Although we all hope that we won’t have to deal with injuries or undergo surgery, life happens. If you’ve found yourself with a foot problem that requires you to wear a walking boot, you will probably find it hard to get used to.
While you should always follow your doctor’s advice with your boot, we have compiled our best tips for wearing a walking boot.
Following your doctor’s orders and incorporating some of these tips can help your foot heal faster and get you back to your normal daily activity as soon as possible.
What Is a Walking Boot?
A walking boot is a medical shoe that is designed to protect your lower leg, ankle, or foot after an injury. Walking boots come in a variety of sizes, shapes, specialties, and constructions.
These boots are also known as CAM boots—controlled ankle motion walking boots—walking casts, moon boots, or below-knee walking boots.
Depending on the level of support that you need, the walking boot may be made from stiff or slightly softer materials. All walking boots have a rigid frame and adjustable closure system.
The stiffer the boot, the more support and immobilization you’ll have in your foot and ankle. Some walking boots will have a rocker sole, which helps roll your foot forward when you walk without placing your foot under pressure.
Walking boots have soft, supportive, comfortable liners. Depending on the type of support you require, your boot may also use inflated air chambers to provide additional support and compression to the foot.
Your doctor may recommend the use of a walking boot if you’re broken or fractured a bone, injured a tendon, or have a severe sprain. The walking boot can be used to aid in healing post-operatively or it may be used to prevent you from having surgery.
How Does a Walking Boot Work?
A walking boot is designed to keep your foot and ankle as stable as possible while allowing it to heal. It also helps to keep your body weight off a specific part of your foot and ankle, which can help speed up recovery.
The rigid outer shell of the boot supports and protects your foot from injury, should you accidentally bump into anything. A softer inner lining helps cushion your lower leg, ankle, and foot. Some boots use inflatable air bladders to apply gentle compression.
This can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling in the foot and ankle. Adjustable fasteners allow you to customize the fit to accommodate for swelling, as well as different foot widths and shapes.
Some boots have a rocker bottom to help you roll forward when you walk, without putting pressure on any soft tissue or bones.
These features help to provide your lower leg with a cushioned and stable platform while you heal.
The Most Common Reasons to Wear a Walking Boot
Walking boots are used to treat a variety of injuries that range, ranging from mild to severe.
With that being said, the most common reason to wear a walking boot is if you’ve experienced one of the following injuries:
- Foot fractures
- Severe foot or ankle sprain
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Lisfranc sprain
- Torn muscles, ligaments, and tendons
- Shin fractures
- Foot and ankle surgery
Your doctor may also recommend that you wear a walking boot for other foot conditions that aren’t improving, such as chronic plantar fasciitis, pain in the ball of the foot, and tendonitis.
Tips for Wearing a Walking Boot
Follow the Doctor’s Advice
Your doctor’s advice should be the most important advice, and you should follow it above all other advice—including this article.
That being said, here are some tips for wearing a walking boot that could make the experience easier for you.
Be Careful When Wearing the Boot
Your foot will be immobilized, so you will need to take extra care when walking to make sure you don’t exceed your range of motion and possibly injure yourself again. Your toes and heel may also be exposed, so be careful not to bump them on anything.
You will also need to be careful when putting the boot on and removing it. Never rush through the process, or you could cause further injury.
Loosen all the straps or buckles before pulling your foot out of the boot. Try to open the boot up as much as possible before both putting your foot into the boot and removing it from the boot.
Let Your Feet Breathe
Most walking boots are made to be breathable, so your foot and lower leg should still be ventilated even while it’s in the boot.
Increasing the breathability of the walking boot will depend on the type of boot that you have.
Some boots have a “toe cover”, which can be lifted up to expose the toes, allowing for increased airflow. You can then tuck it underneath the foam cushions on top of the foot so it stays out of the way.
Try to Walk Straight From the Knee
Most walking boots have a rocker bottom, which will help you to walk more efficiently without placing stress on your foot. You may be tempted to bend your knee and walk like normal when you have a boot on your foot.
However, bending your knee can place strain on the foot and cause pain. You should keep your knee as straight as possible, and use the rocker bottom to propel you forward instead of your own leg and foot muscles.
