A walking cast, also commonly known as a walking boot, works to immobilize the movement of the ankle when walking. It is commonly used to resolve a variety of lower leg and foot injuries or conditions. The goal of a walking cast varies depending on the condition, but generally the goal is to aid in healing post-operatively or to avoid surgery altogether.
A walking boot can be stiff or soft, depending on the level of support or immobilization required by the patient. Generally, the stiffer the boot, the more immobile the ankle. The sole of the boot can also vary. Some boots come equipped with a rocker sole, which makes the rolling forward motion easier when walking. Others come with a flat, skid-proof sole that is generally useful for standing but difficult to walk in for long periods.
The variety of walking cast that your doctor provides you with significantly impacts your treatment. Longer, stiffer walking boots can be fatiguing and are typically used for patients recovering from serious injuries, such as an Achilles tendon rupture. Shorter, softer boots can help stabilize an ankle after a sprain but don't typically immobilize the working joint as much, minimizing muscle atrophy.
All walking boots come with a variety of straps that use Velcro to hold the boot in place. In addition, some include removable sleeves that you can wash to keep the boot fresher-smelling if you will be wearing the walking cast for a number of weeks.
"Medical News Today" states that an Aircast is more helpful in treating severe ankle sprains than a Bledsoe boot. A University of Warwick study followed emergency room patients recovery after being treated for severe ankle sprains. The study found that a below-knee cast or an Aircast was more effective than simply wrapping the ankle in compression bandages, icing and elevating the leg. The Bledsoe boot, the authors state, was no more effective than using a compression bandage.
When wearing a walking boot or cast, pay attention to the other joints and limbs used when walking. You hips, back and knee may need to bear considerably more than their fair share of the movement required for walking. Knees in particular are vulnerable, and you may find your knees fatigue more quickly until you get used to the immobilization of your ankle, especially if you are wearing a very stiff walking boot.