What is Chronic Ankle Instability?

x-ray illustration of an ankle sprain

Ankle Instability: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

People who keep re-spraining their ankle might have a condition known as chronic ankle instability. This common recurring injury usually happens when the initial sprain is not properly healed or rehabilitated, causing the ankle to be weak and unstable.

A sprained ankle brace like the PowerStep® Dynamic Ankle Support Sock, or DASS, and certain exercises help relieve pain and prevent reinjury, so you can start feeling better and more stable during every day and athletic activities.

a closeup of a man walking downstairs wearing an ankle support brace and sock

What causes chronic ankle instability?

There are two million acute ankle sprains reported in the United States every year and about half of them happen during athletic activity. While 60% of first-time ankle sprains are expected to reoccur, research shows that 20% of those who sprain their ankle develop a condition called chronic ankle instability.

Chronic ankle instability happens when your ankle constantly “gives out.” You could be standing at work, walking the dog, or going for a hike. Spraining your ankle damages connective tissues, making them weak and less capable of balance. This can cause repeated strains that continue to weaken the ankles and increase your risk of re-injury.

The main cause of chronic ankle instability is a past injury that was not fully healed or rehabilitated. Stability exercises and ankle support braces are crucial to preventing reinjury because they help restore mobility, balance, and strength.

a man dribbling a basketball outside while wearing an ankle stability brace

Symptoms & Risk Factors

The main sign of chronic ankle instability is recurring injury, but other symptoms include:

  • Repeated “giving out” of the ankle, such as on uneven surfaces or during activity
  • Persistent swelling
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Feeling like your ankle is wobbly

Certain factors may increase your risk of instability and repeated sprains including playing high impact sports, having high arches, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and having a limited range of motion or poor proprioception (body awareness).

How To Fix Chronic Ankle Instability with DASS

After diagnoses by a foot doctor, nonsurgical treatments are usually enough to help fix ankle instability and prevent recurring injuries. These include taking pain medications to reduce inflammation, doing physical therapy, and wearing an ankle brace for instability.

closeup of a person’s ankle in an ankle stability brace while playing tennis outdoors

Trusted by podiatrists, the Dynamic Ankle Support Sock (DASS) is an ankle instability brace that helps support weak ankles and prevent recurring sprains. The only ankle brace with dynamic straps for stability, DASS helps return the ankle to its original position, adding an additional layer of protection for healthy movement.

DASS has a compression sock base that helps control and minimize swelling while a flexible cage mirrors and protects ligaments in the ankle for better mobility. Stability straps help further stabilize the ankle to prevent rolling and other injuries. These features mimic taping for ankle instability while also protecting the ankle and improving alignment.

Why make DASS part of your recovery? A trial by the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that bracing was superior to physical therapy at preventing ankle sprains. Out of 20% of participants who reported a recurring sprain, 15% wore a brace alone while 27% and 19% used either a brace with physical therapy or physical therapy only.

DASS allows for comfortable range of motion, fits easily into most shoes and it is machine washable for everyday wear, making it the best ankle instability brace for recurring sprains or just daily stability issues. For more support, consider wearing stability shoes with cushioned soles and orthotic insoles with arch support and stabilizing heel cups.

All PowerStep products are HSA/FSA eligible. Learn more about How to Wear DASS & Other FAQs on the PowerStep Blog.

closeup of a person wrapping a stability strap across the PowerStep ankle support brace

Ankle Instability Exercises

The best exercises for ankle instability help retrain the muscles and prevent re-injury by strengthening ligaments and improving balance and coordination. It is important to exercise both ankles to maintain balanced strength and flexibility.

Many exercises can be done during daily activities like brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Some physical therapists include exercises specific to your sport or activity, but you can also do the following ankle instability exercises at home.

closeup of a person’s feet on a yoga mat who is standing on one leg

1. Draw Your ABCs

This simple stretch helps with overall mobility and warms up your muscles, ligaments, and joints for other exercises. It can be performed lying on your back, standing, or while sitting in a chair.

  1. Lift one leg and flex your foot.
  2. Draw the alphabet with your toes.
  3. Repeat with the other leg.
  4. Do this exercise once a day.

2. Standing Leg Stance

Standing on one leg may seem easy, but if you have wobbly ankles you may want to keep a chair nearby for support.

  1. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent.
  2. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  3. Repeat on the other leg.
  4. Do this exercise 3 times per leg.

3. Standing Leg Stance with Reach

Like the single leg stance, this exercise is for balance but involves your upper body.

  1. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent.
  2. Reach forward with your opposite arm as far as you can.
  3. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3 times on each leg.

4. Forward Standing Leg Stance

The forward standing leg stance is another version of the single leg stance.

  1. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent.
  2. Lift the other leg in front of you as high as you comfortably can.
  3. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other leg for a total of 3 times per leg.

5. Tandem Walk

This exercise involves walking heel-to-toe in a straight line like you would on a tightrope. Consider walking alongside a wall for support if you feel unstable.

  1. Use a long piece of masking tape, the edge of a rug, or something else straight to guide you.
  2. Walk heel to toe across the length of the room.
  3. Once you get used to this exercise, try walking backwards or toe-to-heel.
  4. Do this exercise for 2 minutes.

Before trying at-home exercises for instability, talk to your foot doctor or physical therapist about what is appropriate for you. Avoid doing these exercises if you are currently in pain or have an ankle injury.

Prevent Recurring Ankle Sprains with DASS by PowerStep

Most common among athletes and runners, repeated ankle sprains happen when the previous ankle injury did not receive adequate treatment. DASS is an ankle stability brace and compression sock in one that can help prevent re-injury for people with chronic ankle instability.

PowerStep does not diagnose or treat medical conditions like chronic ankle instability. The PowerStep Dynamic Ankle Support Sock was developed to support unstable ankles and aid in the prevention of re-injury. Please see a healthcare provider if you have repeated ankle sprains due to instability.


Al-Kenani, N. S., & Al-Mohrej, O. A. (2016). Chronic ankle instability: Current perspectives. Avicenna Journal of Medicine, 6(4), 103. https://doi.org/10.4103/2231-0770.191446

Ankle Strengthening Exercises for Weak Ankles. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic.

Chronic Ankle Instability - Foot Health Facts. (2019). Foothealthfacts.org.

Herzog, M. et all. (2019). Epidemiology of Ankle Sprains and Chronic Ankle Instability. Journal of Athletic Training, 54(6), 603–610. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-447-17

Janssen, K. W., et all. (2014). Bracing superior to neuromuscular training for the prevention of self-reported recurrent ankle sprains: a three-arm randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(16), 1235–1239. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2013-092947

Mugno, A. T., & Constant, D. (2020). Recurrent Ankle Sprain. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing.

Soboroff, S. H., et all. (1984). Benefits, risks, and costs of alternative approaches to the evaluation and treatment of severe ankle sprain. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 183, 160–168. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6421526/