Top 5 things you need to know about Air Boots

Air boots are often used after a fracture or operation on the ankle or foot. It can be used after severe sprains too. Air boots can be called a walking boot or cam boot. They are commonly recommended by consultants and surgeons. The boot helps to immobilise the foot while still allowing walking, it helps protect the foot (and serves as a visual awareness to other people to stay clear of you), and it helps provide support to your ankle and foot.

To put it on, unwrap the straps, take off the front plate.

Ensure the liner comes up above the plastic at the back of the boot, to stop the back of the boot (the plastic bit) digging in before replacing the front plate.

There are two different boots – a short boot and tall boot. The short boot is great for small foot issues/fractures, or you find the tall boot digs into your calf muscles. This might be a situation if you have leg swelling or large calves. The short boot does not support as much as the tall boot. The short boot will take a fair amount of pressure of your foot, and the tall boot takes even more pressure off your foot, so we generally go for the tall boot if you are unsure.

1. Wear a sock when putting on the boot

Wearing a tall compressive sock (medium tightness) might help you in the first few days. The tall compressive sock will come right up to the knee. Once over the acute period, you can replace with a standard sock. Wearing a sock will help prevent the boot getting sweaty, smelly and grubby. Some people may find a soft foot insert to help cushion the foot more, although this is only if you feel uncomfortable and most won’t need it.

2. Air Bladder

Some boots come with an air bladder, or air pump on the side of the boot. You can pump up the air pockets to provide additional support to your foot. Inflate to the right pressure, especially when you need to walk on it. Once sitting down or taking pressure off, you can deflate the air pockets. Using the air bladders and pumps is an important part of using the boot.

3. Driving and Walking

The law is not black and white and takes some common sense in most cases. Be as safe as possible. Don’t drive with the boot on. If you can’t comfortably put pressure on your foot, do not drive at all. Just get a taxi or ask a friend.

Keep your foot facing forward when walking. Don’t turn your foot out. Try to maintain a heel-to-toe motion. Walk slowly, and consistently. Rock from heel-to-toe. Different people recommend different lengths of time to wear the boot – some people say to wear it all of the time. I personally advise you to wear it while walking and wear it more in the early stages, gradually reducing use as you recover.

4. Immobilisation

The air boot immobilises the foot to a large degree. This is good in some cases. But be aware, your foot needs some movement as well. In the old days, casting was used, to completely immobilise the foot and this would have zero weight-bearing as crutches would be used. Now, boots are preferred, and I believe that putting some gentle pressure and allowing gentle movement is preferable. Keep in mind, you need the body to heal. Rest your foot. Don’t use the boot as an excuse to try to do more than you can. Gradually reduce use of the boot once you feel that comfortable. You don’t want to get too stiff. It’s a balance between rest and recovery, but also gently using the foot without putting too much pressure through it.

5. Exercises

Doing exercises is a key-part of your rehabilitation. If you are not being supported by a physiotherapist, get to one and work with them. They can help with encouraging passive range of motion, and the right level of balance and strengthening exercises. Rehabilitation is so important that I am going to say it again!... Get to a physio and work with them to rehab.

Some exercises that typically help are as follows:

Air boots are good, and we recommend them as an alternative to casts, following a foot fracture or operation. Please seek help from the Surrey Physio team for advice about your walking boot or air cast. Call us on 02086856930 about who best to see, or book online.