How To Survive A Broken Foot While in a Walking Boot

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 (as it was 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 a better 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.  I now have 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!

Comments

  1. Great advice, hope I don’t have to use it anytime soon.

  2. The closest I’ve come to a broken foot is a broken big toe and that was bad enough for a couple of days. But I can’t imagine the inconvenience of being in a boot, especially with my job at school, running around with Middle School kids! You’ve got some great tips here, packaged up with some great humor and tidbits of personal life! Makes for a great read, even if I’ve never had a broken foot. But I’ll know what to do perchance I ever do!

    • Kathryn Evans says:

      It truly sucks! I just broke my ankle and I’m stuck in a boot for 7 weeks. Broke my lower tibia the 15th of this month and it sucks big time.

      • I won’t lie – it’s HOT in that boot. Did they show you how to lay the foam piece that covers the toe flat on the base and set your foot on top of it so your piggies can fly free? IT’s cooler that way.

        Here’s another tip – if you sweat INSIDE the boot, that foam lining can get stiff. As much as it sucks, if you can wear leggings or something on hot days to collect the sweat…I ended up cutting the toes off a pair of tall socks and wearing them like leg warmers underneath the boot.

    • Desiree Nelson says:

      Try having a tendon issue that required using a boot for 6 months prior to surgery then on to non weight bearing in a cast for 6 weeks. Finally I am back in a boot and just starting PT post surgery. Been in this boot for 8 months so far and not looking forward to having it any longer! You have some great advise about dealing but best advise is to have a shoe the same height on the other foot! Sure does wonders!

  3. It’s really pathetic when an accident takes place. Thank you for your informative post. I will recommend it for others.

  4. I love these tips!!! Ive done or at least thought about a few of these things in the past week since I’ve broken my leg. Think you for this blog!

  5. Derek Miller says:

    Just got my cast 4-6 weeks will seem like hell! I am going to go stir crazy in my house how
    Much tv reading can I do? Thank goodness for Uber drivers take me to do stuff that has to be done

    • Oh, that’s a long time. I hope it’s waterproof. I saw it as a good time to catch up on all the Netflix series and all those books I’d been accumulating. Good luck!

  6. Enjoyed your spin on this dilemma! I broke my foot Nov 3. Boot, crutches, no weight bearing for 6 weeks. Saved by a borrowed scooter from crutch difficulties! Now walking in boot but finding I get sore in many other places quickly. Frustrating to be more free but still not completely! I have a few more weeks in the boot I think Totally agree with letting others save me steps! Wishing us both speedy healing!

    • I’m healed, but I do feel some pain if I’m not wearing the best shoes or walking too long! I wish you a very speedy recovery, and yes – let people help you. Pride and self-sufficiency is great – but tiring!

  7. Derek Miller says:

    Just went to surgeon two weeks after the break and I get to take boot off and can drive yeah!!! Still 6 weeks to go to normal activity

    Tremendous news

    If you have to be in the boot wear it maybe take off for an hour while watching tv

    Put a garbage bag around it take quick showers get a temporary handicap parking sticker

  8. Derek Miller says:

    You will be sore after taking boot off. Your Achilles has not been used so stretch.ankles will hurt too

    Stretch!!

  9. Great info! Thanks! I sprained my ankle a few years back playing softball…I know it’s not quite the same thing but these tips would have been a lifesaver back then. Bookmarking just in case 🙂
    Chris recently posted..Bunny Slippers For All! Our Top Picks for 2019

  10. Liz White says:

    Thanks for invaluable advice. Ordered some arnica cream and wedge trainers from amazon so husband sending you the bill lol. Found an invaluable youtube 20 min yoga with broken foot workout which has kept me sane. Good healing to any subsequent subscribers.

    • Glad I could help but please tell your husband he is welcome to the bill.
      What you save in not needing chiropractic adjustment from walking with your hips off balance should more than make up for the cost of the trainers. THOSE you can probably wear later if you were clever in your shopping!

      Sending wishes for speedy healing!

      • Here’s a good story. Fell into a two feet deep drainage ditch on the 3rd day of a long planned for trip to Indonesia. Lateral break from third toe to butter edge. We never go anywhere so the trip was deeply longed for and planned (and we’re in our early 60s, kids finally the hell out of the house, etc) so after a day in various medical facilities that ended with a funny surgeon giving me a boot and telling us to keep traveling, I came back to the hotel where we simplified the trip down and I cried and found your post. THANK YOU! We are going (slowly) on to Laos making a party of it all.

        • Oh no! I’m glad you finally got things sorted out (getting injured while traveling where the medical care may be questionable is always a concern) and good for you for carrying on with your trip! If your boot is foam lined, I can tell you (from living in Texas) that it gets very hot and the foam can get scratchy if it gets damp, then dries. You may want to wear a tall sock of that happens (I cut off the toe so my piggies could breathe).

          Best of luck to you!

