Do High-Top Tennis Shoes Really Help Prevent Ankle Strain?

High tops may not protect your ankles any more than other types of shoes.
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As an athlete, nagging injuries that come with training and playing are inevitable. In fact, an estimated 25,000 people suffer from ankle sprains daily. Dr. Stephen Pribut, a surgeon at George Washington University Medical Center, points out that choosing the wrong shoe for training and competing can lead to serious injuries. Many athletes choose to wear high top shoes while playing in an effort to cut down on these injuries.

Understanding High Top Function

    Shoe companies market high top shoes as providing top-knotch support for your ankles. High tops are aptly named because the upper, or soft top, of the shoe is higher than that of shoes that are medium or low cut. These shoes are designed to keep your ankles secure and snug while working out or playing. According to Dick's Sporting Goods, approximately 70 percent of basketball players choose high tops for their ankle support.

Understanding Ankle Strain or Sprain

    If you're physically active, you have likely stepped the wrong way and sprained, rolled or twisted your ankle. When your foot is extended beyond its normal range of motion, the ligaments in your ankle can stretch and, in severe cases, even tear. Mild sprains are often manageable without consulting a physician, but more severe sprains can cause a higher risk of fracture if not taken care of by a medical professional.

High Tops as Injury Protection

    A study published in the "American Journal of Sports Medicine" concluded that there is no significant difference between high tops and any other cut of shoe. Over the course of an intramural basketball season, the study noted that the number of ankle injuries was nearly identical in those players wearing high tops and in those wearing medium-cut shoes. According to their data, there is no strong relationship between the cut of your shoe and ankle sprains.

Choosing the Right Shoe

    While no concrete evidence exists that high tops may not be able to fully prevent ankle injuries, there are other factors that can help protect you from injuries. Dr. Pribut suggests that you choose a sport-specific shoe from a specialized shoe store in your community and that you have your foot measured each time you buy a new pair of shoes. If you have suffered a previous ankle injury, it's important to note that re-injuring it is more likely and you should always wear orthotics or a brace for further protection.

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