A rear entry ankle brace for providing support and stability to an ankle includes a compliant support member covered on both sides by a flexible durable material. The ankle brace is flexible and compliant so as to fit a range of foot, ankle, and leg sizes, and is secured about a leg with a compliant strap. A flexible footbed heel is provided for facilitating walking. An elongate strap is provided for securing the brace to a wearer, wherein the strap is attached at one end to a foot portion of the brace, can be wrapped about the foot portion and a leg portion of the brace, and is removable attachable at an opposite end to the foot portion of the brace.
The present application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/687,455 filed Oct. 16, 2003, now U.S. Pat. No. ______, the entire disclosure of which is expressly incorporated herein by reference.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to an ankle brace device, and specifically to an ankle brace that is easily put on and minimizes interference with walking.
2. Related Art
Ankle orthoses have become a standard treatment for orthopedic foot and ankle problems. Most are bulky and entirely rigid. Typically, a plurality of straps are required for attachment about the foot and ankle. These devices are cumbersome and time-consuming to apply and diminish proprioception while ambulating because the heel is covered by the device. Further, these devices are difficult to wear with standard footwear, leaving an individual self-consciously wearing only one shoe and an unsightly brace.
What is needed, but has not yet been provided, is an ankle brace which is easy to put on, which provides necessary support, which provides a comfortable fit, and which allows for easy walking.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention provides an ankle brace having a rigid member that extends under a foot and up along sides of an ankle and lower leg. Inner and outer layers surround the rigid member and form a body. The body has a foot portion including a forward edge defining a toe aperture, a footbed, and a leg portion joined to the foot portion, the leg portion including an upper edge, and rear edges extending from the upper edge to the footbed. The foot portion covers the top of the foot and the leg portion covers the front of the lower leg. A fastening strap is connectable about the leg portion to retain the brace on the foot, ankle and leg of the individual. A flexible heel portion extends from the footbed. A cushion layer can be provided between the inner layer and the rigid member.
The present invention also provides a method for treating an ankle injury using the ankle brace of the invention. The method comprises custom forming a rigid member, incorporating the rigid member in a body having inner and outer layers, inserting a foot, toes first, between rear edges of a leg portion of the body; inserting the toes through a toe aperture; placing the foot onto a footbed portion; fastening a strap about the leg portion to secure the ankle brace to a foot and leg; and wearing the ankle brace on the leg for a sufficient time to treat the injury. The method further includes allowing the heel to flex to facilitate walking.
The present invention further provides an ankle brace having a support member sized to fit under a foot and extending upward along an ankle and leg of a wearer, inner and outer layers surrounding the support member and forming a compliant body having a foot portion and a leg portion, and an elongate strap for securing the brace to a wearer. The strap is attached at one end to an upper area of the foot portion, and is configured to be wrapped under the foot portion, up and across an ankle portion of the foot and around the leg portion, where it is removably attachable to the leg portion. The strap includes fastener for removably fastening the strap to the leg portion of the brace.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Other important objects and features of the invention will be apparent from the following Detailed Description of the Invention taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:
The ankle brace of the present invention is provided for stabilizing and/or treating the ankle for ankle injuries and conditions including posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction, Charcot ankle, Achilles tendon rupture and general ankle instability and derangement. The ankle brace can be custom made for each patient. The ankle brace provides support and stability, and controls the motion of an injured foot and ankle by encasing the dorsum of the foot. This ensures proper positioning in the device and better mediolateral control of the ankle and arch of the foot. The ankle brace intimately fits and conforms to the natural skeletal and muscular structure of the foot.
The ankle brace of the present invention is shown in
As shown in
As can be seen in
As can be further seen in
While a leg cover is not required, it adds comfort to the brace by dissipating the force of the strap when the strap is tightened and secured against the wearer's leg. The leg cover can be securely attached at one end, such as by sewing, onto the body of the brace. It can be attached to the inner layer of the body adjacent to an edge of the open back. It can be made of any suitable material, preferably the same material as the inner and outer layers. The leg cover is positioned over the back of the leg where the securing strap is located. When the brace is applied to the foot and leg, the end of the cover overlaps the opposite edge of the open back of the body of the brace. The strap is then wrapped about the leg over the leg cover and secured. Accordingly, the leg cover protects the leg from the strap.
As shown in
A cross-sectional view of the footbed 21 of the ankle brace 10 is shown in
Because the ankle brace provides for rear entry, it is easy to put the brace on the foot and lower leg. Because the front and sides of the brace are uninterrupted, the brace provides for better control of the forefoot and ankle. As the foot is placed in the brace, the ankle slides into proper position, and is controlled by the medial and lateral portions of the rigid support.
