Title:
ANKLE SUPPORT PROVIDING HIGH BRACING STRENGTH
United States Patent 3674023


Abstract:
An ankle support has an open-fronted heel boot of relatively stiff construction to brace an ankle against sprains without constricting the ankle. An elastic strap section spanning the wearer's instep and a nonelastic ankle-wrapping strap section hold the boot snugly on the wearer's foot without significantly restricting walking movements.



Inventors:
MANN ROBERT C
Application Number:
04/838481
Publication Date:
07/04/1972
Filing Date:
07/02/1969
Assignee:
ROBERT C. MANN
MERIKYLE CO. INC.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
128/DIG.15
International Classes:
A61F13/06; (IPC1-7): A61F13/06
Field of Search:
128/166,166.5 36
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3545447HEEL STABILIZER1970-12-08Silverman
3515136ANKLE SUPPORT1970-06-02Baker
3490450ANKLE JACKET1970-01-20Gardner
3209517Protective leg support for horses1965-10-05Hyman
3028861Ankle supporter1962-04-10Shapiro
2450862Ankle support1948-10-05Wilkinson
1737897Foot brace1929-12-03Skoglund
1406583N/A1922-02-14Ruge
1084197N/A1914-01-13Collis



Foreign References:
GB330168A
Primary Examiner:
Michell, Robert W.
Assistant Examiner:
Wolfe J. H.
Claims:
Having described the invention, what is claimed as new and secured by Letters Patent is

1. As an article of manufacture, an ankle support comprising

2. An ankle support as defined in claim 1 in which said heel boot has a laminated construction comprising said molded resin material and an inner layer thereon of padding material on said wall and sole portions.

3. An ankle support as defined in claim 1 in which

4. An ankle support as defined in claim 1 further comprising a cant secured to said heel boot at the lower edge of a side wall portion and having a bottom platform surface forming an extension of the bottom surface of said sole portion.

5. An ankle support as defined in claim 1 in which said elastic member includes at least one elastic strap element fixedly secured to one side wall portion and adjustably attached to the other side wall portion to provide an adjustable elastic pull between said side wall portions across said spacing.

6. An ankle support as defined in claim 5 in which said elastic member includes at least two such elastic strap elements, each of which is fixedly secured to one side wall portion, extends across said spacing along a path different from that of said other strap element, and is adjustably attached to other side wall portion.

7. An ankle support as defined in claim 1

8. An ankle support as defined in claim 7 further comprising

9. An ankle support as defined in claim 8 in which each said fastening means is a section of hook and loop fastener.

10. An ankle support comprising

11. An ankle support as defined in claim 10

12. a substantially inelastic strap element having a free end and having the other end thereof connected with said second side wall portion, said strap element being configured to extend from said second wall portion across said spacing and to continue therefrom successively wrapping around said first wall portion, said back wall portion, and said second wall portion toward said free end thereof, and

13. means for fastening said free strap end in said wrapped position, and

14. An ankle support comprising

15. As an article of manufacture, an ankle support comprising

16. having a free end,

17. attached at the other end thereof to said heel boot, and

18. extending successively from the other side wall portion across said spacing and through said loop means on said one wall portion and then back in the direction across said opening to said free end thereof, and

19. having a free end,

20. having the other end joined to said free end of said elastic strap element, and

21. configured to extend, in line with said free end of said elastic strap element and at least partly above the ankle bone of the wearer, for at least one wrap around said heel boot and across said spacing.

22. An ankle support as defined in claim 13 further comprising means secured to said heel boot for engaging said inelastic strap element in said wrapped condition and restraining it from unwinding relative to said heel boot.

23. An ankle support comprising

24. An ankle support as defined in claim 15 in which said loop means and said elastic strap element are arranged to maintain substantially different tensions in said elastic strap element in the portions thereof on either side of said loop means.

25. An ankle support comprising

26. As an article of manufacture, an ankle support comprising

27. having two stiffly-compliant sheet-like side panels interconnected by a bottom panel and arranged as the legs of a U-shape,

28. secured to said heel boot with each side panel extending substantially along the height of a different one of said wall portions and secured thereto, and

29. having said bottom panel pass under said sole portion.

