Good news! Your doctor looked at the X-rays and announced that your foot is not broken and therefore you will not need a cast. The bad news is the tendons were severely damaged and the doctor decided your ankle needs to be stabilized for a while. You may be advised to use a controlled ankle motion walking boot, often known as a CAM for short.
It is also known as a below-knee walking boot, Aircast boot, medical boot, fracture boot, cast boot, or walker. It is used when it is deemed that ankle motion must be limited but the foot can bear weight. This is used to treat tears of the ligaments or tendons and severe sprains and fractures.
Table of Contents
- What The Walking Boot Looks Like?
- What Is The Difference Between A Walking Boot And A Cast?
- Is A Walking Boot Better Than A Cast?
- Is A Walking Boot More Comfortable Than A Cast?
- Is A Walking Boot Considered Non-Weight Bearing?
- Short Vs. Tall Walking Boot
- Pneumatic Vs. Non-Pneumatic Walking Boot
- Can A Walking Boot Cause Pain?
- Reasons To Wear A Walking Boot
- How Do I Know If I Need A Walking Boot?
- What Injuries Require A Walking Boot?
- What Do You Wear Under A Walking Boot?
- How To Put On The Walking Boot?
- How To Wear The Walking Boot?
- Do You Wear A Shoe With A Walking Boot?
- What Clothes To Wear With A Walking Boot?
- Do You Sleep With A Walking Boot?
- Making The Boot More Comfortable
- Can I Walk With Walking Boot?
- How To Walk More Comfortably With The Boot
- Do You Need Crutches With A Walking Boot?
- How To Walk In A Walking Boot Without Crutches?
- How Do You Shower With A Walking Boot?
- How Do You Get The Smell Out Of A Walking Boot?
- Can You Put Walking Boots In The Washing Machine?
- How Long Do You Wear A Walking Boot?
- How Tight Should Walking Boot Be?
- Call Your Doctor If You Notice Any Of The Following
- Transition From Walking Boot To Normal Shoe
What The Walking Boot Looks Like?
It looks like a ventilated plastic box-shaped roughly like a boot. It will consist of the following parts:
- An inner lining, typically fabric, featuring hook and loop fasteners (Velcro being the common generic trademark) that enclose and cushion the patient’s entire foot and ankle
- A rigid frame that restricts motion in the lower leg
- A hard plastic shell that offers protection and rigidity to the leg
- Adjustable closure system that permits a proper fitting to a variety of leg sizes
Depending on the condition it is meant to treat, CAM walkers can vary in height from mid-calf to almost knee-length. Some come with inflatable compartments in order to supply both comfort and support that is fully adjustable.
To protect the leg further, the CAM walker may come with an extensive plastic shell that encloses the back and sides along with detachable plates upfront.
What Is The Difference Between A Walking Boot And A Cast?
A medical walking boot is easier to walk in than a heavy cast as it is lighter and more comfortable to wear. Because of this, more foot injuries these days are treated using walking braces and walking boots in place of heavy casts.
Is A Walking Boot Better Than A Cast?
It is more comfortable to wear and easier to walk in. Not only is the walking boot more comfortable but short leg walking boots have been known to shorten the postoperative recuperative period where ankle fractures are concerned.
Is A Walking Boot More Comfortable Than A Cast?
This is a major difference between the two. It is lighter and gives the wearer greater mobility while keeping the injury immobilized.
Is A Walking Boot Considered Non-Weight Bearing?
The boot is designed to put weight on your foot so that you can walk. Follow your doctor’s instructions on when it would be possible to use a weight-bearing boot. You may be instructed to use a non-weight bearing at first.
Short Vs. Tall Walking Boot
Short boots are not very supportive and are more useful in immobilizing the foot after surgery or ankle sprain. They are also lighter than the tall boot which is for severe stress fractures in the lower leg, foot, or ankle and thus have a lot more support than shorter boots.
Pneumatic Vs. Non-Pneumatic Walking Boot
Pneumatic boots make use of compressed air in order to inflate the lining of the boot. This delivers extra support and compression to the foot. Because of the compression, the patient has improved control of any inflammation that they may have which can result in great relief from pain.