The rigid support member comprises a rigid or semi-rigid material such as plastic. Any suitable material, such as a thermoplastic, can be used. The rigid support member can be molded to the shape of an individual's foot and ankle to provide a custom fit to meet the individual's treatment or stabilization needs. This custom-fitted molding can be performed prior to manufacturing the ankle brace for a patient. A cast of the injured foot is taken and filled with plaster to make a positive model. The plaster model is smoothed and shaped and then the brace is molded over the model. The plastic is heated and becomes more fluid. After it is cooled, the cast is cut off and shaped to the appropriate trim lines. This type of molding process is well known in the art.
The flexible heel leaves a portion of the back of the heel of the foot unsupported by the rigid member. This flexibility, along with the open toe, provides for a more normal and anatomical gait and also allows the brace to be comfortably worn with standard footwear because there is less bulk in the rear and front of the brace. The brace may be worn with or without socks or stockings under or over the brace.
The inner and outer layers encasing the U-shaped support member and forming the boot-shaped body comprise a soft durable material such as leather; however, imitation leather, vinyl or other suitable materials can also be used. The inner and outer layers, as well as cushion layer and the rigid member, can be attached together by an adhesive. A polyadhesive, such as BARGE, has worked successfully. Additionally, the inner and outer layers can be stitched along on the edges of the brace, and at other locations, to reinforce their attachment.
The cushion layer provides a more comfortable fit to the individual by creating a soft barrier between the rigid support member and the individual's foot. The cushion layer may also be positioned between the inner and outer layers in portions of the brace other than areas where the support member extends to provide overall comfort to the individual wearing the brace. The cushion layer can comprise foam, gel, fiber or non-fiber padding, air bladder or other similar material. An example of suitable foam is a polyethylene closed cell foam such as PLASTAZOTE®, a trademark owned by ZOTEFOAMS, PLC., Surrey, England.
The strap can utilize hook and loop fasteners, buckles or other fastening means. For example, loop material can be provided on the outer side of the end portion of the end of the strap attached to the body, and hook material can be provided on substantially all of the inner side of the strap or only on the inner side of the end portion of the other end of the strap. The strap can be a separate element or can be securely attached, such as by sewing, onto the body of the brace. Preferably the strap is attached to the outer layer of the body adjacent to an edge of the open back in the calf region. The strap can be made of plastic, elastic, leather, cloth, vinyl or other suitable material. Preferably, the strap is made of the same material as the inner and outer layers. If desired, more than one strap may be provided.
The following example illustrates the present invention, but is not meant to limit its scope.EXAMPLE
The ankle brace of the invention was tested on approximately 102 patients having the following conditions: 72 had posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction, 10 had Charcot ankles, 12 had Achilles injuries, and 8 had chronic ankle instability. The age range of the patients was 14 to 82 years with a mean age of 50. The patients were each fitted with a custom-molded ankle brace of the present invention. The patients wore the braces for approximately 12 hours per day. Patients were examined between 3 to 9 months (mean range 6 months), beginning from the time of first wearing the ankle brace of the present invention. The patients were asked questions about the status of their condition. All but two of the patients showed significant improvement in pain. Approximately 90% of the patients were successfully treated and did not require surgical intervention.
Referring now to
A flexible, shaped support member 130 is positioned within the inner and outer layers 124, 126. The support member 130 includes a footbed 121, which extends under the bottom of the body 112 and is sized to receive a wearer's foot, and medial and lateral support members 132, 133, respectively, which extend up the sides of the body 112 to support the ankle and the lower leg of the wearer. The support member 130 is generally U-shaped in cross-section to conform to the shape of a wearer's ankle and heel. The medial and lateral support members 132, 133 could include contoured sections 134, 135, which conform to the shape of a wearer's ankle. For example, the contoured section 134 could be shaped to be positioned on the medial malleolus prominence 163 of a wearer's ankle (see
As shown in
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The foot portion of the body 112 surrounds the foot and ankle of the wearer. The toes 162 extend past the open end 114. The bottom of the foot sits on the footbed 121. The leg portion covers the lower leg of the wearer. Upper edge 116 is positioned against the leg 160. The rear edges 118, 119 extend between the upper edge 116 and footbed heel 120, leaving the back of the heel 161 as well as portions of the back of the leg 160 uncovered by the brace 110. The support member 130 extends under the foot and up the sides of the body 112, along the ankle and lower leg, and is covered by the outer layer 126.
The strap 140 can be fastened after a user has inserted the foot, ankle, and leg 160 into the ankle brace 110, and after the cover 146 (if provided) has been tucked under edge 119. As shown in
As shown in
The inner and outer layers 124, 126, as well as cushion layer 122 and the support member 130, can be attached together by an adhesive. A polyadhesive, such as BARGE, has worked successfully. Additionally, the inner and outer layers can be stitched along on the edges of the brace, and at other locations, to reinforce their attachment.