30. As an article of manufacture, an ankle support comprising

31. extending along the length of a second of said side wall portions and secured thereto, and

32. carrying grommet means defining a strap-guiding aperture therethrough; and

33. having a free end,

34. attached at the other end thereof to said heel boot,

35. extending from said attachment between said side wall portions across said spacing so as to span across a wearer's instep, and between said second side wall portion and said side panel to said grommet means, and further extending through said aperture to said free end thereof, and

36. further having fastening means for securing said free end with said member under tension and elastically urging said side wall portions together to diminish the width of said spacing.

37. An ankle support comprising

38. carried on said wall portions and extending between said lower sections of said side wall portions across said spacing so as to span across a wearer's instep, and elastically urging said side wall portions together across the wearer's instep, and

39. including at least one elastic strap element attached at one end thereof to said support and extending from said first side wall portion successively across said spacing and between said second panel and said second wall portion to said strap aperture, and through said strap aperture to a free end thereof, and means for adjustably securing said free end of said strap element to said support, and

Description:
BACKGROUND

This invention relates to an ankle support that provides a high degree of bracing for the wearer's ankle. A unique construction of low-bulk materials and with minimal use of elastic materials provides this strength. Further, it does so without significantly restricting the desired walking movement of the ankle. The support is particularly suited for use by athletes, both during training and during competition. It is also useful for medical purposes, for example for the rehabilitation of persons having ankle sprains.

A person's ankle can rotate relative to the leg about three orthogonal axes. Rotation about a first, horizontal, side-to-side axis through the so-called ankle joint is used in walking and hence should be relatively unrestricted, at least for athletes. Rotation about a second, vertical axis in line with the leg is used in pivoting and turning. However, rotation about a third, horizontal, front-to-back axis through the ankle joint results in sprains and hence is undesired.

As used herein, the term "bracing" refers to the strength of an ankle support in resisting this last, third-axis rotation. Also, the ankle joint is considered as being formed by the juncture of the tibia and fibia with the talus, and includes the pertinent ligaments.

Perhaps the highest-quality prior art ankle support is the so-called "tape job" almost universally used by professional athletes. This support is fashioned by trained personnel individually on each athlete by wrapping and taping the ankle with a web bandage and with adhesive tape. The tape-job support, when properly done, provides considerable bracing. Also, it weighs only four ounces or so, and has low bulk. However, it is removed and the tape discarded after each day's performance. Hence a tape-job support involves considerable expense for materials, and trained personnel for application. Also, repeated use of adhesive tape is uncomfortable and irritating to the wearer.

Prior reusable ankle supports provide, at best, limited bracing. Many apply considerable constriction to the ankle. To the extent that constriction restricts ankle movement and hence protects against sprains, it does so substantially equally for all three rotations. This is usually undesirable for all but selected medical usages, but even there the constriction is undesirable. Also, many prior ankle supports involve much use of elastic materials, often to provide constriction. However, elastic restraining material has been found to provide relatively little bracing in ankle supports.

Other problems with reusable prior art ankle supports for athletes are excessive weight, discomfort during sustained usage, and relatively short life. With regard to comfort, prior reusable ankle supports often subject the wearer to chafing. Also, the considerable bulk of prior constructions has discouraged designs that must fit within the wearer's shoe; and consequently the resultant designs have had insufficient strength.

Accordingly, it is an object of this invention to provide a reusable ankle support having a high degree of bracing strength. A further object is that the support not unduly restrict the ankle from walking motions or movements.

Another object of the invention is to provide an ankle support of the above character that avoids excessive constriction of the ankle.

It is also an object of the invention that the ankle support be easy to put on and take off by the wearer, i.e., without assistance and particularly without professional or other trained assistance.

Also, the ankle support should be comfortable for the wearer even after prolonged use with much foot movement.

A further object of the invention is to provide an ankle support of the above character that is low in weight and has minimal bulk.

It is also an object of the invention to provide a construction for a bracing ankle support which uses minimal elastic material and yet provides substantially unrestricted walking freedom for the wearer.

Another object of the invention is to provide an ankle support of the above character that can be made at low cost.

