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Wearing high heels after a broken ankle

Can I wear heels after a broken ankle? This was one of the questions on my mind during my broken ankle rehab after a trimalleolar fracture.

Wanting to walk in high heels is not a matter of vanity. It’s the desire to be made whole again and is an important milestone on the path to full recovery.

The answer to that question is yes. But it requires training, just like learning to walk again required training. Because the ankle will wobble and the foot will hurt from bearing weight at different angles. And you’re going to be limping again, not a cute look in high heels.

The secret to walking in high heels post accident

A bit before the second anniversary of the accident that occurred in September 2015, I decided it was high time to get back into my heels. I had already gotten used to wearing stable shoes with higher heels such as my flat boots with 1 inch heels and my cowboy boots with 3 inch heels. But it’s a whole other thing trying to walk in skinny-heeled shoes that I wore prior to the accident.

The first time I put them on I felt like I was teetering on top of a very tall ladder. Actual height: 3½ inches. Of course my right foot was fine but the left one was hanging on for dear life. Once again it was like my left foot was a separate entity from the rest of my body.

Taking that first step was crazy for a few reasons:

It hurt
I had to hang on to the wall
I was limping

So what did I do? I got out my secret weapon…the crutch that helped me learn to walk without limping. Yes friends, I was walking around the house using a crutch wearing high heels. But you know what, it worked!

Soon the crutch was back in the closet and I was able to wear my tallest, skinniest pre-accident heels out in public. This triumphant moment happened on October 27, 2017!

High heel training program after a broken ankle

Below is an outline of the training program I created for myself to transition into high heels, followed by detailed explanations:

  • Out with the old shoes
  • In with the new shoes
  • Sit, stand, walk around the house
  • Don’t limp!
  • Walk around the yard
  • Take them for a test drive

Out with the old shoes

I decided to get rid of all my platform shoes. I love platform shoes and I had some really cute ones but I’ve always known they were unstable. They rock and it’s easy to fall off of them (hence, the broken ankle).

I even got rid of my wedge shoes because that solid bottom sole also feels a bit unstable compared to shoes with a separate heel and more flexible sole.

That left me with a few slides and sandals of varying heights and heel widths.

My high heels from lowest to tallest

My high heels from lowest to tallest

In with the new shoes

I got a few pairs of block-heeled and chunkier-heeled shoes. Fortunately, they’re in style once more but I’ve always thought they were cute.

I recommend getting shoes with varying heel heights (1½, 2, 2½, 3, 3½ inches). My maximum is 3½ inches. Training involves working your way up from the lowest to the highest, and from chunky to skinny heels.

Stability and proper fit are important. Pumps, boots and shoes with straps are the most stable.

Make sure the soles aren’t slippery. If they are, scuff them up with a little sandpaper because the last thing we want is to fall again.

high heels

Sit, stand, walk around the house

Begin high heel training with the shortest, chunkiest heels and progress to the skinniest, tallest ones.

Slip on a pair and spend some time just sitting with them on, about ten minutes or so. Then stand up in them. That’s not going to feel too great but you need to get used to them gradually. Take a few steps if you can. Stop and try it again the next day but increase the walking time.

My house has carpet and tile, and I worked up to taking a few laps around the house, getting used to walking on different surfaces. I would try to go ten laps.

Don’t limp!

Before beginning high heel training, you should already be walking limp-free. If not, you can refer to these articles for tips on walking without a limp: Broken ankle recovery and Magic shoes.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of walking correctly. As I said earlier, I needed to rely on a crutch while I was learning to walk properly in high heels. The crutch goes on your good side to support your bad foot during a step.

The goal is to have a measured gait, taking the same amount of time with each step.

When I mastered walking around the house properly without a crutch, I moved on to the next challenge, walking in the backyard.

Walk around the yard

Now it’s time to strut your stuff outside. My backyard is mostly concrete and I would do about ten laps around the yard in my heels. I did this for a few days before I felt ready to move on to the next undertaking, going out in public.

Wearing my high heels

Wearing my high heels in the real world after a broken ankle

Take them for a test drive

After you’ve got walking in the backyard down pat, it’s time to wear your high heels out in real life. Go on a short errand or over to a friend’s house, some place where there’s minimum walking. Bring a pair of flats or your magic shoes in case your feet poop out on you.

