Protect Your Ankles for the Best Hockey Performance

Hockey players constantly change directions to chase down the puck and their opponents. It’s exciting to watch, but most fans don’t realize this action puts the ankles of their favorite players at risk. Whether you’re a star player or enjoy social games, these tips can help you protect your ankles and stay game-ready.

Image via Flickr by 5of7

Skates can’t support you effectively if they aren’t right for you. Rather than simply renting skates at the rink, buy a pair of your own skates that fit just right. Hockey pro shop staff will help you find the perfect pair of skates for your feet.

Choose the Right Size

Hockey skates are usually a size or two lower than your standard shoe size. A good hockey pro shop staff will measure your feet before suggesting skates. This will help them find the right size skates in a selection of different brands. Width and arch depth varies between skate manufacturers. Trying on a variety of skates is the best way to find a pair to support your ankles fully.

The finger test is the easiest way to test your skate fit in-store. Lace your skates up, lean forward, and bend at the knees in a hockey stance. Then use your finger to check how much space is between the skate and your heel. You should not be able to fit more than one finger down the back of the skate. If your skate is too loose, it will not support your ankle correctly.

Your toes should also just touch the toe cap when you’re standing straight. When you get into a hockey stance, your foot should slide back a little away from the toe cap.

Consider Stiffness

Stiff skates are more supportive than more supple skates. However, stiffness can impact mobility. That’s why stiff skates only suit experienced and heavier players who can easily break them in. Even newcomers to the sport should not choose a very supple pair of skates. Hold your skate in your hand, below the tendon guard, and squeeze. If it folds easily, it won’t offer the support you need.

Buy the Best Brand

A high-quality pair of skates is an investment in your playing future. The leading brands have inbuilt features to actively support your ankles. These features are often missing in cheaper pairs.

Additionally, it’s always important to keep your skates sharp. Sharp ice skates allow you to dig into the ice more effectively which provides control and safetry for your ankles. . 

Lace Your Skates Firmly

Your laces have the important job of holding your skates in place. If they are too loose, they can’t provide the support your ankles need. You’ll notice your outer ankle ligaments feel sore after skating on loose skates. Your laced skates should feel snug and secure on your feet. Don’t get overzealous though. Tying your skates too tight can impact your circulation. Use the finger test to check you’ve tied your skates just right.

Use Extra Ankle Support

Many players use extra ankle supports to protect their joints. Tape, elastic ankle support, and ankle braces restrict mobility so your ankles don’t move in the wrong way. The more restrictive the support, the more it protects your ankle. These aids are commonly used by players with previous injuries. However, they suit anyone concerned about their joints.

Practice Ankle Strengthening Exercises

You can make your ankles stronger with a variety of different exercises. Search for exercises that target the ankles and hips. As the hips control the lower leg, what strengthens them will also help your ankles. The following strengthening exercises should give you some inspiration. In addition, you can find several other ideas online.

Squats will effectively strengthen your legs and ankles. Take your time and squat down low for maximum effectiveness. For added challenge and conditioning, try one-legged squats or squat jumps. Stepping up on a stair or step and back down again will also make your ankles stronger. Heel raises, where you raise yourself up on your toes and hold the position before lowering your heels, are also effective. You can perform heel raises in front of a table or bench for support.

Repeat each exercise 10 times. Then rest for 30 seconds before performing another 10 repetitions.

Use a Wobble Board

A wobble board is a great investment for anyone concerned about their ankles. Many gyms also have this great conditioning and rehab tool. Stand on the wobble board with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then try to balance for as long as you can on the wobbling board. For an added challenge, try balancing on the wobble board on just one leg. Make sure you try both legs to condition both ankles. Squats are another great exercise to perform on the wobble board.

Stiff joints are prone to injury. Wobble boards encourage your ankles to move in all directions. In time, you should find your range of motion improves. Wobble boards also strengthen ankles and train them to support your body better.

Work up to a Full Game

If you’ve spent some time off the ice, don’t expect to be game-fit right away. You might imagine recapturing your glory days, but your ankles probably need some time to work up to that. Enjoy some gentle social skating with friends to get your muscles used to the feeling of being on the ice. Gradually ramp up your activity before you start playing.

Warm up Before You Play

Asking your ankles to go from rest to an intense game on the ice is asking for trouble. Warming up before you play eases the transition and cuts your risk of injuries.

Before you get on the ice, take time to stretch out your body. To prevent ankle injuries, pay attention to the lower half of your body. Stretch out your glutes, Achilles, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

Most arenas allow players onto the ice five minutes before face-off. Take advantage of this time and take a gentle skate around the ice before play begins.

For supportive skates and all your other hockey needs, visit Gunzo’s Hockey Headquarters. As Chicago’s first hockey pro shop, we offer a wide range of products and services with a smile. Visit us in Chicago, Morton Grove, or River Forest.