Do you Need a Walking Boot for a Sprained Ankle

Every year, more than 1 million people in the United States visit an emergency room for treatment of an ankle injury. Of those visits, the most common diagnoses are fractures and sprains, which are sometimes treated with a walking boot. Sprains are so common that in the United States alone, there are approximately 25,000 ankle sprains every day.  Because of this, the question is often asked do you need a walking boot for a sprained ankle?  The answer depends on a few things.  Let’s take a look.

So, do you need a walking boot for a sprained ankle?  Typically you do not, however, for more severe sprains your doctor may recommend that you wear a walking boot to help promote healing and do so more comfortably.  Your doctor will decide which treatment protocol is appropriate for your particular ankle sprain, which may include the use of a walking boot. Some healthcare providers recommend prescribing a removable walking boot for seven to 10 days following a second or third-degree ankle sprain. 

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What is a Sprain?

Ligaments in your ankle hold the bones in your feet together, and they have a normal range of motion. If you somehow exceed this range of motion by rolling, twisting, or otherwise forcing your ankle into an awkward position, you can suffer a sprained ankle. Like other injuries, a sprain can occur with varying degrees of severity. The severity of the sprain will ultimately dictate the prescribed treatment and recovery time. 

How Is This Different From a Strained Ankle?

Your doctor will diagnose your injury based on the tissue involved, usually ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones. Where sprains involve ligaments, strains involve muscles. Strains, when caused by repetitive motion, are commonly called a Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI. Your healthcare provider may turn to an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound to aid in making the diagnosis and determining if you’ve sprained or strained your ankle.

Who Is Most At Risk for an Ankle Sprain?

Anyone can sprain their ankle. In the 15 to 24-year-old demographic, men are more likely to suffer a sprain than women. Conversely, women over 30 are more likely to experience an ankle sprain than men of the same age.

Participation in sports that involve running, climbing, kicking, and jumping can increase your risk of spraining your ankle. Other risk factors include walking on uneven surfaces, being in poor physical condition, and even wearing the wrong type of shoes. If you’ve sprained your ankle before, you’re at increased risk of suffering another sprain. 

There Are Different Types of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are graded on a scale between one and three, with three being most severe.

A first-degree sprain, caused by either stretching or a minor tear of the ligament, might cause tenderness, along with mild swelling and stiffness. These sprains should cause minimal discomfort and are unlikely to impede your ability to walk. Recovery time for a first-degree ankle sprain is three to five weeks.

A second-degree sprain is caused by an incomplete tear of the ligament, and moderate tenderness swelling, bruising, and pain might occur. A second-degree sprain can make walking painful. Second-degree sprains should heal in four to six weeks.

A third-degree sprain is the most severe and happens when there is a complete tear of the ligament. Walking may be impossible because, with a complete tear, the ligament can no longer support your foot. Being the most severe grade of ankle sprain, recovery times can be as long as three to six months. 

What Are The Treatment Options?

In less severe cases, treatment for a sprained ankle can involve home care such as the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation), medications to relieve pain and swelling, the use of orthopedic devices such as a walking boot, and physical therapy. In severe cases, your healthcare provider might suggest surgery to repair the injured ligament. 

What is a Walking Boot?

Used to treat ankle and foot injuries, a walking boot – synonymous with a walking cast or walking brace – is an orthopedic device designed to prevent a sprain from worsening, while allowing the ankle sprain to heal. Not only does the boot protect from further injury, but it also redistributes weight and stabilizes the foot.

Walking boots are designed to be more comfortable than plaster and fiberglass casts, and are generally made of plastic, straps, and padding. There are also pneumatic – or air – walking boots, which are made to be more comfortable.

Walking boots, unlike their plaster and fiberglass counterparts, can be removed. Despite this, it is common practice to wear the boot all the time – even to bed – unless bathing. Your healthcare provider should provide you with detailed instructions and will advise you on how and when to wear your walking boot. 

Related questions

I had to have ankle surgery when can I start to drive again?   First, it can be dangerous to drive if you are not ready after ankle surgery.  Your ankle needs to be strong and mobile enough to press and move quickly on the pedal when needed.   When a walking boot is involved on the foot you use to press the gas and brake this becomes very dangerous and should not be done.  Typically the restriction to drive last around 4 to 6 weeks and when you no longer need a walking boot. 

How can I prevent a sprained ankle?  sprained ankles typically happen by accidents and because of this you might be able to prevent some from happening by wearing the appropriate shows, tape a week ankle, clear obstacles around the home, and strength or exercise your ankle to make them stronger. 

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.