Gradually you can go for longer trips, maybe even try a little dancing. Keep backup shoes on hand until you no longer need them.

i can wear my high heels again

Congratulations! You have now graduated to wearing high heels with confidence!

Broken ankle recovery: one year later

Unstoppable by Lynda Makara

Unstoppable by Lynda Makara

Exactly one year ago today my doctor told me I was allowed to walk again following trimalleolar surgery. Those were the words I had waited 67 days to hear after breaking my ankle last September. The surgeon had done his work and now it would be up to me to get back on my feet.

This last year has been the most difficult one of my life, physically and emotionally. But I’m happy to report I’m doing very well now. And I wanted to let everyone know that since there are so few success stories to be found out there.

Venturing into the unknown

When I started this “journey” I was given very little information about what was going to happen and how long it would take to recover. The physician’s assistant told me the best outcome would be that I would walk again. The way she said it was anything but encouraging. Yikes! I know they have to prepare you for the worst but at least they could also mention the possibility you could recover fully.

I was fortunate enough to get that reassurance from the wonderful nurses who were prepping me for surgery. One of them told me she had had trimalleolar surgery a few years ago and said she was just fine now. To demonstrate that she jumped up and down, skipped around and stood on her tiptoes. This is a woman who has to spend the whole day on her feet and she looked perfectly normal.

Thinking of her helps me get through the tough times.

persistence and determination

How I’m doing after rehabbing my broken ankle for one year

An update on the physical problems

The physical problems I’ve been dealing with this last year are pain, swelling, numbness and stiffness. Last June I reported being 95 percent recovered and able to do almost all of my normal activities. I think it’s more like 97 percent now. A couple of things I can do now that I wasn’t able to before are running and jumping jacks. I can even walk around in high heels for a very short period of time.

And here’s the breakdown by symptom.

Pain

I have little to no pain walking most of the time and I am limp-free. Sometimes there’s soreness when I relax my foot and discomfort (and random sharp pains) during dorsiflexion. Sometimes my shins hurt too. Standing on tiptoe with the left leg hurts less than it used to. I attribute these pains to tight tendons and ligaments so I’ve been doing some new things in the last month that have made a big difference. I’m really excited about the results and will probably do a separate post on that later.

Swelling

There’s still a bit of swelling depending on how much standing I do during the day. Swelling is limited to right around the ankle and not the rest of the foot as before. I’ve only felt the need to use the ice pack once in the last few months.

Numbness

The numbness is virtually gone. I used to feel it when I barely touched the top of my foot. Now the only time I feel anything like that is when I’m massaging my foot. And even then it’s very, very faint.

Stiffness

My ankle moves pretty normally in all directions except for dorsiflexion. But that has improved recently as a result of the new things I’ve been doing with my therapy. I’ll just keep plugging away at it until I get to 100 percent recovery. My toes also used to be quite stiff but now are normal.

Photos of my ankle one year later

The left ankle is the one that had surgery. They look the most alike in the morning when there’s no swelling. The left one will always be a little bigger now with all the hardware installed. I don’t plan to have it removed because it’s not causing me any problems and I really don’t want another surgery.

An update on the emotional problems

I didn’t talk about it much before but the emotional challenges are almost as difficult as the physical ones. I’ve experienced fear, depression, helplessness, flashbacks and frustration.

These feelings are very much intertwined with my physical condition. And as it improves, they also improve. I still have frustration with not being fully recovered. And I still occasionally have flashbacks. Overall I feel better now knowing I can take care of myself in any situation I could handle before.

There’s one more thing I’ve been dealing with. The accident changed my identity. I became the girl with the broken ankle and that thought has been with me every moment of every day. Technically it’s not broken anymore and hasn’t been for some time. But every pain, every limitation, even the lack of pain when I’m used to feeling pain, is a reminder that I’m the girl with the broken ankle. I’m not going to be that girl anymore.

From now on, I’m the girl who is UNSTOPPABLE.