Other objects of the invention will in part be obvious and will in part appear hereinafter.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The ankle support of this invention has a relatively stiff but conformable heel boot that encloses the back and sides of the ankle. In addition, the boot has a full heel cup so as to extend continuously about the heel and under the ankle. The heel boot is preferably molded of synthetic resin or plastic material.

An elastic strap section spans an instep opening of the heel boot and is adjustably fastened to the side of the boot to provide a snug fit without restricting walking rotation, i.e., rotation about the first axis noted above. A wrapping strap section encircles the leg of the wearer about the upper end of the heel boot and is secured from unwrapping and also from unwinding relative to the heel boot.

The wrapping strap section is attached to the lateral (outer) side of the heel boot and, when the support is on the wearer, extends upwards across the top of the instep to the medial (inner) side of the heel boot. From there it wraps around the leg.

Most ankle sprains occur with the foot rolling "under" the leg with an abnormal tensioning and extension of the ligaments on the lateral side of the ankle. Hence this disposition of the wrapping strap section, to pull upward from low on the lateral side of the wearer across to the medial side, provides further strength resisting sprains.

The ankle support can, in addition, have a stiff bracing panel extending up each side of the heel boot. Preferably the two bracing panels form the legs of a U or stirrup shape that extends continuously on one side of the heel boot, under the heel, and up the other side of the heel boot. These bracing panels can be thin and light and hence increase the bracing strength of the heel boot with no significant increase in bulk.

This continuous stirrup-like bracing member is desired, in part, because it exerts compressive strength against sprains, in addition to the bracing resulting from its stiffness against bending.

The ankle support can provide still further sprain protection by the use of a wedge-like cant that effectively flairs the wearer's heel so as to enhance stability.

The ankle support is intended for use within a shoe or other footwear. The support is highly compact, particularly at the heel cup and sole portions, to fit readily within most footwear of the user's normal size.

The invention accordingly comprises an article of manufacture possessing the features of construction, properties, and the relation of elements exemplified in the article hereinafter described, and the scope of the invention is indicated in the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a pictorial representation of an ankle support embodying the invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of the ankle support of FIG. 1 showing the side not seen in FIG. 1;

FIGS. 3 and 4 are cross-sectional views of the support of FIG. 1, taken along section lines 3--3 and 4-4 thereof, respectively.

FIGS. 5 and 6 are side elevation views, of the lateral side, of the ankle support of FIG. 1 showing successive stages of wrapping the strap sections; and

FIGS. 7 and 8 are, respectively, lateral side elevation and front elevation views of an ankle support as shown in the above FIGURES and further including a heel cant.

DESCRIPTIONS OF ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS

As shown in FIG. 1 the ankle support has a heel boot 10 having a full heel cup 12, and having side walls 14 and 16 joined together by a back wall 15. A sole portion 17 of the heel boot interconnects the bottoms of the side walls. Opposite the back wall 15, the heel boot has a full-length frontal space, shown as an opening, between the frontal edges of the side walls. The side walls, and the back wall, extend upward above the wearer's ankle bone, which more precisely is the inner and outer protuberances formed by the overhanging portions of the tibia and fibula. The heel-boot walls of the illustrated ankle support engage the wearer's ankle bone roughly half way up their heights, i.e., each side wall, and the back wall, has an upper section above the ankle bone and a lower section below it.

The wearer's entire heel and ankle fit within the heel boot, and the rest of the foot extends beyond the frontal opening. The heel boot is preferably formed in one piece, as by molding of vinyl elastomeric compound, with the walls 14, 15 and 16 and heel cup 12 permanently forming a normally cup-like shape, of which the back wall and side walls permanently have a normally U-shaped cross section. The illustrated support also has a tongue 19 secured to one side wall 16 and arranged to pass over the wearer's instep to extend underneath the forward edge of the other side wall 14. The tongue is provided to minimize chafing from the edges of the side walls 16 and 18 to preclude pinching due to the straps, and in general for enhanced wearer comfort. The full heel cup of the heel boot also minimizes chafing, in addition to protecting the wearer's Achilles Tendon from injury.

