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—Ed Archuleta, Mancos, CO
This article appeared in our October 2008 issue.
First, let’s talk preventive measures: As odd as it sounds, you should do hip, glute and leg-strengthening exercises to avoid ankle sprains. Try basic lunges and squats. The stronger you are above the ankle, the better you’ll be at avoiding a potential sprain. Also, perform daily core-strengthening and balance exercises. To keep it simple, you can balance on one foot whenever you put on shorts or socks. And get in your quota of abdominal crunches too. Pssst … Coach brushes her teeth in the evening while standing on one foot on a balance board. Really.
Once you have the strength and ability to respond “up top,” use it! When you approach a rocky section or fast downhill, tighten your abs by literally sucking in your stomach and pulling up through your ribs. With those muscles now in coiled-spring mode, you’ll be able to respond quickly and shift your weight to the other foot if you start to roll your ankle.
Regarding braces, years ago, Coach discovered an ankle-support product from Stromgren Supports (www.stromgren.com, model #355) that works partly because it mimics athletic taping. This “Stirrup Lock” support has a double-strapping system that crisscrosses the ankle and wraps around it from both directions. Other companies, such as Mueller Sports Medicine, offer similar products. Forget elastic sleeves and one-strap wraps (useless) or lace-ups (too bulky for running). It’s also important to wean yourself off the brace so your body doesn’t become too reliant on the support. Taping is also an option if you do it correctly (a bit tricky), want to spend the extra time each workout and don’t mind buying all that tape.