Maximizing Recovery with a Walking Boot

after an ankle injury or surgery, a person often has to wear a walking boot

Recovering from foot and ankle injuries or surgeries often requires the use of a walking boot and crutches. In general, there are two to three phases of recovery and rehab involving the use of a walking boot. Each phase can be optimized by incorporating a comprehensive exercise routine that is safe and effective.

The first phase is the non-weight bearing while using a walking boot, the second is weight bearing while continuing to use the walking boot and finally, full weight bearing once the walking boot is no longer needed. The first phase may not be needed, depending on the type and severity of the injury or surgery. 

Below are some recommended exercises for each phase that are generally safe for most patients, though we do recommend you consult with your attending provider for personalized guidance and specific precautions related to your condition or due to other concurrent injuries. Your attending provider will help determine when it is appropriate for you to move through each phase of your rehabilitation.

Phase 1: Non-weight bearing with boot

The priority in this phase of recovery is to allow the injured area to heal until it is safe to resume bearing weight through the leg. During this phase general activity levels are significantly diminished, and patients often see other areas of the leg and body start to decline in strength and conditioning. With these types of exercises, we hope to minimize these losses by doing non-weight-bearing exercises for key muscles in the hips and thighs. 

Phase 2: Weight-bearing with boot

Once it is deemed safe by your attending provider, you can begin bearing weight through the leg again. During this phase, your exercises will focus on restoring your balance and muscle strength while helping move the healing process forward.  It is common to be apprehensive about returning to weight bearing so a gradual increase is often recommended.

Phase 3: Weight-bearing without boot

The final phase of recovery marks the transition to walking without the boot. This is where continued work on balance, strength, flexibility and normalizing your walking patterns is the focus. This is also usually a more exciting time for patients as they can start returning to their regular activities in and out of the home. 

When an injury or surgery results in the need for you to use a walking boot, following a phased approach to recovery and rehabilitation can help ensure a full and complete return to function. While these featured exercises are generally beneficial, it is important to note that every injury or surgery has its own nuances and special considerations. Working with a physical therapist is the optimal way to ensure your exercise program is tailored to you and designed to maximize your recovery.

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As physical therapists, we know the importance of movement for overall health and well-being. From injury recovery to achieving optimal performance, our passion is to help every patient reach their goals and live an active, pain-free life. Get started with PT today!

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