Are you rankled by arthritis ankle pain or frustrated by recurring ankle sprains? While ankles are one of the most commonly injured joint, the good news is there are simple steps that you can take to prevent arthritis ankle pain and injury, and keep you on your feet.

Skip the stilettos. “If you walk on a spiked heel, you have much less stability,” says James A. Nunley, MD, chief of orthopaedic surgery at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. For ankles weakened by osteoarthritis, he recommends shoes with a wide, low, flared heel or lateral post shoes, like running sneakers.

“You are less likely to roll your ankle because your shoe is wider and it takes much more to roll it over,” says Dr. Nunley.           

Scrap the flats. Sandals and flip-flops fall flat on safety too. “When you go to that flatter shoe, you lose some of the support for the arch,” says Ronald D. Jensen, a podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association. “A lot of people who get arthritis in their ankles begin to get a deformity in their ankle called pronation and this consists of an inward rolling toward the arch of both the foot and the ankle. If you’re in a flat shoe, there’s nothing to resist this painful movement.”

Sandals also lack heel protection, so the heel can wobble twisting your ankle. For the most support and stability, choose everyday footwear choose an enclosed, laced-up shoe with a heel no higher than 1-½ inches.

Get a lift. Shoe inserts and insoles not only provide shock absorption, they also keep your ankle from rolling. “Modifications to the shoe to try to tip the foot in can take the stresses off those lateral ligaments,” says Dr. Nunley, who heads Duke’s Orthopaedic Research Laboratory.

He recommends over-the-counter one-quarter-inch lateral heel inserts for those whose ankles have a tendency to roll. In shoes without proper internal support, a three-quarter-inch insole provides arch support and reduces ankle pressure.

Brace yourself. Elastic ankle braces, such as sports bandages or compression socks, reduce ankle swelling and associated arthritis joint stiffness and pain. While they offer little support, elastic braces affect proprioception – our ability to sense where our limbs are in space.

“Many people when they get swollen also get numbness in the foot,” says Jensen. “By using a compression sock and reducing the swelling, they have better feeling and it makes it safer for them to walk because they can feel the ground better.”

For extra support and to control painful movement, particularly in those with tendonitis of the ankle, Jensen recommends a lace-up or stirrup brace. Hiking boots or hi-top sneakers made of firm leather or other thick material also serve as effective braces.