How To Survive A Broken Foot While in a WalkingBoot

As I mentioned last week, I recently broke my right foot and I’m wearing a walking boot (some call it an AirCast) for the next 3 or more weeks. This isn’t my first rodeo with a foot in a boot – I suffered a broken foot in an equally embarrassing manner when I lived in Wales. However, it was has been long enough since I’d last worn one that I had forgotten what a pain in the backside it is – and how easily you fool yourself with all that you think you can do when you’re sent out of the doctor’s office sans crutches.

Walking in the boot is awkward and clunky, deceptive at the start with the sweet taste of freedom (because yay, no crutches), and I have some tips* for you to make it more tolerable.

*I am not a doctor; I don’t even play one on TV. I’m sharing my tips which in no means at all replace medical advice from your doctor.

Slow your roll.  The Ortho Fellow I saw first said “wear the boot as much as you want, or as little as you want. If you want to run a marathon tomorrow, you can! But it will slow your recovery.” (No shit.)  “If you’re in the house and don’t feel like wearing it, don’t.”  Whereas the more experienced orthopedic doctor said “yes, you can take it off to swim/bathe/sleep/drive, but keep the boot on otherwise and rest it for the first week or so. You know you’ll try to overdo it. Don’t.”

Rest means just that. So spending a day standing to film a soccer match, walking a long distance to an MLS match, trekking around the stadium, up and down the stairs to your seat and then back to the car, and then shlepping around the house to get laundry done and the house tidied was NOT a good idea.

RICE, RICE baby.   That first week (or at least the first few day, as much as you can) follow the injury protocol “RICE”, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate:

  • Rest, as in stay off of it as much as you can for a few days.
  • Ice your foot for 20 minutes, three times a day. Stock up on a couple nice ice packs with the fabric cover because I promise you, it’s a hassle to try to keep it wrapped in a dish towel AND you’ll likely forget to put it back in the freezer on occasion. (Or is that just me?)
  • Compression means, at the start, wear the boot, and use the little air pump to make it comfortably support your foot. A compression sock is a great thing for swelling unless you have a bone moving around, because pulling on that tight sock can move it. OUCH.  My doctor said to hold off on a compression sock until  I could press on the area I injured and it didn’t hurt (meaning the bone was starting to heal), and then I could put on a compression sock.
  • Elevate means prop that foot UP, and by up, I mean over your heart. Yes, you have permission to lie down! Hello, Netflix.

Consider A Fitbit Time Out. I LOVE my Fitbit. If you are a person who is driven to get to 10,000 steps (or 20,000 or more), the first week or so is going to be stressful when you look at that Fitbit and see 3,000 steps. YOU know you are supposed to take it easy but your brain says lazy. I swapped out my Fitbit for a favorite watch until walking was more comfortable.

Arnica Is Your Friend. If you haven’t discovered arnica cream (or gel), you must not bruise like I do. I like Boiron Arnicare, a homeopathic remedy you can find at any health food store or crunchy supermarket like Sprouts or Whole Foods. It helps to reduce pain, as well as swelling and bruising. Where my foot could have been black and blue (like the last time I broke it), my bruising was at a minimum and the swelling went down quickly.

Broken foot

 

Free Your Toes.  It’s hot here in Texas, and it’s only May – and this boot is lined with a black foam that doesn’t really breathe. When you put the boot on, your toes go into a pocket at the front of the shoe. Now, you may have discovered this already, but if your tech was not as kindly as mine, let me tell you that you do not have to put your toes in that pocket. Just lay it flat, put your foot on top of it and let the piggies fly free.  When I stepped in line to check out at the doctor’s office the three people standing in front of me – all in boots (it must have been a rough weekend) – stared at my pink painted toes, and then at their own wrapped up feet, and back at me, looking up with faces painted in surprise. I guess I won in the med tech lottery that day.

broken foot

 

A Tisket, A Tasket, I Love My Woven Basket. Or a good tote bag.  I have a godawful set of stairs in my house, and while I’d like to just say “forget it kids, I’m not coming up until the boot is off” that is a very risky venture. I have a gorgeous market basket and it is perfect for hauling what I need up and down the stairs and leaving one hand free to grasp the railing; it’s also perfect for gathering up everything I need from my room/office/wherever to haul to wherever I am going to be in the house, so I don’t make multiple trips. Phone, tissues, Arnica gel, Advil, my insulated water bottle (with a screw top, so it doesn’t tip), book, laptop – I can fit it all in a basket (or my tote bag). If you are on crutches (or just don’t want to be unbalanced on the stairs), a backpack is also a great option.