  11. So glad I found your article, broke my foot last week and changed from a cast to a boot today. Living in Thailand so a similar situation with the heat and I’ll be taking full advantage of working from home in the air con.

    I’m going to be flying in 5 weeks so if anyone has any tips in terms of how soon you can start to put weight down.

    • I would think that your doctor and/or physical therapist will be able to give you a better idea of that. Good luck, and I’m glad I could help!

  12. Jill Petersen says:

    I missed a step on the stairs and fell hard o to my foot breaking it in 2 places on Mothers day! I appreciate your words of wisdom. I totally overdid it today and I’m in a lot of pain. I’m just not sure how much is too much activity. My doc says weight bearing to my comfort level. I use my crutches *most of the time but I own a cleaning business and the work must go on! My daughters have had to step in and help clean. I guess i just need to take it easy. I’m worried I will delay healing time if I don’t cool it!

    • Please take it easy! My doc said I could run every day if I wanted – but it would just delay healing!!!

      Your situation is so much harder with a job on your feet. Maybe a knee scooter to take the pressure off of your foot so you can get some stuff done??? I still took time to elevate every day – I’d say if you are ending the day in pain, it’s too much so maybe continue to cut back (or just have your daughters step in for a week or so and just let it HEAL.)

      Wishing you speedy healing!

  13. Ty for all the tips
    Mines a boring story lol
    Back in Jan I slipped on ice, really bashed up my left leg and didn’t really feel anything major in my right foot except I figured I had twisted it or maybe mild sprain. I have broken my foot 2 xs before and didn’t know it until couple days later it turned black and blue.
    I was off work 2 weeks as my left leg healed, the right foot swelling went down and I figured it was healing from being twisted.
    Easter I noticed it had been getting extremely sore more and more, instead of feeling better, it was feeling worse.
    Went to my Drs next day he xrayed and said that I had a Avulsion usually caused by a break, but I had no break.
    Gave me a script for a $200 compression ankle / sock, wore it faithfully but after 5 weeks it was worse then ever.
    Would be fine all day, then by dinner I couldn’t put any weight on it, felt like bones were clicking, sounded like someone cracking their knuckles.
    Went back this past Monday, he sent me to Fracture Clinic / Specialist, after dragging my butt out of bed to be there at 5:30 AM!!!
    The specialist used exact same xray that my Dr took in April and within minutes he found a fracture and a chip
    So I’m in a boot until end of July.
    How the he** did my Dr miss those ?
    Not his first miss of broken bone or other injuries.
    3 years ago I tripped over a kitten and fell, right away I knew there was something.
    Went to emergency they said nothing wrong just badly bruised inside.
    Went to him 4 xs telling him that there was something wrong, I literally had to lift my right arm with my left to use it.
    Finally 5th time ( in 6 weeks ) I went in my Drs partner was in and sent me for more xrays and an ultrasound on that arm.
    Turned out there were 2 breaks and a torn rotator cuff

    • The urgent care here has missed more than one broken bone, including my son’s clearly broken elbow!
      We recently had an orthopedic urgent care center open up, and anything we suspect could be a break sees that location (and not the standard urgent care.) It’s SO frustrating though, isn’t it!!!

      I’m so sorry!!! Hope you heal faster now that you are in a boot! Get yourself a cute pair of sandals with a wedge to meet the boot and save your lower back. Momma says you have permission to buy new shoes! You deserve them!!!!

      • TY hope you and your son heal / healed quickly.
        This boot drives me nut, I take it off and wear my compression gel so when I go into work a couple hours a day.
        I dont know how the ones that have to wear it 24 hours do it, I would go nuts lol.

  14. Faith Wilson says:

    How do you make the Velcro noise when you walk go away? People look at me weird when I’m walking down the halls In school because my boot is so loud.

    • I don’t know!! That was annoying. I think because it was so new…maybe fiddling with the velcro at home so it’s not so stiff? My boot SQUEAKED on clean floors. It drove me crazy.

      Good luck to you!

      • I was in Walmart Saturday and this little old lady looked, smiled and said, ” thats a special pretty little shoe your wearing “.
        I had to laugh because I hate this thing and its driving me nuts.

  15. Charlotte says:

    Thank you! I broke my foot this weekend! For Father’s Day my husband wanted to rent a 22’ water slide for the backyard! It was so much fun until I rolled my ankle and broke my foot! Luckily we have several orthopedic urgent cares in the area and saw a foot/ankle specialist. I have the shoe- not full boot. With two small children this is challenging and I appreciate your advice! After it heals, will the foot feel normal again? This is my first broken bone

    • I can only speak to my injur(ies). My left foot (which I broke in this instance) DOES feel fine, although it ached a bit in the first few months after it was officially healed.

      My second break (because I’m awesome) was a dancer’s fracture, and it still gets sore if I have walked a lot and am wearing less than awesomely supportive shoes.

      However, the doctor tells us that the bone will be like before when healed (neither stronger nor weaker) so I’m going to favor it feeling normal when healed. The shoe is almost as awkward as the boot – you will feel better when you can progress to your own shoes!!!

