exercises (I do CXworx) and ankle strengthening of the peroneal muscles with Compex(explosive strength) on ankle + Wobble cushion/Bosu at the same time. (I found this on the internet and it looks really helpful).
If still one sprain happens I will probably go for Active Ankles or VJ High integrator, although for the latter I tried VJ Irock and I need a more cushioned shoe for my knees.
Thanks everyone for your help.
May 13, 2018 11:26 PM # 
I find that snake oil is just the thing to prevent chafing.

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