Improvised Ankle Wrap

Caveat: This episode does not demonstrate a proper ankle wrap, which requires some basic first aid training and materials. In contrast, it demonstrates doing the best you can with limited knowledge and whatever you might find in your backpack, or maybe the trunk of your car. This is consistent with principles of basic self reliance, but not necessarily good medical practice.

There’s a lot wrong with the scenario in this video.

  1. Hiking alone. It’s best to have a buddy when you hike, bug out, or travel in general. But life happens.
  2. Inadequate first aid kit. A good first aid kit for a hiker or hunter should include some basic materials for what is, after all, the most common injury in athletics and outdoor activities — a sprained ankle. That would be some stretch bandages and cloth tape, maybe an ankle compression sleeve, and even a Sam Splint.
  3. Twisting your ankle in the first place. Slow down, watch your step. But again, life happens.
  4. Walking on an injured ankle. If you twist your ankle, use RICE to recover — Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Here I’ve demonstrated what to do to give some support if you must move on, but this is a desperate situation. The pain will increase, and the injury will be aggravated. You’ll eventually have to stop. But if you must move to a safe location, know how to give your injured ankle some support.

Here is a video that demonstrates the proper way to bandage an ankle in preparation for strenuous activity. Bear in mind that this is a tight wrap that is expected to come off again immediately after the activity. It’s too tight to leave on all day — your toes need circulation! Also, this is wrapped to protect a recovering ankle — the swelling and pain have gone, but it’s still weak. But the actual method of taping is still good for supporting a fresh injury.

Helpful Links for Sprains and Strains

Mayo Clinic — excellent, concise description of RICE method.

Kids Health

Family Doctor — First aid kit basics, in case you want to put together your own first aid kit

4 thoughts on “Improvised Ankle Wrap”

  1. My god, man. Who taught you this treatment? Rule No. 1, if you still
    have to move, KEEP YOUR BOOTS ON. You’ll get more support from that
    than any tape. If you’re badly hurt, have to stay mobile and suspect a
    fracture, at the minimum an avulsion fracture (look it up, most common
    ankle fx.) then SPLINT OVER THE BOOT for additional support.

    If you take the boot off immediately following the injury you foot is
    going to swell so badly that you won’t get the boot on for three days
    without cutting it first. If you have the luxury of resting where you
    are for several days then by all means take the boot off, wrap / splint
    the foot and ice (or cold water) and elevate. But, as soon as that
    boot comes off, you’re depriving yourself of the support, protection and
    warmth it provides. Without the boot you have to plan to minimize
    further injury from exposure to cold and wet. What’s this nonsense
    about running around in the woods in your sock wrapped in electrical
    tape? If you take that boot off, I’ve got news for you.

    You’re camping wherever you are.

    1. Negative. A proper job of taping will give you far and away more support than the boot alone. It’s not even close. Moreover, you need to remove the boot to assess your injury.

      1. You are wrong, sir. See ppgs. 4-3 through 4-14 regarding assessment, splinting, padding and avoidance of the use of constrictive materials (like electrical tape.) If you’re on the move and you need to immobilize the injury then you splint it over the boot. I’ve done this several times as a Field Aidman (194th Amd. Bde, 42nd F.H., 91B20 -E4, ’73-’79) Regarding SAM splints, they are intended for immobilization only, and are not designed to be weight-bearing.

        Please cite your source for the use of “electrical tape” and removing supportive footwear in the field, because all you’re doing is restricting the blood flow to a lower extremity and exposing the skin to dangerous elements. This is all the time I have for you. Caveat emptor for those reading this misinformed blog.

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