Appalachian Trail Puts Active Ankle To The Test

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Meet Brian Ristola, a guitar builder who lives with his wife Allison in the tiny New Hampshire town of Thornton, in the White Mountains. Last year, on June 24, Brian and Allison set out to fulfill a dream of hiking the entire 2,175-­‐plus miles of the Appalachian Trail. They hiked the trail north to south, starting in Maine heading toward the end in Georgia. Embracing the hiking tradition of using “trail names,” Brian selected the name Beardo, and Allison decided on Sweet Pea.

The couple used a smart phone to post blog entries and photos every day. About seven weeks after the trek began, Beardo injured his ankle. Here’s an excerpt from their Aug. 10 post:

Ended the day on a bad note....Beardo slipped and twisted his ankle pretty bad....enough to hear some noise in it as he went down. Luckily Sweet Pea was within earshot and we had just passed a campsite with water less than 1/2 mile before. Beardo hobbled back there (hiking poles were very helpful here) and Sweet Pea got his hammock up and got the ankle elevated. There is no bruising, but there is quite a bit if swelling. We will see how things are tomorrow, and decide if we need to take a day or more off.

Allison and Brian Ristola (aka Sweet Pea and Beardo) hiked the entire Appalachian Trail over a period of nearly five months last year. Beardo’s ankle was protected by the Active Ankle T2 for nearly 1,500 miles!

The following morning, Beardo’s ankle was still quite swollen, so they left the trail. Since at that point on the trail they weren’t too far from Thornton, they returned home and saw their family doctor the next day, then an orthopedic specialist a few days after that. Finding no broken bones, the specialist wrapped the ankle, recommended Beardo stay off it for a week or two, and plan for a slower pace once back on the trail. And he gave Beardo an Active Ankle T2 brace to protect his ankle and prevent further injury.

Here’s the first paragraph of their blog post from Aug. 23:
Got back on the trail today....sort of. Beardo's ankle has healed up pretty well and rapidly....thanks to ice, needles, lasers, foot massages and being nice to it -­‐ not making it walk much for the past 12 days. I am wearing a sports brace on it as I walk which helps stabilize it from rolling.

Beardo and Sweet Pea persevered through injuries, weather, and many other challenges inherent with a hike of this magnitude, and arrived at the end of the trail in Georgia on Nov. 22. They had traveled 2,181.2 miles on foot and had been on the trail for nearly five months.

We spoke with Brian (back to his given name, since he’s off the trail!) recently, and he said that the Active Ankle was put to the test on the Appalachian Trail—and it exceeded his expectations. “I wore the Ac;ve Ankle every day after returning to the trail and hiked somewhere between 1,300 and 1,500 miles before it broke while I was walking through the Smoky Mountains. I was amazed it lasted that long!”

Perhaps you’re wondering how Cramer found out about the adventures of Brian and his Active Ankle. Brian explains, “In December, less than a month after I returned home, I realized my ankle hadn’t fully healed—it just didn’t feel right. So I bought another ankle brace but it bothered the inside of my ankle. I contacted Cramer directly about gehng another T2, and had a great talk with Ed Christman in the marketing department. I told him it was important for me to get the brace because I intend to wear it when I hike the 2,645-­‐mile Pacific Crest Trail. I’m startng that hike at the end of April! ” Brian says Allison won’t be going this time, so his partner will be a hiker he met on the Appalachian Trail.

Without a doubt, Brian’s an inspiring guy. “People tend to not act on their dreams more than they act on them,” he says. “It’s easy for folks to put aside things like hiking the Appalachian Trail, thinking they can’t do it instead of finding a way to make it happen. My wife and I just thought, let’s do it. Let’s get our life in order so we can do things like this.“

Brian’s business gives him the flexibility to work for a while, and then take time off to pursue other passions such as hiking. He builds solid-­‐body electric bass guitars from scratch, often from exotic woods. “I took orders for instruments while I was on the trail and started building them when I got off,” he says.

Brian invites all interested First Aider readers to read his daily posts from the Appalachian Trail journey: ARTICLE LINK ...and if you’d like to learn more about the beautiful guitars that Brian builds, visit

We wish Brian-­‐-­‐or shall we say Beardo-­‐-­‐the best of luck as he hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. He has promised to report back to us when he returns, and we’ll find out how the Active Ankle performed on the P.C.T.!


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