The ankle brace 110 can be manufactured to accommodate various size ranges, such as small, medium, and large, and sold off the shelf in retail stores or the like. As such, a user could purchase an ankle brace 110 having an appropriate size range (e.g., small) off the shelf at a retail location. Then, the strap the ankle brace could be used to further adjust the size of the ankle brace 110 to provide a comfortable and secure fit.
Various details of the invention may be changed without departing from its scope. Furthermore, the foregoing description of the preferred embodiment of the invention and the example are provided for the purpose of illustration only and not for the purpose of limitation, the invention being defined by the claims.
1. An ankle brace comprising:
- a support member sized to fit under a foot and extending upward along an ankle and leg of an individual;
- inner and outer layers surrounding the support member and forming a body having a foot portion including a forward edge defining a toe aperture and a footbed, and a leg portion including an upper edge and rear edges extending from the upper edge to the footbed; and
- a strap for wrapping about the foot portion and leg portion so as to secure the brace to an individual, the strap attached at one end to an upper region of the foot portion and removably attachable at an opposite end to the leg portion.
2. The ankle brace of claim 1, wherein the footbed is sized to extend from a ball of the foot to a heel portion of a foot.
3. The ankle brace of claim 1 further comprising a footbed heel portion.
4. The ankle brace of claim 3, wherein the footbed heel portion comprises inner and outer layers and a cushion layer positioned therebetween, for allowing the footbed heel portion to flex to facilitate walking.
5. The ankle brace of claim 4, wherein the cushion layer comprises foam.
6. The ankle brace of claim 1, further comprising a leg cover attached at one end to the body, the leg cover positionable between the strap and a wearer's leg.
7. The ankle brace of claim 1, further comprising a cushion layer positioned between the inner layer and the support member.
8. The ankle brace of claim 7, wherein the cushion layer comprises foam.
9. The ankle brace of claim 1, wherein said strap further includes a hook-and-loop fastener for removably fastening the strap to the leg portion.
10. The ankle brace of claim 1, wherein the inner and outer layers of the body comprise neoprene.
11. The ankle brace of claim 1, wherein the support member comprises carbon fiber.
12. The ankle brace of claim 1, wherein the support member is U-shaped in cross-section.
13. An ankle brace comprising:
- a foot engaging portion for receiving a foot in the form of a foot cover including a footbed, a forward edge, and a footbed heel;
- a leg engaging portion extending from the foot engaging portion, the leg engaging portion in the form of a leg covering including a top edge and rear edges extending from the top edge towards the footbed defining an opening;
- a support member in the footbed and extending from proximate the forward edge to the footbed heel, the support member further extending up the leg engaging portion; and
- a strap for wrapping about the foot engaging portion and leg engaging portion so as to secure the brace to an individual, the strap attached at one end to an upper region of the foot engaging portion and removably attachable at an opposite end to the leg engaging portion.
14. The ankle brace of claim 13, wherein the foot engaging portion and the leg engaging portion comprise a soft durable material which encases the support member.
15. The ankle brace of claim 14, wherein the soft durable material comprises an inner layer which lines the interior surface of the foot engaging portion and the leg engaging portion, and an outer layer which covers the exterior surface of the foot engaging portion and the leg engaging portion.
16. The ankle brace of claim 13, further comprising a cushion layer between the inner layer and the support member.
17. The ankle brace of claim 16, wherein the cushion layer comprises foam.
18. The ankle brace of claim 13, wherein the footbed heel portion comprises inner and outer layers of soft durable material and a cushion layer therebetween, for allowing the footbed heel portion to flex to facilitate walking.
19. The ankle brace of claim 13, wherein the strap further includes a hook and loop fastening system for removably fastening the strap to the leg engaging portion.
20. A method of attaching an ankle brace to a wearer's leg comprising the steps of:
- providing an ankle brace having a foot portion, a leg portion, and a strap attached at an end thereof to an upper region of the foot portion;
- inserting a wearer's foot into the foot portion of the brace;
- positioning the leg portion of the brace against the wearer's leg;
- wrapping the strap underneath the foot portion and about the foot portion and the leg portion of the brace; and
- attaching an opposite end of the strap to the leg portion of the brace to secure the brace to the wearer.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein the step of attaching the end of the strap to the leg portion of the brace further comprises removably fastening the end of the strap to the leg portion using a hook and loop fastening system.
22. The method of claim 21, further comprising choosing an appropriately sized ankle brace for an individual and securing the strap about the brace to tighten the brace about a foot and leg of an individual.
Filed: Dec 16, 2005
Publication Date: Sep 28, 2006
Inventor: David Rabe (Chatham, NJ)
Application Number: 11/303,867
International Classification: A61F 5/00 (20060101); A61F 13/06 (20060101);