Related posts

Broken ankle recovery: learning to walk again

Rehabbing my broken ankle

My magic shoes for broken ankle recovery

My magic shoes for broken ankle recovery

vionicWhen I became full weight bearing after broken ankle surgery, my physical therapist told me to get some orthopedic shoes with laces for good support. Not having anything like that I went online and found these amazing Vionic venture women’s mesh athletic shoes.

My left foot and ankle were in constant pain, especially the heel, and I felt I needed extra cushioning there so I paired them with Tuli’s heavy duty heel cups that I already owned from a prior bout with plantar fasciitis.

Together, these are my magic shoes which help me walk without limping and make it easier to do my ankle rehabilitation exercises.

Here are more details on what to look for in an orthopedic shoe and why these Vionic shoes work well for me, as well as cleaning instructions to keep them looking like new.

My magic Vionic shoes

My magic Vionic shoes for my “bionic” ankle

What to look for in an orthopedic shoe after an ankle fracture

  • Proper fit
  • Flexibility
  • Arch support
  • Cushioned comfort
  • Good traction on the sole
  • Lightweight

Why I love my magic Vionic shoes

  • These shoes are made true to size with a little extra room in the toes. I ordered my correct size and there was still plenty of room for orthotics which I highly recommend to anyone with foot pain.
  • The sole is flexible, allowing the foot to bend properly while walking.
  • The footbed holds the foot in proper alignment and is removable for cleaning. Good support is crucial when learning to walk without limping because the foot is weak during the rehabilitation process. The footbed comes up higher on the side where the arch is and that’s where I feel it stabilizes my foot to keep me balanced through each step.
  • The shoe is cushioned lightly in the footbed and more heavily padded around the opening. It feels like a little pillow around my sore ankle.
  • The stretchy mesh fabric keeps feet cooler and more comfortable. I also like that the tongue is sewn in place, making it a little easier to get on.
  • The rubber soles have little ridges on the bottom for good traction.
  • With the shoe being so lightweight and properly padded, I can wear them all day and practically forget I have them on.
  • Finally, they’re just cute and the bright pink color I chose makes me happy!

Cleaning my magic shoes

Getting ready to clean my magic shoes

Getting ready to clean my magic shoes

Instructions for this are lacking so I had to do some digging and learned that they can’t be washed in the washing machine or soaked in water. That presents a challenge when you end up with mud all over your shoes like I did one time. So what I did was to let the mud dry and then brush off as much as I could.

Then I used an enzyme cleaner solution that I mixed from powder and placed in a spray bottle.

Biokleen enzyme cleaner

Biokleen enzyme cleaner

I saturated the shoes with the solution and let them sit in the sink for about 20 minutes.

Spraying Biokleen on my shoes

Spraying Biokleen on my shoes

After that I scrubbed gently with a scrub brush, rinsed with water and put them in the sun to dry for a while.

And voila, they look like new again.

Related posts

Broken ankle recovery: learning to walk again

Rehabbing my broken ankle

Broken ankle recovery: one year later

Rehabbing my broken ankle

walking up stepsWhen I broke my ankle two months before my 60th birthday in 2015, my number one priority was getting back on my feet as soon as possible. I was going to do everything in my power to make that happen. I believe healing is very much a proactive thing that involves the body, mind and spirit.

The details of my ankle rehabilitation continue below.

For the backstory, click here.

The medical evaluation

Following my trimalleolar fracture, I was told some dire things such as: the best outcome would be that I could walk again, it would take three to five months to be able to walk, I would be at risk for arthritis.

To all this I replied no, I’m going to get back on my feet fast, I’m going to get all my function back and I’m not going to get arthritis. And that left them speechless.

I did not, and still do not, accept any of that as my fate. This was merely information to use in designing my healing protocol.

Healing a broken ankle with nutrition

All good health begins with good nutrition (food and supplements) which is even more important when healing from an injury. The body is designed to heal itself but it needs the raw materials to do so.

My normal diet consists of whole food that I cook myself, but after my accident I made sure to keep it super clean, eliminating sugar and alcohol because that inhibits healing. I mostly ate high-quality meat along with green vegetables, similar to a paleo diet.

