Walking Boots for Foot and Ankle Injuries
By Matt Paulus, ATC
Walking Boots for Foot and Ankle Fractures and Injuries
Medical walking boots are used to protect the foot and ankle after an injury or surgery. They are commonly used for stress fractures, shin splints, broken foot or ankle bone, and severe ankle sprains. Medical walking boots aid in the beginning of the rehabilitation process by stabilizing and protecting the area while it heals. As the foot or leg begins to heal, a walking brace slowly allows weight to be put onto the injured foot as the person transitions towards a full recovery. Your doctor may recommend a walking cast also known as an orthopedic walking boot instead of a full cast that will immobilize you. The goal of a walking boot varies depending on the condition, but generally the goal is to aid in healing post-operatively or to avoid surgery altogether.
A walking boot can be stiff or soft, depending on the level of support or immobilization required by the patient. Generally, the stiffer the boot, the more immobile the ankle. The sole of the boot can also vary. Some boots come equipped with a rocker sole, which makes the rolling forward motion easier when walking. Others come with a flat, skid-proof sole that is generally useful for standing but difficult to walk in for long periods.
The variety of the walking boot that your doctor provides you with significantly impacts your treatment. Longer, stiffer walking boots can be fatiguing and are typically used for patients recovering from serious injuries, such as an Achilles tendon rupture. Shorter, softer boots can help stabilize an ankle after a sprain but don’t typically immobilize the working joint as much, minimizing muscle atrophy.
When wearing a walking boot or cast, pay attention to the other joints and limbs used when walking. You hips, back and knee may need to bear considerably more than their fair share of the movement required for walking. Knees in particular are vulnerable, and you may find your knees fatigue more quickly until you get used to the immobilization of your ankle, especially if you are wearing a very stiff walking boot.