      • I also have the dancers fracture! I am one week post injury and still can’t put pressure on it!! Any tips?

        • OUCH! All I can say is follow doctor’s directions. Elevate and ice/heat (per DR orders) if it is still aching (mine did for a while). Do your best to stay off of it. Are you in a boot? Life is easier once you are in the boot but it gets hot/sweaty/itchy.

          My doc told me I could run on it if I wanted – but it would take longer to heal, and the more I could stay off of it the less it would delay healing. Go splurge on a pair of shoes with the same height wedge as your boot (for your free foot) – with your hips the same height, your back/hips with thank you!! Did he tell you to take Calcium/Vitamin D, too? If not, check back in with your nurse to see if that is something you should add in.

          When I finally got out of the boot, squishy soles hurt. I did better with a firmer soled shoe, firm soled sandals (cork vs my comfy padded Clarks).

          Let people wait on you if they are offering.

          Sending healing thoughts your way!

          • Thanks for the reply! I have the stiff soled shoe and I have the aircast walking boot for when I start walking. Dr said to wear the stiff soled and can transition into walking boot. It’s been 7 days since the fracture and I still haven’t walked in the fear of displacing the bone. I tried once but it hurt and if it hurts it’s not ready to be walked on. I have starting taking vitamins. I ice a lot. Dr said 5th metatarsals can be hard to heal because of poor blood supply there so I’ve been using a heat pack to attract the blood lol. Do you think that is beneficial? At what stage of the game we’re you able to walk? I would love to return to work on week 3 but I have to be able to ambulate. I really can’t do surgery!

            • I was walking on it right away – I was the opposite, I started off in the walking boot and transitioned to the stiff soled shoe (I left the orthopedic office in the boot both times I’ve broken my foot.) That said, he told me to walk on it as little as possible at first.

              Your fracture sounds like it was worse than mine if you still aren’t yet bearing weight on it. I’m so sorry!

              I can’t speak to whether the heat is beneficial NOW as I’m not a doctor. My release instructions said to ice it while there was swelling and THEN switch to heat (google heat vs ice to understand what they each do) – but as your doctor is approaching it differently, I would defer to his instructions.

              The doctors PA is usually very helpful – I would call the doctor’s PA to see what else you can do (heat vs cold). Keep it elevated and rest. Good luck!

  16. Jessica Ayers says:

    I know this is an old post but found it while googling something boot related. It is oh so true and hilarious! I’m a momma of 5 boys with a hubby who works out of town during the day and have been in a boot for 2 days. I have at least 3 weeks to go. I was in crutches and a cast for 2 days and thought I was going to die! My real story is I was helping my hubby move our grill out of the shed while he was home over the weekend and stepped out of the shed and my foot gave out. Thought it was just sprained and limped on it a few hours before I decided maybe I should get it checked. I fractured it in 2 places!! Technically both my foot and ankle are fractured! I’ve really enjoyed having the boys help me more and dinner and groceries that have been brought to us, haha. I’m so ready for this to be over though. Oh and Tylenol (yes just Tylenol) knocks me out!

    • Old but relevant (because I broke the other foot last summer!)

      The one real positive outcome was that my family (and I) realized they were capable of SO much more than they were doing. The trick is to keep up the help when you are healed!!

      Hope you are out of the boot soon!

  17. Deb Wallace says:

    Hi, thanks for all your good information! I fractured my 5th metatarsal at the end of April and my dr has cleared me to transition to a athletic show with good stability. Do you have a particular shoe or type/brand that you recommend while my foot is essentially still on the mend.

    Thanks so much!

    • Honestly, I think it depends on your foot.

      I found that shoes with a firmer insole and arch support that hit in the right place caused less discomfort – so the super lightweight, barely-there athletic shoes were NOT my friend. Neither were the ones with an arch support that didn’t quite hit where it should. (The ones that you might be more forgiving of because they are so damn cute…)

      My feet tend to pronate, so I broke down and bought a pair of running shoes with the type of soles to counteract the pronation.

  18. My foot is broke on the outside of the foot in the middle. Why do I have to wear a tall boots? Why not a short one?

  19. You walked right away on a 5th metatarsal fracture?!? I keep reading horror stories. I have the jones fracture.(dancers) nonweight bearing for a few weeks then walk as my pain allows I’m just so scared to displace it plus it still hurts to put much pressure on it!

  20. Julia Johnson says:

    I just got an avulsion fracture to my right ankle. And no joke, I’m getting married in a month!! It was so dumb how it happened. I just simply rolled it for no reason. There wasn’t anything on the ground to have caused me to mis-step. Now I’m sitting here sweating from the boot and elevating it. Your tips and humor are giving me some hope I can get through this. I just hope I can walk in semi-heels on my wedding day!!

    • HOping you are back in regular shoes for your big day!!! Maybe cute comfy flats for the reception??

      I roll my ankles all the time so now I’m terrified of rolling it!

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