Can A Walking Boot Cause Pain?
It should not cause you any pain at all. If you feel severe or increasing pain or burning, stinging, or tingling you should call your doctor immediately. The whole point of a walking boot is to be comfortable. If your boot is not comfortable that means something is very wrong. Listen to your body. Perhaps all you need is to adjust the fit but your doctor needs to know if you are in any pain.
Reasons To Wear A Walking Boot
The primary purpose of a walking boot is to protect the foot and/or ankle after surgery or injury. Some people wear the boot after breaking a bone or a tendon injury, severe sprain, or shin splint. The foot needs to be kept stable to promote healing and the walking boot does that.
How Do I Know If I Need A Walking Boot?
Walking boots are for people with foot injuries who are in need of stability. This could be anything from Achilles tendon repair to fractures in the lower leg.
What Injuries Require A Walking Boot?
Walking boots are worn for any injury including the ankle, foot, or shin including both fibula and tibia. This could be a sprain, fracture, calf muscle tear, or Achilles injury. The walking boot acts much like a cast but without the inconvenience.
What Do You Wear Under A Walking Boot?
A sock can and should be worn under the walking boot to keep the skin from soaking in its own sweat. The sock should be clean and dry. It should preferably be a sock that wicks away moisture. If the sock gets sweaty or damp it should be changed.
How To Put On The Walking Boot?
Start by putting on a large sock and pull it up as far as it will go. Sit down, make yourself comfortable, and get ready to put on that boot.
- Sit down and put your heel all the way on the back of the boot.
- Wrap the soft liner about your foot and leg.
- Put the front piece over the liner.
- Begin with fastening the straps closest to your toes then move upwards.
- Tighten the straps so they are snug but not excessively tight. The boot should hinder movement but not cut off your circulation.
- If your boot comes with one or more air chambers, pump them up as your healthcare provider has instructed.
- Stand up and take a step or two to practice walking.
- Deflate the air chambers before you remove the boot.
How To Wear The Walking Boot?
If the injury is due to a stress fracture you can add to the stabilization by adding arch support. Foot insoles are available in a plethora of different materials, shapes, and sizes. The most standard foot insoles for a broken toe walking boot are constructed from foam or gel to effortlessly mold to the shape of the injured foot.
Foot liners will aid in avoiding irritation. Sock liners are a great tool to aid in comfort. They can promote circulation along with a reduction of irritation and abrasion from the CAM boot walkers. Most of such boot liners are available in tall or short sizes and are built to aid in keeping the foot dry, warm and comfortable.
Do You Wear A Shoe With A Walking Boot?
You should always wear supportive shoes with your walking boot. An athletic shoe is advised. Athletic shoes are recommended because they are not only comfortable and supportive but have a thick sole so that the feet will be evened out.
You want to be balanced out so that you do not limp. You may even want to wear a shoe lift to make your good foot on the same level as your injured foot so that your gait will even out.
What Clothes To Wear With A Walking Boot?
Let’s face it, a walking boot isn’t exactly fashion-forward. You will need something that fits over the walking boot. Wide and straight leg style trousers can also cover the walking boot so that only the foot is visible. If you can get away with a maxi skirt, go for that. The shoe on your good foot should have a mid to low heel and have a sole thick enough for your gait to be even.
Do You Sleep With A Walking Boot?
Another frequent inquiry when coping with the discomfort of these orthopedic boots is if it is acceptable to sleep while wearing them. It is advisable to sleep with the walking boot on though with the straps loosened for maximum comfort. A useful point to remember while sleeping with a boot on is to make a nest around the leg using pillows to see to it that the injured foot has support.
This will also make it improbable for the foot to be displaced and lead to further injury. In the end, the choice of sleeping in the foot brace or not is grounded upon the seriousness and type of injury to the foot. Remember to discuss things with a medical professional to help you decide what is best.
You can encourage healing by taking frequent breaks. If you’re going to be somewhere where you are likely to be standing or walking for a long time, (festivals, shopping, amusement parks, etc.) consider using a wheelchair or scooter.