Broken foot, basket

 

Wear the Right Shoe.  (Or the Left Shoe at the Right Height.) That boot has a platform sole with a bit of a wedge so you NEED to find a shoe for the other foot with enough of a sole height your hips are level or you will experience back/hip pain.  This may require a shoe shopping outing. I’ve been getting by with my trainers but honestly, the height still isn’t right and my chiropractor is my best friend right now.

Yes, I just gave you permission to go shoe shopping. The correct heel height really will make a difference in how your body feels at the end of the day.

Broken foot

I might not wear the sandal on an all day outing (because I broke my foot standing) but for around the house and shorter excursions, this sandal’s wedge is the perfect height.

 

Don’t Forget to Exercise and Stretch. My doctor said I could ride a stationary bike and since my foot still aches, the thought of pedaling on it just yet is not appealing – but apparently you can do it in a boot. (It should be interesting to try. Any bets that I fall off the bike? Maybe a recumbent bike is a better idea for me.)

Swimming is another option if you have a pool available, just use caution getting to/from the changing room. My pool is too small to really do laps in, but I can hold on to the side in the deep end and kick to get my heart rate up.

Thankfully, there are plenty of exercises you can do in a boot – just think back to all those great “Jane Fonda” exercises of our youth. Most floor exercises – even pushups – can be adapted. Clamshells, leg raises, kickbacks, pushups on your knees, crunches – even one-legged planks are possible. Seated you can do weighted lateral raises, bicep curls, etc.

I’ve found a few videos to give you ideas (both go too fast to follow along for a full workout, but you’ll get the idea).  Holistic health vlogger Sarahs Day has a great mini session in the middle of this video – fast forward to 7:13 for the start of it if you don’t have time for her chat. Have a pencil and paper nearby to make note of each exercise the first time through as she only demonstrates moves. Alternately, just hit pause on your laptop or phone as you work through your set, then resume for the next move. Vlogger Heather Frey has a great Footless Workout here that targets upper body and chest using dumbbells or bands and provides cardio as well.

Have a Good Story.  I do not have a good story; I have a boring story bordering on embarrassing. You will be asked OVER AND OVER AGAIN how you came to be in the boot, so go ahead and make up one humdinger of a story if you don’t have one. If it is outrageous enough, people will know you’re telling a whale of tale. It’s all good.

broken foot, story time

 

Maintain Your Sense of Humor.  Four to six weeks might not seem like long but it will feel like forever, especially after the first hundred rounds of being asked how you injured yourself becomes old.  It’s hot, it’s awkward, taking shorter steps in the boot means it takes longer to get around, and it just gets frustrating.

I entertain myself by playing it up for my kids so they do more stuff for me (not that they aren’t typically helpful but…)  I’ve decided to make the best of it and dedicate more time to things I might not make time for – more time for writing, reading, and watching some TV – while cutting out sugar and carbs because this is going to put a serious blow to my weight loss plans if I sit around eating Oreos in self-pity. (Which I did the first week. And then I stepped on the scale. Then I really needed to find my sense of humor.)

broken foot, laughter

Wearing a boot for your broken foot is a major pain in the backside, but it beats a plaster cast and crutches, hands down.  Taking it easy at the start and giving your foot time to heal will go a long way towards minimizing your time in the boot. Remember, you can probably do a lot of things without the boot, but doing so could extend your time in the boot.

Have you ever broken your foot?

Do you have any other tips for surviving a broken foot while in a walking boot?
Share in the comments below!

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