Walking boots or braces are medical footwear that podiatrists suggest to people who have suffered a foot or ankle injury. These braces protect your ankle and foot region from damage. A walking boot is generally recommended to the patient after an injury or following a surgical procedure.
Research suggests that walking boots/braces are effective for the rehabilitation and repair of foot injuries. A light walking boot immobilizes the ankle and speeds up the healing process. The medical boots redistribute the weight on the feet and prevent further injury.
But are these walking boots good enough to be worn at night? This article will discuss whether you should wear a walking boot to bed while trying to answer the question, “how do you sleep comfortably in a walking boot?”.
Should You Sleep in a Walking Boot?
For many people who have been prescribed a walking boot following an injury, a common dilemma is whether they should sleep with it or not. While it is not mandatory to do so (unless advised by your doctor), you should sleep with your walking boot on at least for the first few weeks of injury and post-operation for added support.
The foot is a major-weight-bearing body part, so it is prone to disfigurement and further damage once injured. Wearing a walking boot to sleep will keep your foot stable throughout the night. It will diminish the risk of aggravating the injury by sudden, subconscious movements as you sleep or by exerting pressure on the foot when you need to get up in the middle of the night.
Studies show that orthotic walking boots may be as good as casts in cases of ankle fractures. So, it is helpful to keep them on for as long as possible, at least in the initial period following the injury. You can now also take help from walker fracture boots to comfortably prevent stress injuries and enhance the healing potential.
Benefits of Wearing Walking Boots While Sleeping
During the first couple of weeks (after injury), sleeping with walking boots is strongly recommended. The advantages include:
Keeps the Foot Safe From Unwanted Movement
In several cases, people can damage the foot and ankle due to unwanted movements during sleep. The already injured foot is prone to further damage. Unwanted twisting of the foot is quite common during sleep.
The pain induced by damage to the aching foot could be severe. Thus, to keep your foot safe, you should wear a walking boot to bed!
Some people believe that putting on below-knee casts/walking boots can compromise the blood flow of the legs. However, studies have demonstrated that venous blood return is normal when putting pressure on the legs. Thus, a walking boot only allows safe movement of the feet.
Avoids Accidental Pressure Application
A lot of times, people forget about the injury when waking up. The best way to heal quickly is to keep the foot off any burden and weight. A walking boot serves this purpose well by being a subtle reminder that you must be extra cautious with your affected foot.
Holds the Ankle in Place
This advantage is of utmost benefit in stress fracture cases. The walking boot can be an alternative to a traditional walking cast. Accurate rejoining and fixation of the bone following a fracture are pivotal. A walking boot helps keep the ankle and foot in place to recover appropriately from fractures.
Enhanced Healing and Repair
The most significant advantage of wearing a walking boot while sleeping is that it enhances healing and repair. As per an authentic study, a walking boot is better than a short-leg cast for meta-tarsal fractures. A walking boot improves function and reduces pain when used for nine weeks after surgery.
A randomized controlled trial concluded that walking boot treatment is also effective for healing and rehabilitation of acute Achilles tendon ruptures.
How Do You Sleep in a Walking Boot?
Sleeping in a walking boot can be uncomfortable, making it troublesome to get quality sleep. So, how do you sleep comfortably in a walking boot? There are a few measures that you can take to get a good night’s sleep with a walking boot on:
Loosen Up the Straps
A lot of individuals feel discomfort due to the tightness of the brace. Walking boots are designed to keep your foot in place as you walk. For this, it is recommended to keep the straps tight while locomoting. However, that is not the case when sleeping.
When lying down, there is no significant pressure on your foot, so you can and should loosen the straps a little. That allows your foot muscles/soft tissues to rest and makes sleeping easier.
Use a Pillow for Protection
Getting the optimal support for your braced foot might be challenging. A handy tip for this scenario is surrounding your boot with pillows. The addition of pillows around the foot has multiple benefits, including reduced risk of displacement and improved support to the foot.
Take It Off for Some Time
You can take off the boot for an hour and then put it on when going to bed. During this period, you can consider following the RICE strategy (Rest, ice therapy, compression, and elevation).
Give the foot sufficient rest and move it to an elevated position, so the edema drains out. Compression of the foot is already achieved through the walking boots. Apply ice to the affected site, which can help lower the swelling and improve healing.
Choose a Different Boot
Sometimes, an ill-fitting walking boot can cause discomfort. You should visit a podiatrist if a walking boot poses problems in your daily life.
Take Pain Medications
Another effective way of improving your sleeping quality with walking boots is taking painkiller medications. Over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics such as naproxen and ibuprofen efficiently alleviate pain and inflammation. Taking a pill before bed can help you sleep better.
Can You Sleep on Your Side With a Walking Boot?
You can enjoy a good night’s sleep on your side with a walking boot on. You should avoid sleeping on the affected foot and choose the other side.
Those asking how to sleep comfortably in a walking boot must keep support between the legs and the ankles. You can achieve this by placing pillows between your feet or the knees to keep the pressure off the foot.
Issues Associated With Boots Use
Some issues associated with prolonged use of walking boots include:
Inflammation of the Ligaments
Though casts and walking boots are great for upgrading healing, extended use can lead to inflamed ligaments. Tensed tendons might accompany this. Severe symptoms may cause cramping of the foot.
Most people complain of feeling exhausted after wearing walking boots, even while sleeping. Prolonged coverage of feet can make you feel suffocated and exhausted. Thus, you should remove the boot for some time and allow the foot to breathe.
Diabetes patients and patients using footwear without injury need to be cautious in choosing the right walking boot. A podiatrist can help you find the best match.
Most walking boots are dirt magnets. Walking everywhere with your splints/braces and carrying them to the bed can make it messy. However, given the bigger picture, this should not be a cause of much concern.
While sleeping with a walking boot is not an obligation, going to bed with the medical device, especially in the first few weeks of the injury, is highly beneficial. It protects your foot and minimizes the risk of further damage, which might spoil your injury and add to the healing time.
But how do you sleep comfortably in a walking boot? The answer is loosening the straps, placing cushions/pillows around the boot, and taking painkiller medicines at night. A walking boot can be an alternative to a splint/cast. It immobilizes the foot, saves it from further damage, and enhances the healing process.