The Cam is as lightweight as it can possibly be, but it can still take a toll on a sore foot. And don’t forget your RICE! That stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest your foot when you can. Use an ice pack to reduce swelling. Compression is the point of the walking boot. Elevate your foot while you rest. This can quickly ameliorate any pain you have.
Making The Boot More Comfortable
The brace should be used when out of bed and walking unless your health care provider says otherwise. Once or twice a day you should take off your orthosis and inspect your skin. A little redness is to be expected but if it lasts for more than fifteen minutes that could mean the pressure has been excessive. If you experience this or any sort of pain, itching, swelling, or numbness, do not reapply. Contact your doctor for an adjustment.
Always wear socks and supportive shoes with your walking boot. The straps should be snug but not too tight. You can clean your orthosis with a washcloth and mild soapy water. Before you put it back on all soap residue must be rinsed off and the orthosis completely dry. Using excessive heat to dry the device may cause warping or other damage.
If you have pneumatic boots, you can inflate the air chambers about your ankle by rotating the knob clockwise until secure. Remember not to tighten too much because the knob can break if turned too hard.
You can then press and release the air bulb until your ankle area feels secure. Air can be let out from the chambers by rotating the knob counterclockwise. If you hear air releasing at this point, you’re doing it right. When the air pressure feels just right to turn the knob again clockwise until it is secure. This will also keep further air from releasing.
Make sure that you are completely comfortable with putting on and taking off your orthosis. You should never try to make any modifications to your orthosis yourself. Remember to inspect your orthosis every day for any signs of wear which include cracking, loose parts, or lessened effectiveness of the device. Call a professional if needed. Do not hesitate to call should you have any inquiries about wearing your device.
Can I Walk With Walking Boot?
That is pretty much the whole point of one. You may want to be extra careful around wet or uneven surfaces but you should be allowed to walk somewhat normally while wearing a walking boot.
How To Walk More Comfortably With The Boot
The purpose of the boot is to be able to walk; to really walk, not just limp around. To keep that from happening you have to even out the length of your other leg. A running shoe could give your healthy foot the right amount of height and support.
Slipping in an adjustable heel lift can help. If you have a history of knee or hip pain you will want your gait to be more symmetric. This can be done by putting an Even-Up device on the shoe on your good foot. You strap it to the bottom of the shoe and your gait is evened out.
You will also need to put an arch support in the boot to give yourself stability. You need one that fits the full length and is rather rigid. A sock liner will protect your skin from being irritated. A weather cover will not only keep your boot dry and clean, but you can just take it off when you get home if wiping that foot would be too much pressure on them.
If you use a cane or crutch be sure to do it right. The cane should be in the opposite hand of your injured foot. Get into the habit of moving the cane forward at the same time as the injured foot. This can reduce the pressure on your injured foot from thirty to forty percent. Whether you start with the heel or toe depends on which is less painful. Use the crutch or cane as long as your doctor says to.
Do You Need Crutches With A Walking Boot?
At first, you may need crutches, a cane, or a walker to get used to walking in one. However, the whole point of a walking boot is to be able to walk without assistance. Once you get used to it, you will not need any assistance.
How To Walk In A Walking Boot Without Crutches?
Keep in mind that walker boots have a rocker bottom so you may have to shorten your stride a little. Remember to keep your feet and knees straight. Do not turn your feet outwards. Keep in mind that even though you can walk in this boot you should rest as much as you can.
How Do You Shower With A Walking Boot?
It is possible you will be able to take off the walking boot to shower. If not, you should try to keep the boot dry. If moisture gets trapped under the boot this can cause irritation. This can lead to an infection. If you cannot take your boot off to shower then you should put your booted leg inside a trash bag first and tape it shut so that no water can get in.
If you are able to take the boot off to shower, make sure your leg is good and dry before you can put the boot back on. If your boot does get a little wet you can dry it off with a hairdryer on the cool setting.
How Do You Get The Smell Out Of A Walking Boot?
You can spray it down with an odor eliminating spray such as Febreeze or wiping it down with Woolite. Remember not to let the boot get soaking wet and to allow it to air dry. Make sure it is completely dry before putting it on. This is especially important if you have a still-healing wound.
Can You Put Walking Boots In The Washing Machine?
