Most of us know that walking boots (casts) can be a necessary evil. They are great at protecting the ankle and allowing the ankle itself to heal. However, in the process they can wreak havoc on the rest of your body. Below are our best tips on how to make your time in a walking boot more comfortable.
Doctors Orders. First and foremost ALWAYS follow your doctors order. Don’t allow our tips to interfere with any instructions from your physician.
Get on the Level. Walking boots all have a very high surface. This is by design to help protect the foot from absorbing too much impact when you walk. This also leaves your non-affected leg a little bit too short. At all times you want both feet to be the same height off the ground which means your non-injured foot needs a taller shoe. You have some options here. Either wearing tall sneakers or another type of tall shoe will work. If you want to wear shoes you already own then products such as Even Up are a great option. Just be careful that you get the correct size for you and that you feel safe using such a product. Your goal is to keep both hips level so you don’t feel like you are forced to limp when you walk. Limping from the height difference caused by the boot will lead to hip and/or back pain if you are not careful.
Use a crutch or a cane. (We know this isn’t what you wanted to hear). If trying to wear a taller shoe on your non-affected foot isn’t enough and you still feel like you are limping then use one crutch or cane to help take the pressure off. Remember if you do use a walking aide then it goes in the opposite hand of the injured leg.
Shorten Your Step. Walking boots have a “rocker” bottom. This means you can’t step as far out in front of you as you would with normal shoes on. Shorten your stride. This will help prevent unneeded stress from the shape of the boot.
Keep your feet and your knees straight. The weight/shape of the boot is going to make you want to turn your feet outwards as you walk, sit or stand. DON’T. Be sure your second toe is always pointing in the same straight line as the center of your knee. The tips listed above will help with this along with not sitting cross-legged. When you’re sitting with your legs propped up or lying down, try not to let that foot roll outwards with the boot on.
Rest More and do less walking. Just because you are allowed to walk in your boot doesn’t mean that you should go overboard. Rest is still your friend. You may help control the swelling in your foot by wearing compression socks which you can find online or at any sporting goods store.
Rehab will be key to long-term success. Your ankles are intended to be very mobile joint; while a walking boot/cast does a fantastic job at allowing you to heal, it comes with a price. After being immobilized, your calf and ankle will become very stiff so once you are given the all clear by your physician it will be important that you see a physical therapist to get you moving again. When you are in a boot, your ankle is kept at 0 degrees of flexion, ideally we want to get you back to 15 to 20 degrees.