Choose the Right Boot Size
Make sure you get a walking boot that’s the right size for your foot. If the boot is too large, it won’t provide the right amount of support. If it’s too small, it will hurt the foot and may cut off circulation.
From brand to brand, sizing can vary drastically, although they correspond to standard shoe sizes. It’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s sizing chart and use the measurement in inches rather than simply selecting your shoe size.
Wear a Sock Liner
You can choose to add an insert to the boot when you wear it if you need more support for your arch or more cushioning. However, you will need to make sure that it’s correctly positioned in the boot and that it doesn’t move around as you walk.
Place the back of the sock liner against the back of the boot. When you put your foot into the boot, the arch support of the insert should be in the right place, while the back of it remains against the back of the boot.
If it moves as you walk, you can attach it to the bottom of the boot with an adhesive to make sure that it stays in the right place.
Use an Analgesic Cream
If you find that your leg or foot swells, becomes bruised, or hurts, you can use an analgesic cream like Arnicare to reduce the pain and swelling.
Get a Rolling Scooter
A rolling scooter could be a good idea if you’re going to be using your walking boot for more than just a week or two. It’s a small rolling device that you lean your knee on and you walk with your uninjured foot and roll with your injured foot.
Keep in mind that you may not be able to use a rolling scooter on rough terrain, or in places like the beach.
Avoid Walking in a Wet Boot
You shouldn’t get your walking boot wet. If you need to keep your boot on while you shower, then you should take precautions to keep it dry, like wrapping it in plastic.
If you do get your walking boot wet by accident, you should take it off and rest your foot until the boot is completely dry again.
Walking around in a wet boot can increase the chance of infection, so make sure your boot is always as dry as possible.
Put Your Feet Higher Than Your Heart
If you find that your injured foot swells, feels thick and tight, or heavy, then you can alleviate the pressure in the foot by lying down and elevating your foot above the level of your heart.
This helps the fluid in your legs to flow quickly back to the heart, relieving the swelling and pain in the legs. It’s a good idea to do this for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
You can also do it every evening when you get home to try and keep your legs from swelling and retaining fluid.
Get Family to Help You
If you live with family, you can get them to help you while you’re in the walking boot.
Your mobility will be affected, so they can assist you in moving around from place to place, or help you with other tasks to reduce the amount of moving you have to do.
Wearing a walking boot doesn’t mean you have to avoid exercise. You can still do any kind of exercise that doesn’t place pressure on the injured foot.
You can do things like pushups, pullups, swimming—as long as you don’t get the boot wet—or even light cycling if you have a stationary bike with flat pedals.
Do You Need Crutches With a Walking Boot?
In most cases, your doctor will suggest that you use crutches alongside your walking boot.
However, you can speak to your doctor about using alternatives to crutches, such as a seated kneeling scooter, iWalk3.0, or a walker.
These devices can help you with your mobility while keeping weight and pressure off of your foot, especially if you don’t have great upper body strength.
They’ll also be more comfortable to use in situations where you may be on your feet for longer periods of time. It will help free up your hands so you can carry something, open or close doors, and allow you to move more freely.
That being said, you should discuss the options with your doctor as every case is different and you don’t want to risk re-injuring yourself.
How to Walk in a Walking Boot Without Crutches?
If your walking boot has a rocker bottom, then you’ll need to take short steps, where you put your heel down first and then roll to the toe. This will reduce pressure on any specific area of the foot. Even if you’re wearing a knee-length walking boot, you’re still going to walk heel-to-toe.
If your walking boot has a flat, firm sole, then you’ll also need to take short steps, making sure that you avoid long strides.
You can speak to your doctor about a foot leveling device—also known as an Even-up device—for your opposite foot.
This will ensure that the shoe on your uninjured leg is at the same height as your walking boot. This will help you maintain your balance and avoid an unnatural gait that can lead to knee or lower back pain.
While your foot heals, make sure that you use either the crutches, a walker, or a rolling knee scooter to assist you when you walk. This will reduce your risk of injury and the chance of putting your foot, ankle, or lower leg under pressure that can aggravate your foot.