I already take a well-rounded array of supplements, but some new ones were added immediately following the accident. These are all the supplements I feel were the most necessary for healing bones, joints, veins and nerves (purchased from ProCapsLabs.com): ultimate calcium intensive care, glucosamine 1500 and chondroitin 1200, vitamin K2, B-12, marine collagen peptides, circulation and vein support.

Many months after the accident I discovered turmeric-400, also from ProCapsLabs.com, which reduces inflammation, especially in joints. I notice the difference if I don’t take it, so I intend to continue taking it forever.

A note about vitamins: not all vitamins are created equal. I recommend staying away from tablets and the stuff you find at big box stores and drug stores.

Using the mind for healing

This is going to sound a little woo-woo, but what you believe you manifest. Your brain pays attention to what you tell it. So you don’t want to say to yourself, I’m never going to walk, even though it may feel that way. When those negative thoughts creep in, it’s important to kick them out immediately.

I repeated these affirmations throughout the day:

I’m healthy,
I’m strong,
I’m well-abled,
I’m restored

When I was still non weight bearing (NWB) and had to stand up using one leg, my leg got really tired from all the extra work. But when I would say “I’m strong,” it actually helped my leg to perform.

And when I was full weight bearing (FWB) but still dependent on the walker, saying to myself “I’m well-abled” was prophesying my full restoration. I would also visualize walking on my own. I believe that helped me to walk just 20 days after becoming FWB.

Another woo-woo thing to some is acupuncture. I decided to get five treatments when I was still struggling to walk, having had great success with it in the past.

Even though I know it works, the way it works is a bit of a mystery. My general understanding is that it helps energy (chi) flow properly through the body. My energy flow was blocked from surgery and the subsequent scar tissue and swelling. Following each treatment I noticed a reduction in pain.

Maintaining positive spirits during broken ankle recovery

It’s uplifting and a nice diversion during recovery to make plans for the future. These are some of the things I thought about:

• Going blonde

• Planning my 60th birthday party

• Giving back to the people who helped me

• Planning my triumphant return to the dance floor

Making myself more comfortable during recovery helped keep my spirits up (getting a knee scooter and a ramp).

Finally, noticing and celebrating the small improvements every day gave me hope.

walking on stairs

Broken ankle exercises

Exercise is an important part of rehabilitating a broken ankle and I think it’s a good idea to start exercising as soon as possible. Here’s a breakdown of what I did from NWB to FWB.

The first two weeks after surgery, I didn’t do anything other than wiggle my toes in the cast. When the cast came off, I noticed that my calf was starting to shrink so I decided to do some exercises on my own.

For the next six weeks I wore a boot and was still NWB. While wearing the boot, which weighed three pounds, I did leg lifts very slowly, 20 reps three times a day. I also did isometric exercises, tensing up the calf and thigh muscles a few times during the day. As a result, there was very little wasting of the calf when the boot came off. My leg still ended up getting weaker and I wish I had done more sessions throughout the day.

Two weeks before being released by the doctor, I started physical therapy. Being NWB I was only allowed to do a few things which I did with the boot removed.

Take advantage of physical therapy if it’s offered to you. I was allowed 21 sessions which I completed over the course of five months.

Ankle exercises for NWB

Ankle pumps: while lying down with the leg elevated, slowly and gently bend foot forward, then straighten it out, stretching as much as possible without causing too much pain (20 reps, 4 sets, 5 times per day).

Toe curls: while still lying down curl toes down then flex them upwards (20 reps, 4 sets, 5 times per day).

Toe flexion/extension: stabilize the heel with one hand, then with the other hand curl toes under and hold for 30 seconds. Then pull the toes up and hold for 30 seconds (2 reps, 1 set, twice per day).

Marble pickup: place a bag of marbles on top of a towel, pick them up with the toes and put them in a bowl or move them from one side to the other (2 to 3 minutes, twice a day).

Toe curls on towel: With a towel on the floor and the foot resting on top, curl the toes to gather up the towel (10 reps, 2 sets, twice per day).

Ankle alphabet: while sitting or lying down, trace the letters of the alphabet using the foot and ankle only (1 rep, 2 sets, twice per day).

