How to strap a sprained ankle from a podiatrist who’s sprained his own ankle, many times.
Whether it’s your first or your fifth, a sprained ankle is no-ones idea of a fun time. Depending on the severity you could be back playing sports in under 10 minutes. Or, out for a long period of time. In this guide our foot and ankle experts will teach you how to strap a sprained ankle.
As with all guides on the internet, this one is general advice only.
If you’ve sprained your ankle then you really should get an expert assessment quick smart!
How To Strap A Sprained Ankle – Using Rigid Sports Tape
Step 1 – Grab your rigid sports tape
Not that elastic colourful stretchy stuff, if your ankle has sprained and “popped” you’re going to need something a bit tougher than the what you use to wrap those last minute Christmas presents.
First tape strip goes loosely around the leg, just above the ankle.
Pro tip – don’t create a tourniquet! Avoid ring barking that calf by leaving the back “open”.
Step 2 – The U Straps
Make sure your ankle is bent back up (what us professionals call dorsiflexed) as far as you can.
Start the tape on the inside of your ankle bone and wrap under your heel to the outside.
For the person looking straight on at your foot, this makes a U shape with the tape.
Keep that ankle bent back and do a couple of inside to outside, outside to inside (ankle bones) straps.
Step 3 – Deep breath, now comes the J Straps
So the U straps were easy, starting and finishing on the opposite ankle bones… The J straps are a little trickier where you start and finish on the same side.
Like step 2, keep that ankle bent back up.
Start on the inside, running the tape down under your heel but once you reach the bottom of your foot keep working the tape back up over the top of the foot so it reaches where that strap started… back on the inside ankle bone.
It does get tricky, and might take a couple of goes before you can do this without the tape twisting up all over the place.
Once you’ve done and inside to inside, now do an outside to outside strap.
And yes, keep that ankle bent back up as far as you can.
For most of us, a couple of U straps and a couple of J straps is going to keep that sprained ankle really secure and not go anywhere. Finish off with another loose strap around the top of the ankle (same as the first strap) to hold it in place.
Pop a sock on over the top and Robert’s your mother’s brother… you’re ready to go.
Another pro tip.
The tape on a strapped up sprained ankle should be tight, but not too tight. If your toes are going blue then you’ve definitely put it on too tight. Take the tape off and start again.
Oh, and another pro tip.
If you can’t weight bear on your sprained ankle that’s not a great sign for your sprain being in the “minor” category.
Before you go…
We’ve written a detailed frequently asked questions section below but before you rush off to strap your ankle, we thought this information would be too useful to miss. Many people develop stiff and tight calf muscles just before and after an ankle sprain. Find out how you can fix your tight calves (without stretching).
Sprained Ankle FAQ
Follow the instructions in the above post and your sprained ankle will be strapped up tight like a professional
The best strapping tape to use is a rigid sports tape. For most of us the 38mm tapes are easiest to strap the ankle comfortably. You do get what you pay for. The premium elastoplast products stick really well whereas the cheaper brands often do not last as long.
This gets tougher, but if you’re going to strap then using a hypoallergenic under tape is required. Our preferred hypoallergenic tape is called hypafix. Simply pop this on (following the above directions for the normal tape), then pop the normal tape on top.
Yes, but! If you do get the strapping tape wet then it really doesn’t stick well and should come off. Leaving wet tape on to dry can lead to irritation and skin damage.
Ankle braces have a few pros and cons to them. They are easy to put on and good for your (sensitive) skin. They don’t give you quite the same feedback and tightness as strapping tape however so for most of us who only need to occasionally strap a sprained ankle not quite as good.
Mild ankle sprains can be mobilised on immediately and there is no impediment in the long run. Severe ankle sprains including full thickness ligament ruptures, bone and joint damage can take years. A scary statistic is that most mild ankle sprains heal, but are not healed to the level pre-injury. This means symptoms can linger for > 5 years. You really don’t want to be one of those old blokes (it’s almost always blokes who complain) battling a niggling ankle for decades. Do the work, do it early and you’ll be right as rain.
It’s advisable because you will feel every. single. hair as you pull off the tape. But hey, if you can handle an ankle sprain you should be able to handle the tape coming off too.
Absolutely, and it’s encouraged IF, and this is the big IF, your podiatrist or physio clears you of severe damage. If you can’t weight bear or if there’s significant pain you can’t walk it out, it’s a serious injury and you need to respect it. Get assessed and get a plan. One thing we do know is that if it is safe to do so, an active recovery will get you back faster, better, stronger than rest alone.
About the Author
Melbourne podiatrist and La Trobe University clinical educator Tim Mulholland has sprained his ankle before, and will likely do it again. A life of sports and adventure is well worth the risk of an ankle sprain for Tim. And the next time Tim rolls his ankle he will know how to strap a sprained ankle as he’s done it many times before as well as written this blog.