Ankle XT BRACE
As your resident glass-ankled WearTester, I had the opportunity to test out the ankle XT BRACE these past weeks. As I crossed up others and undoubtedly got crossed myself while hounding opponents end to end, I formulated an opinion on the brace’s performance on-court, and more importantly, off-court (more on that later).
XT BRACE was created by U.S. Intelligence Officers to address a problem with sustaining sprained knees and ankles while deployed in remote regions of the world. When working in rugged terrain and strenuous conditions there is little to no access or time for medical care and attention.
“One of the U.S. Intelligence Officers with a bruised shin and pain in the knee walked into a garment district of a provincial capital and bought a stretch material to make a brace. He then went across town to the local medical supply company and had a custom ice/hot pack made. Next, he took the garment to a local tailor to make a knee brace in which the gel pack would fit comfortably. The result was the construction of a specialized knee brace that could temporarily alleviate pain. Whenever there was pain, they alleviated it with their custom braces with hot and cold compression.”
Missions have to continue despite joint pain, muscle strains, and twisted ankles. To a much less serious degree, so to does your job…or your Thursday night city league games.
I had a chance to run a few games of soccer and quite a bit of basketball wearing the brace, as well as spend time both icing and heating my tender ankles after the fact. So how was the ankle brace? I’ll break it into two categories, active and recovery.
Fit: Well, it goes on easy and fast with a simple two strap system (rare for an ankle brace). It is one size fits most for both men and women and it will undoubtedly fit in every pair of shoes with the exception of the new wave of high flyknit collared models. Though I had no issues with fit, I do think small, narrower feet would not have the same compression and snug fit through the arch/midfoot where there are no straps present.
There is one wide strap just above the ankle bone and another narrower velcro strap right below at your achilles heel (you have no shot, Paris). Both of them wrap around the back and can be pulled as far as your heart desires since the velcro sticks to all of the brace’s outer material. The velcro straps and outer material allow you to manipulate and angle the straps to whatever tightness and configuration that works for you.
Support: If you have shaky, atrophied ankles without the proprioception to keep you from re-injury, the ankle XT BRACE is not for you. It is a compression brace that promotes heat retention, improved circulation and maybe a sliver of extra confidence. Do not expect this brace to keep your ankles locked up and safe when you land on someone’s foot on your Euro-step.
It’s primary function is to support your recovery process and healing. If you really tighten up the straps it will provide some support to the ankle. I found it performed very well on the soccer field, where ankle injuries are less common, in regards to comfort and not affecting my trapping and kicking.
Comfort: The brace is superbly comfortable, on and off court, I hardly knew it was there. Though the outside is a rougher material to allow the velcro to stick, the inside is a smooth neoprene. I could have worn toe socks and would not have experienced any abrasion or discomfort. This is especially nice in the recovery role when you are barefooted in some slides or in your house with the gel pack ice cold and inserted for recovery….which brings me to perhaps the best part of the XT BRACE and the reason the product was originally conceived….
We’ve all heard it from our physical therapist, doctor, significant other, teammates, coaches, trainers, etc. — ice that ankle! 20 minutes on and off! R.I.C.E.! I could go on, but we all know it’s not easy to stop everything and carefully balance that bag of frozen peas on your ankle for a half hour. This is where the ankle XT BRACE steps into the spotlight.
The product includes a custom, butterfly shaped nylon gel pack that can either be frozen or heated for maintenance and recovery. The gel pack slides into place in a barely noticeable polyester pouch on the inside of the brace. You don’t know the pocket is there when you’re actively using the brace, but you are SO thankful for it once it’s time to ice. The gel pack forms perfectly around your outer ankle and midfoot. The thin polyester pocket material takes away any freezer burn feeling and allows you to through the brace on barefoot at whatever tightness you desire.
I tweaked my ankle during the testing process when I landed on a foot on a rebound in traffic and the XT BRACE icing system suddenly became a necessity. It was only a minor tweak, but I was able to get multiple sessions icing my ankle morning and night as I continued to function normally throughout my apartment. I wasn’t bound to balancing frozen broccoli on just the right spot on my ankle. When the gel pack went warm (usually after about 30 minutes), I threw it in the freezer and left the brace on, ready to throw it right back in for another 20-30 minute session.
The Gel pack fitting into the polyester pocket without the straps tightened.
It will fit you, it will be comfortable, it will provide a little bit of support and compression, and it absolutely will facilitate better icing and heating treatments to your ankle. The ankle XT BRACE is a very well made product with a niche capability. The brace retails at $25 USD and can be found at Cabela’s, Rogue Fitness, and on their website, here: http://www.xtbrace.com/products/ankle-xt-brace-with-hotcold-gel-pack
The great minds behind the company told me that another design is in the works that will incorporate a pocket and gel pack to ice around the back of the ankle/achilles/heel. They also have products with the same type of construction and functionality for the thigh, knee, elbow, wrist, and calf on their website. So if you have other nagging joints and muscles, you may want to consider XT BRACE to help manage pain.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments below or tweets @SoleEngineer. Thank you for reading!