Padding 18, suitably of foam or sponge laminated to fabric, is secured to the inside of the upstanding portions of the heel boot 10, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. The padding preferably is built up to have additional thickness on the heel boot side walls to cushion the narrow portion of the ankle immediately below the ankle bone of the wearer. In addition, a thin heel pad 20 covers the bottom of the heel boot, i.e., the sole portion 17. Even when only in the order of a 16th-inch thick, the heel pad has been found to contribute considerably to the comfort and bruise protection of the wearer. Further, the sole portion of the heel cup plus the padding thereover elevate the wearer's heel; this is generally desirable, particularly with flat-soled athletic footwear.

As also shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, a panel 22 of relatively thin stiff material is secured to the heel boot side wall 14. A like panel 24, shown in FIG. 2, is secured to the other heel boot side wall 16. In the illustrated ankle support the panels 22 and 24 form a single bracing member 26 made from a single piece of material in a U or stirrup shape with the connecting portion extending under the sole portion 17 of the boot. Each panel extends over essentially the entire height of the heel boot, and, further, has a width generally only slightly smaller than that of the heel boot wall. The panels 22 and 24 are of a material that is generally stiffer than that of the heel boot but still conformable; a polyolefin sheet can be used. The material preferably is not appreciably elastic. The purpose of the panels is to increase the stiffness of the boot with a considerably lesser increase in bulk than would result if the entire boot were thicker or of stiffer material.

Thus the illustrated ankle support has a two-ply construction of the wide walls. This results in an ankle support that has high bracing strength but is still low in bulk and weight, and high in comfort.

It is believed that by providing the bracing panels 22 and 24 in the illustrated one-piece stirrup construction, additional bracing strength is attained in excess of what would result from separate bracing panels. It is surmised that this increased bracing strength results from a distribution of the sheer-like forces that tend to slide a panel relative to the side wall to which it is fastened, over the entire bracing member. Thus, when, for example, the wearer's ankle rotates about the third axis noted above, the bracing member resists this motion with forces distributed over the entire member. As a result, the ankle support appears to exert a larger reaction to maintain the ankle upright than it would where the bracing panels were separate elements.

The material of the heel boot, and of the panels 22 and 24 where used, preferably deforms sufficiently under the heat and pressure produced during use of the ankle support to conform to the wearer's ankle configuration. Accordingly, preferred materials are thermoplastic in this sense.

The ankle support is snugged onto the wearer and held in place by means of a single strap 28 having, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a nonelastic wrapping section 30 that joins at its inner end to two elastic bands 32 and 34 of an elastic strap section 36. Both elastic bands 32 and 34 are fixedly secured to the medial side wall 16 of the heel boot, illustratively by stitching or otherwise fastening through the bracing panel 24. The bands extend from this fastening across the wearer's instep and pass between the heel boot lateral side wall 14 and the bracing panel 22. The bands then pass outward through cinching grommets 38 and 40 in the panel 22 and join with strap wrapping section 30.

The upper elastic band 32 passes essentially straight between the heel boot side walls, roughly two-thirds of the way up the height of the boot and just above the wearer's ankle bone. The lower band 34, on the other hand, is anchored to the medial side 16 roughly one-third of the way up the height of the boot, angles upward as it passes over the wearer's instep to the lateral side, and then similarly angles downward to the grommet 38.

As shown in FIG. 5, the bands 32 and 34 join the wrapping section 30 with a configuration such that even the upper band 32 is pulled upward slightly when the wrapping section is wrapped around the wearer's ankle. This upward pull on the ends of the elastic bands from the outer lateral side of the ankle support and across to the medial side directs the ends of the elastic bands that extend beyond the grommets 38 and 40 in an upward direction to exert maximal tensile pull in opposition to lateral, i.e., outward, sprains.

The illustrated construction of the single strap 28 enables the ankle support to be put on easily and quickly. First the strap is simply pulled in the direction roughly in line with the passage of the elastic bands 32 and 34 through the grommets 38 and 40, i.e., downward and rearward away from the ankle and hence roughly in the direction in which the strap wrapping section 30 extends from the heel boot 10 as shown in FIG. 1. This snugs the elastic bands across the wearer's instep.