Toe tapping: while sitting, tap foot gently on the floor (2 minutes, twice a day).

Foot rocking: while sitting, very gently rock the foot backwards and forwards—toes down, then heel down (2 minutes, twice a day).

Check out this video for a demonstration of some of these broken ankle exercises:

Ankle exercises for FWB

I continued with the NWB exercises plus the following exercises that were phased in as time went on:

Recumbent exercise bike (up to 10 minutes a day)

Weight shifting: while standing on foam mat, shift weight from side to side (2 minutes, once a day)

Calf stretches: stand about three feet away from a wall with the injured leg behind and the other leg in front, keeping heels on the floor, lean against the wall and hold (30 seconds, twice a day)

Standing dorsiflexion: with the injured foot on a step, lean forward until a stretch is felt (30 seconds, twice a day)

Standing dorsiflexion

Standing dorsiflexion

Single leg balance: while standing on a foam mat or just the floor, balance on the injured leg (30 seconds, twice a day)

Theraband stretches: while sitting with the leg straight, put the foot in the center of the band and hold onto the ends with both hands, bend the foot slowly upwards and downwards (20 reps, 2 sets, twice a day)

Theraband stretches

Theraband stretches

Ankle lifts: while lying on the side with the foot hanging off the edge of the couch or table, and with a 1 to 5 pound weight wrapped around the foot, slowly raise and lower injured foot. Roll over to the other side and repeat (10 reps, 2 sets, twice a day)

Ankle lifts

Ankle lifts

Heel raises: while standing and holding onto something, stand on toes and slowly lower yourself down (20 reps, once a day)

Walking (10 to 15 minutes, once a day)

My physical therapist told me it can take a year or longer to regain full range of motion. When I started going there, my dorsiflexion was -5 degrees. On my last session it was 13 degrees. There’s still a ways to go before the left foot catches up with the right one.

Rest

Too little value is given to the power of rest, which goes beyond getting enough sleep. Exercise needs to be balanced with rest because that’s when the body heals itself. Exercise tears down muscle and rest builds it back up again.

There have been times when I’ve pushed myself too hard with exercise and activity which only caused me injury, so now I’ve learned to pace myself. For example, I try not to be on my feet for more than an hour at a time which is then followed up with resting on the couch with my legs up for a while.

As the day goes on, if I find my foot starting to feel more pain to the point that I want to start limping, that’s my cue to stop for the rest of the day and take it easy.

Icing my ankle

Icing my ankle

Nobody can tell you how much you should or should not be doing. You’ll just have to figure that out by listening to your body.

I wish you all well with your healing journey. And remember this: 

You’re healthy,
You’re strong,
You’re well-abled,
You’re restored

Related posts

Broken ankle recovery: learning to walk again

My magic shoes for broken ankle recovery

Broken ankle recovery: one year later

Broken ankle recovery: learning to walk again

broken flowers and concreteSeptember 6, 2015 is the day I went from a healthy, strong, independent woman to an instant cripple. You see, while walking on the sidewalk in my platform wedge shoes, I stepped on a pebble and lost my balance. My left foot went sideways and my leg landed right on top of it.

Have you ever twisted a chicken wing to separate the joints? Well it was kind of like that. All the bones were broken in what’s called a trimalleolar fracture. Basically my foot was disconnected. It’s the worst fracture you can get and the worst case my surgeon had seen in many years.

And from that fateful day the only thing I wanted to know was when can I walk again. The short answer to that question is this: I was able to walk on my own 20 days after the doctor said I was allowed to walk.

But there’s a lot more to the story, a story I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell because I’d rather pretend this nightmare never happened. But reading other people’s stories helped me, so here goes.

Broken ankle: waiting for surgery

There was surprisingly little pain. My ankle was stabilized at the ER and I was sent home with instructions to stay off my left leg (non weight bearing or NWB) and keep it elevated while awaiting surgery. Oh, and I wasn’t allowed to shower either. (Try washing your hair in the kitchen sink while standing on one leg.)

Being NWB means I had to use crutches which is its own little nightmare.

