Wrapping a sprained ankle can help stabilize the joint while the ligaments heal.Share on Pinterest

A sprained ankle is actually an injury to the ligaments that support the bones in your ankle joint. To help stabilize the joint, while the ligaments heal, you may need to wrap the ankle.

There are a few different types of tapes, bandages, and braces that are effective and easy to use.

Knowing how to wrap a sprained ankle can:

  • speed your recovery
  • prevent further complications
  • eliminate the need for additional treatment

Wrapping an ankle too tightly can restrict circulation to the injury, which will interfere with healing and may cause tissue damage in your foot.

Wrapping the ankle too loosely will allow too much movement and keep the ligaments from getting the support they need to recover.

Before you wrap your ankle, remember to do these things.

  • Gently wash and dry it.
  • Have the materials you need ready.
  • Take your time when treating your injury.

The way to wrap your ankle properly will depend on the type of:

  • bandage
  • tape
  • other wrap you use

ACE bandage

ACE-brand bandages are among the most commonly used elastic bandages to wrap injured:

  • ankles
  • knees
  • other joints

To use an elastic bandage, follow these steps:

7 steps for wrapping an ankle
  1. Make sure you have enough bandage to wrap it around your ankle and foot several times. Have scissors handy to cut the bandage when you’ve finished wrapping.
  2. Start by wrapping the tape twice around the ball of your foot below the toes.
  3. Work your way up by wrapping the bandage several times around your foot and ankle in a figure-eight pattern.
  4. Keep the bandage taut.
  5. Finish by wrapping the bandage twice around your lower leg, a couple of inches above your ankle. The bandage should cover everything from the ball of your foot up past your ankle, including your heel.
  6. Place the small fastener or Velcro that comes with the elastic bandage on the end of the roll to keep it in place. Some bandages are self-adhering.
  7. The wrap should feel firm enough that your ankle can’t move, but it shouldn’t feel uncomfortably tight. If it starts to hurt or your foot feels tingly, as though it’s not getting enough circulation, take off the bandage and try again.

If you have difficulty starting wrapping at the ball of your foot, you may start by wrapping your leg a couple of inches above the ankle and working your way down to the ball of your foot in a figure-eight pattern.

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to wrap your ankle using an Ace bandage:

Kinesiology tape

Kinesiology tape, or KT, is made of cotton and a medical-grade acrylic adhesive.

It gently pulls or lifts the skin, possibly reducing inflammation and giving light support to the ankle. Attached to KT is paper that you will peel off as you apply the tape to your skin.

8 steps for wrapping with kt tape
  1. Tear off a piece of KT that’s long enough to stretch from one side of your ankle, under your foot, and up the other side of your ankle.
  2. Sit with your foot at a 90-degree angle to your lower leg.
  3. Place the middle of the tape strip on the bottom of your foot along the thick area between the heel and the arch. Press firmly after removing the paper.
  4. Bring one end of the tape up the side of your ankle. Continue to press gently, but firmly to prevent air bubbles from forming under the tape.
  5. If you start on the inside part of your ankle, turn your ankle toward the outside so that there’s a slight stretch in the skin that you’re taping.
  6. Press the tape up the other side of your ankle. If you started with the inside part of your ankle, turn your ankle to the inside as you apply the tape to the outside.
  7. Take a second strip of KT and wrap it around the ankle and Achilles tendon and above the heel.
  8. You should feel a slight sensation of tension that should remind you not to move the ankle too much. The firmness and security of a KT wrap is less than that of an ACE bandage wrap.

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to apply Kinesiology tape to your ankle.

Ankle brace

You may also try ankle braces made from a variety of materials, such as:

  • neoprene
  • lightweight plastic

The brace is designed so that you can slip your foot into it and pull it up over your ankle.

Some have Velcro straps to adjust for comfort. Others have laces or are made with an elastic, form-fitting material that fits snugly around the ankle.

Usually, braces are meant for supporting an ankle when you’re getting back into a sport or if you’re doing a lot of walking after your sprained ankle is mostly healed.

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to use an ankle brace to stabilize your ankle and provide support as it heals.

If one or more of the ligaments supporting the bones in your ankle stretches too far and starts to tear, you have a sprained ankle that will require treatment.

A sprain is simply an abnormal stretching of a ligament. If a ligament tears completely, it’s a much more serious injury that often requires surgery to repair.

A sprained ankle is a very common injury. It can happen if you trip and fall or jump and land with your foot at the wrong angle.

Runners sometimes sprain an ankle if they step on something that causes their ankle to roll over. Playing any sport where you might step on someone’s foot and turn your ankle is a risk for this injury.

Diagnosing a sprained ankle doesn’t always require a doctor’s examination. The following are symptoms of a sprained ankle:

  • pain, especially when you put your weight on the injured foot
  • tenderness to the touch
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • limited range of motion
When to see your doctor

If your injury is more serious, you may need to see a doctor. Simply resting and wrapping your ankle at home may not be sufficient or safe. Signs that your sprained ankle needs a medical evaluation include:

  • pain and swelling that don’t subside within a day or so of your injury
  • instability in the ankle joint, suggesting a torn ligament or bone fracture
  • a popping sensation at the moment you hurt your ankle

For serious ankle injuries, an imaging test, such as an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound may be ordered to allow a doctor to see the extent of your ligament damage and to check for broken bones.

Wrapping your ankle is also known as compression. It’s one of several steps you can take to treat a sprain. It’s actually part of an easy-to-remember acronym: RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

Ice should be used immediately after spraining an ankle to reduce swelling. In the days after spraining your ankle, try to rest it and keep it elevated until you’re ready to start using it again.

Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) may help reduce inflammation and swelling, as well as relieve some pain.

NSAIDs and gentle exercise a few days after the injury are often enough for a healthy recovery.

The time you need to keep your ankle wrapped depends on the severity of the injury and your activity level. Mild sprains may heal in a few days, but it may take a month or more for a severely sprained ankle to heal completely.

When you’re ready to start rehabilitation, it’s beneficial to do a range of exercises that focus on:

  • strength
  • flexibility
  • balance

This will help restore the health and function of your ankle and help you back on your feet soon.

With proper care, a sprained ankle ligament will usually heal rather quickly. Knowing how to wrap a sprained ankle firmly but safely will help with healing.

Just remember not to keep the joint immobilized too long or wrapped too tightly or too loosely. And look out for signs that the injury may be more serious than you originally thought, such as pain that lingers or gets worse.