Some people who suffer leg or foot injuries or undergo foot or toe surgery need to use a medical walking boot. A walking boot can help with healing but transitioning out of the walking boot is also an important part of the process. In this article, we will discuss why you may need to use a walking boot, what it is and how your physical therapist can help you in easing out of a walking boot.
What is a walking boot?
A walking boot is also known as a walking cast. It is recommended by health professionals following foot, ankle, and lower leg injuries. Sometimes it is also used after surgery. It is used to immobilize the leg and ankle when walking or moving. The goal of using a walking boot is to aid in healing post-surgery or to avoid surgery completely.
Why do health professionals recommend walking boots?
A walking boot will provide you with more mobility compared to a traditional cast. It will keep you as mobile as possible while it protects your injury.
The walking boot is strapped to the affected leg and will help immobilize it to help accelerate proper healing. It is, therefore, important that you wear the walking boot properly if your injury should heal correctly.
What are the different types of walking boots?
Tall Walking Boot
Tall walking boots are best used for ankle sprains since the short ones do not provide sufficient ankle protection.
A tall walking boot should also be used for metatarsal fracture since several muscles that attach into the metatarsal region start in the leg. When you have a stress fracture, you need to limit motion to your foot by immobilizing those muscles.
A tall boot should always be used for toe fractures because several muscles that attach into the toes start in the upper leg. It limits the motion of the toe by immobilizing those muscles.
Tall walking boots are also best for foot fractures since both foot and leg muscles that attach into the foot become immobilized.
Patients with tendonitis should use a tall walking boot. Since the muscles involved start high up in the leg, a tall walking boot that goes up high on the leg is best for helping rest these muscles.
Patients who undergo surgery in the foot or leg should use a tall walking boot post-surgery as this boot will provide better support, protection, and needed immobilization of the leg.
A tall walking boot can help accelerate the healing process and can ease the foot into bearing more weight after the initial injury.
Short Walking Boot
Short walking boots are convenient to use for injuries that are not severe – those that do not need as much support compared to other injuries.
Patients use a short walking boot for postoperative foot surgery, digital and metatarsal fractures, and soft tissue trauma of the foot and ankle.
Some people are not comfortable wearing a short boot due to some irritation on their shin. However, if you are short in stature, you may want to use a short walking boot.
Air Walking Boots and Non-Air Walking Boots
An air walking boot is also known as a pneumatic boot. It has air bladders that can be pumped up to the needed compression for increased stabilization of the injured part of your leg and/or foot.
The air walking boot will allow you to adjust the level of compression that you pump into the boot. With this boot, you can choose the comfort level during every phase of your healing process.
Air walking boot helps by contouring around the leg and reducing the patient’s movement inside the boot.
Pneumatic boots are always recommended for fractures because of the extra protection it provides. These boots are the closest a patient can get to an actual cast.
An air walking boot helps provide more comfort but it is more expensive than a regular or non-air walking boot.
How long should a patient wear a walking boot?
It depends on what injury you have. Injuries to the bones take six to eight weeks to heal, on average. Ligaments may take anywhere from six to twelve weeks to heal and tendons can take four to eight weeks to heal.
How can a Physical Therapist help?
When you are medically stable, post-surgery, your physical therapist will start with helping you get up and out of bed. He will help you sit up on the bedside and assist you in standing up. You will not be allowed to put weight on the affected leg, ankle or foot for approximately six to ten weeks. He will teach you how to walk with your walking boot and how to go up and down steps and curbs using your walking boot.
If surgery is not required
When your injured leg is placed in a walking boot, your physical therapist will teach you how to walk without bearing weight on the injury. He will teach you how to get in and out of bed, your car, and how to go up and down steps and curbs. Your physical therapist will also provide you with equipment that best suits your needs for your recovery.
Gradually, your physical therapist will help you in easing out of a walking boot.
Transitioning out of a walking boot
When your physician sees that the injury has healed through an X-ray, your physical therapist can start helping you discontinue the walking boot.
Physical therapy after a walking boot
Your treatment will include:
- Re-learning how to walk with ease
Your physical therapist will help you begin putting some of your weight on your injured leg. As your treatment progresses, he will gradually increase to full weight as your physician recommends.
- Gait training
Once you are able to put weight on your injured leg, your physical therapist will teach you specific exercises that will help restore your normal walking pattern. He may let you practice on a treadmill at low speed, on level ground. The focus of this part of the treatment is to restore how your foot and ankle move and the timing of your steps.
- Decreasing swelling
Swelling typically occurs after an ankle fracture. To reduce swelling, your physical therapist may massage the area. He may also use ice, heat, a compression wrap and elevate the affected area when at rest.
- Restoring mobility
Your physical therapist may use manual therapy to gently move your foot, ankle joints, and surrounding tissues to reduce stiffness and if the injury occurred in your ankle, to help increase your ankle’s bending range of motion.
- Return to normal day-to-day activities
The ultimate goal of your physical therapy treatment is to help you regain strength and flexibility. Your physical therapist will provide you with activity training specific to your job, sport, and/or leisure activity.
At Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, we can help with your transitioning out of a walking boot.
We provide all our patients with a comfortable environment focused on eliminating pain, improving function, and enhancing the quality of life for you.
If you would like to know how we can assist you, contact us today, for a free consultation.