As it may damage the inner air bladder so it is not a good idea to put them in the washing machine. The inner lining may be cleaned if you are allowed to take the boot off occasionally. You can wash the liner by hand in warm water and mild detergent.
It must be allowed to air dry completely before being put back in its frame. Said frame can be wiped clean with a slightly damp cloth. It must also be completely dry before being worn.
How Long Do You Wear A Walking Boot?
This varies greatly from one individual and situation to another. On average, a bone injury can take six to eight weeks to heal. A ligament injury may take anywhere from six to twelve weeks to heal.
A tendon injury may take anywhere from four to eight weeks to heal. Keep in mind these are just on average. Your doctor will tell you a good estimate of how long you will need the boot. Follow the doctor’s instructions.
How Tight Should Walking Boot Be?
If your toes look or feel just “wrong” that could mean the boot is too tight. Check your toes often. Are the red and/or swollen? Do they feel numb or tingly? It may be time to loosen the boot. On the other side of the coin, if you had the boot put on because your foot was swollen due to injury or surgery and the swelling has gone down it may be time to tighten the boot a little to encourage further healing.
The boot and water don’t seem to mix well. Be careful when walking on slippery surfaces. Avoid them if you can. The liner can be washed in cold water with mild detergent. It must be hand washed and laid flat to dry. The plastic parts can be wiped clean with mild soap and a damp cloth. Towel it dry before putting it on. If you need to leave the boot on to bathe cover it with a plastic bag and tape it shut. You may be able to remove it for bathing or exercise.
Call Your Doctor If You Notice Any Of The Following
- You have discomfort or pain that will not go away when the air chamber is deflated.
- You cannot seem to get the boot to fit properly.
- You have concerns or questions about your condition or care.
If the strap is overhanging your boot (usually due to tightening the boot after swelling has subsided), cut it off. You do not want to trip over this and undo the healing process or injure your other foot. If the boot is hospital property or you’d like to donate the boot so it can be used again bend the strap back and tape it down.
Always remember that medical professionals are there to help. Feel free to ask them for any further advice you might like to hear. If the boot is on your right foot, you probably should not drive for a while. If the boot is on your left foot, you can drive if you don’t use a clutch.
You can walk briskly but nothing too high impact. If the boot isn’t on for surgery or fracture it may be taken off to do therapeutic exercises. Try writing the alphabet in the air with your big toe. Remember to take rest brakes if you feel tired.
Transition From Walking Boot To Normal Shoe
You may need a physical therapist to help you out with this. The therapist will help you gradually put weight on your previously injured leg. Eventually, you will get up to putting your full weight on it.
Once you can do that, it is time for gait training. You will start doing some exercises to get back to a normal walking pattern. A lot of these exercises will be done on a treadmill. In this treatment, the focus will be on the restoration of normal movement of the foot and ankle.
Massage, heat, ice, and compression can bring down the swelling. Manual therapy will increase your range of motion. The intended goal of this therapy is ultimately to regain your original flexibility and strength.
If you are involved in a sport or occupation that requires you to use your feet in a certain way your therapist may have some specific activity training for you. Work with your physical therapist so you will know what to do to help yourself get back to business as usual.
The walking boot is a very helpful medical device for the purpose of immobilizing the ankle joint and decreasing re-injury to soft tissues and tendons. How long you will wear depends on the type and severity of your injury. Listen to your doctor’s advice and always feel free to ask for more advice or to address any concerns you might have.
Putting the boot on is not difficult once you know how. You must remember that if it feels uncomfortable that means something is wrong. Most often discomfort comes from wearing the boot too tightly. If the boot is too loose, you may as well not be wearing one at all. Adjust the fit accordingly.
You can and should live a normal, comfortable life while wearing a walking boot. You can loosen it up to sleep and put a bag over it to bathe. You can go about doing your usual routine, remembering how to use your cane correctly and to use a cover if the weather is damp or snowy.
For a long excursion, you may want to try a wheelchair or scooter. If you are in pain, do not ignore it or just try to cover it up with pain killers. Try to find the source of the pain. Most often that will be a too tight device. Remember, a foot that is healing should feel better, not worse.