Ankle injuries are not just a temporary stop to an active life, whether they occur when walking, hiking, or running. They can be quite difficult to deal with, painful and uncomfortable. In the case of a sprained ankle, there are several degrees of severity and it needs to be taken seriously, with the relevant amount of care.
Can compressions socks help with a sprained ankle and what should you do to maximize your recovery from such an injury? Thanks to the pressure they apply to the affected area, compression socks can be a great tool for recovery. They are part of the four elements of recovery RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and can be your partner even beyond recovering from a sprained ankle.
To see how compression socks work on a sprained ankle, we will cover:
- What ankle sprains are;
- How compression is part of the recovery from ankle sprains;
- The benefits of compression socks in particular;
- How to use compression socks when recovering from an injured ankle;
- How to choose the best socks for you.
Understanding Ankle Sprains
Sprained ankles occur when you roll, twist or turn your ankle in an awkward way. This can happen during physical activity, but sometimes occurs during nothing special at all, even upon getting out of bed and taking your first steps in the morning. The strained movement can cause your ligaments to stretch or even tear, which then leads to the sprained ankle feeling.
What’s a sprained ankle, then? Essentially, when the ligaments are forced beyond a normal range of motion, that is when you get a sprained ankle. It’s mostly the case with the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle.
When you have a sprained ankle, you will feel pain and discomfort in and around the ankle area. You may also see it swell up or bruise, depending on the severity of the injury. If the ankle hurts when you touch it, feels unstable or like you cannot move freely, that is also a symptom. Finally, in some cases, there could be a popping sensation or you could hear a sound at the time of injury.
There are a few circumstances to be aware of that can present a higher risk of getting a sprained ankle (although, as discussed, this can occur suddenly, as well):
- A fall;
- Jumping or pivoting and landing awkwardly;
- Walking or exercising on uneven surfaces, off road, or in the mountains;
- If someone else steps on your foot during physical activity, like for example during a basketball game.
Finally, it’s worth highlighting that there are steps you can take to prevent ankle sprains in general. Starting with warming up properly before exercise and maintaining good overall physical condition, these include:
- Using an ankle support brace or tape on an ankle that’s known to have been previously injured or that’s particularly sensitive;
- Wearing the right shoes for the activity you’re doing;
- Avoiding high-heeled shoes;
- Avoiding sports that you’re not trained appropriately for;
- Maintaining good stability and strength overall, as well as muscle flexibility.
Can Compression Socks Help with Ankle Sprains?
Once an ankle sprain has occurred, traditional recovery follows a method with a well-known acronym, RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Depending on the severity of your ankle sprain you should rest for 24 to 48 hours immediately following the injury, the adapting to how the ankle feels. Typically, a moderate sprain is fine to walk on, but more serious ones should be kept free of weight for longer.
Icing the affected area helps the inflammation reduce and can take away some of the pain. Experts recommend icing for 20 minutes at a time every four hours, but you have to be careful not to overdo it as this can cause tissue damage.
Elastic medical bandages are used frequently to wrap a sprain, reducing the swelling and any internal bleeding if that has occurred. This is where compression socks come in: by being a lot easier to wear and use than medical bandages, their graduated compression also prevents us from over-compressing an injury.
For the first 72 hours after an injury, your ankle should be elevated above your heart as much as you can. This prevents swelling and more pain, allowing the blood to flow better – another element that compression socks also help with.
Following the RICE acronym, therefore, shows as that compression socks are ideal in the case of ankle sprains and offer an easier and more comfortable way to ensure compression on the injury and to support adequate blood flow in the lower limbs, too.
The Benefits of Compression Socks for Ankle Injuries
Thanks to the ease of use, comfort levels and specific action on the ankle area, compression socks present a lot of advantages in the case of recovery from ankle injuries. They are not only a handy garment that delivers the compression required, but they’re also stylish, can offer additional benefits, and don’t need to stop being used after a certain period of time.
Here are some benefits of using compression socks for ankle injuries:
- They are easy to put on and wear for a longer stretch of time, without side effects and discomfort;
- Compression socks come in a wide range of pressure levels, adapted for running or hiking, and can continue to be worn after the initial injury. In fact, they can prevent other injuries in the future as they maintain a good ankle position and adequate blood flow in the lower limbs;
- Unlike medical bandages that need to be changed and also applied correctly, compression socks are put on just like normal pairs of socks and don’t need to be removed after a specific length of time;
- Good-quality compression socks provide welcome relief from pain and swelling immediately upon wearing them;
- The stylish ranges available make them a welcome accessory and one that blends in with what you wear, without making it obvious that you have an injury.
If you need more guidance on how to put on compression socks, check out the video below:
Finally, keep in mind that compression garments come in several other shapes, too. Some patients prefer ankle sleeves or compression stockings, which all offer the same benefits, but with their own specificities (for example, ankle sleeves will not extend to the foot, so you won’t get the full cover of your lower limbs).
How to Use Compression Socks for a Sprained Ankle
When you have an ankle injury, the use of compression socks as part of your recovery is relatively simple. Firstly, if you have never used compression socks before, consult a how-to guide about how to wear them and how to choose the best ones for you. For a severe sprain, we recommend consulting with your doctor before deciding on what type of compression you should resort to.
If you have been cleared to wear compression socks, we suggest starting with a lower level of pressure, 15-20 mm Hg, and seeing how they feel on your injured ankle. This level of compression can be worn all day without problems, but see how comfortable you are and how long you can withstand them. It might be better to wear them for a few hours at a time, then give your ankles a rest.
As you recover and go back to physical activity, using compression socks during your first walks or runs back will help keep the swelling from coming back and will give your ankle a little bit of extra protection and proper positioning. In the longer term, continuing to wear compression socks adapted to your sport may be really beneficial, as they continue to support your circulation and protect you from new sprains. You can even enjoy other benefits, like from merino wool socks that wick away sweat and provide excellent temperature adaptation.
Choosing the Best Compression Socks for Sprained Ankle Recovery
Coming back from a sprained ankle can take time and requires patience and care, especially if you’ve undergone a more severe injury. You should always ensure a gradual return, as your ankle ligaments will take time to rebuild strength and flexibility, but with adequate training and wearing compression socks for extra protection, this should come in time.
To choose the best compression socks that suit your lifestyle, your activities and your overall fashion sense, check out our collection and read more about why compression socks are so great for people who spend a lot of time on their feet, whether active or sedentary otherwise. Always make sure you buy the right size for you, try out a pair a few times before committing to a long hike or run in it, and consult with a doctor if you have any questions or concerns.