Then the strap is pulled across the instep to around the medial side, and upward to tension the band sections extending out from the grommets. This folds the strap section that extends beyond the grommets back in the direction opposite to which they extend immediately prior to passing through the grommets, i.e., between the panel 22 and the side wall 14. Usually more tension is applied to the strap sections here than across the instep. With the present construction the tensions in the strap sections on either side of the grommets 38 and 40 remain unequal, even after prolonged wear with active movement. As shown in FIG. 5, the outwardly extending band sections are now directed upward from the grommets.

The strap is next wrapped around the ankle at the top of the support. FIGS. 5 and 6 show successive stages in the wrapping. The illustrated wrapping section 30 is designed to make roughly one and a half turns about the ankle from the juncture of the wrapping section 30 with the elastic section 36.

In view of the foregoing discussion of the ankle support having preferred medial and lateral sides, it will be noted that each pair of these supports has a right support and a left support. A right support is shown in the FIGURES. It should be noted also that where the bracing panels are omitted, the grommets 38 and 40 can be on, and provide apertures through, the heel boot side wall 14.

As a further feature of the invention, the strap 28 after wrapping is secured in place by a hook and loop fastener such as is available under the trade mark VELCRO, as shown in FIG. 6. The fastener for this purpose includes a fastener element 44, shown in FIGS. 1 and 6, intermediate the length of the wrapping section 30 and carried on the outer side, and a mating fastener element 46 carried adjacent the free end of the wrapping section on the inner side thereof. (These references to inner and outer are relative to the wearer when the strap is in place.) As shown in FIG. 6, when the wrapping section 30 is fully wrapped, the two elements 44 and 46 overlap and join together, thereby securing the free end of the strap in the wrapped condition. Other known fasteners can be used for the fastening elements 44 and 46, and for the other hook and loop fasteners described herein, however the hook and loop type fasteners are considered most convenient to use.

In addition to these fastener elements, the illustrated ankle support has further fastening means to prevent the wrapped strap from slipping back, in the direction opposite to which it is wound, and hence unwinding relative to the wearer's ankle and becoming loose. Specifically, for this purpose, a fastener element 48, again illustrated as a hook and loop fastener, is secured to the heel boot, illustratively extending from side wall 14 to side wall 16 around the heel or back wall 15 of the boot 10. A mating fastener element 50 is carried on the strap wrapping section 30, intermediate the ends and on the inner side, as shown in FIG. 1, and engages the fastener element 48 on the first wrap of the wrapping section 30 around the ankle, as shown in FIG. 5.

With this construction of the strap 28, the athlete or other user of the present ankle support puts on the ankle support snugly and securely in a matter of seconds with an essentially single continuous movement, first tensioning the elastic band across the instep and then wrapping the strap around his ankle. This engages the fastener elements 48 and 50 first and then elements 44 and 46, essentially automatically.

FIGS. 7 and 8 show a further heel boot 52 similar to the heel boot 10 described above except that the heel boot 52 has a cant or wedge 54 to provide the wearer with additional stability against sprains. The illustrated cant is on the lateral side of the heel boot 52 and disposed at the bottom corner of the heel boot. The cant has a bottom surface 54a that is essentially an extension of the bottom of the boot sole portion 17. The cant is further positioned relatively forward on the heel boot, as shown in FIG. 7, where it provides more stability and has no tendency to throw the wearer off balance in the front-rear direction. Thus the cant 54 essentially flairs the bottom heel surface of the ankle support outwardly to provide a considerably larger flat heel surface than results from having the heel boot outer surface conform to the inner surface and hence to the wearer's foot.

The cant is preferably provided, where used, by molding or otherwise forming it integral with the heel boot 52. It has been realized that most shoes, including athletic footwear, have a relatively square juncture between the side wall and the sole. Hence there is little problem in wearing the present ankle support with a cant inside most conventional footwear. Of course, where there is interference between the shoe and the cant, and the wearer desires the cant, he can simply trim it to fit within the shoe. A similar cant can be provided on the other, medial edge of the heel boot.

It will thus be seen that the objects set forth above, among those made apparent from the preceding description, are efficiently attained, and since certain changes may be made in the above articles without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative rather than in a limiting sense.

It is also to be understood that the following claims are intended to cover all of the generic and specific features of the invention herein described, and all statements of the scope of the invention which, as a matter of language, might be said to fall therebetween.