Using your hands for crutches means you can’t carry anything, not even a cup of coffee. Luckily I had a small thermos and bottled water which I packed in a tote bag along with my phones and other items. I had to plan every excursion from the couch as if I were going on a long trip: what did I need to take with me, what did I need to bring back, how many stops did I have to make.

Sometimes I would take a break from crutches and roll around the kitchen in an office chair. That’s how I was able to prepare meals for me and the dog.

Drive Medical DV8 Aluminum Steerable Knee Walker Crutch Alternative

My borrowed knee scooter looked like this

The week after the accident my sister-in-law borrowed a knee scooter for me. This was life changing! I could get around faster and, with the tote bag hanging from the handlebars, was able to carry a dish in one hand and steer with the other.

Even with the scooter, the physical exertion of going from one place to the other left me extremely tired. I spent much of the time napping on the couch. I think my body was in shock. This exhaustion continued for several weeks.

Broken ankle surgery

That happened 11 days later on September 17. Right before going into the OR the nurses told me this was going to be a painful surgery. Such an inadequate word to describe the horror of the next 24 hours. The pain was excruciating. It felt like someone was sawing away at my ankle with a hacksaw. I counted the minutes until I could take the next pain pill, and this from someone who doesn’t even take headache medicine.

The next day the pain was about 50 percent less and each day it got better. By the fifth day I stopped taking pain pills. There was still pain but it was tolerable.

The surgeon installed a metal plate and six screws on the left side of my ankle, and one screw on the right side.

My foot was in a cast for two weeks and then I had a decision to make.

flowers on broken concrete

Removing stitches, and do you want a cast or a boot?

The cast came off and I didn’t want to look at my foot but got a glimpse of it anyway. My exact words were, “I look like Frankenstein.” My foot was laced with wounds: a five inch long one on the left side, one inch across the top of my foot, and three inches on the right side.

The stitches came out and there were lots of them. It didn’t hurt as bad as I expected, just mostly felt like someone snapping me with a rubber band.

Did I want another cast or a boot? A cast makes the foot more stable but you still can’t shower or exercise much with it. It’s also much lighter than a boot.

A boot costs extra, it’s heavy and bulky, but you can remove it to bathe. And this is what really sold me—I could start physical therapy two weeks earlier which meant I would be walking two weeks earlier. Done.

That being said, I hated every minute wearing that boot especially in bed where it was nearly impossible to get comfortable. Still, it was the right decision.

Then the doctor dropped a bomb on me. I would have to go another six weeks without being able to walk.

I was crushed thinking it was only going to be four weeks because bones take about six weeks to heal. I think he was being extra cautious due to the severity of the fracture.

The long road to recovery

dog laying on my pillow

My little doggy nurse testing out my pillow. Puppy approved!

The next six weeks were hard and I counted down the days until I would be allowed to walk again.

I rented a ramp for the back door so I could do a few things in the garden and dump my trash. Being able to finally get outside lifted my spirits somewhat.

I kept up with light housework, running the vacuum cleaner, keeping the bathrooms and kitchen clean, doing a little bit of cooking.

In the evenings while lounging on the couch I would take a break from the boot and let my foot out. By that time it really seemed like a very fragile foreign object attached to my body. I massaged it a little and did various exercises like curling my toes, bending my ankle and making little circles.

I noticed that the surgery had left me with slight numbness on the skin and a lump on the bottom of my foot.

I started physical therapy on October 23. I’ve done a separate post with more details about the exercises I did on my own as well as the ones that were prescribed to me.

Being released by the doctor, I can walk again…or can I?

Finally the day came on November 12 when the doctor told me my X-rays looked good and I could now walk! Well, I think what he meant was that I was allowed to walk, having previously stated it would take 3 to 5 months before I would be able to walk.

He told me I was allowed full weight bearing (FWB) with no restrictions except that he wanted me to wear the boot when I went outside, and after a few weeks I could throw it away.

Anyway, I was so excited leaving the office that I thought maybe I could just walk right out of there. But I didn’t, so I rode my scooter one last time to the car.

Then I put my left foot on the ground for the first time in over two months, and ow, OWWW, that really hurt! I picked it right back up again, dejected with the realization that I would still be dependent on the scooter for a while.

Learning to walk again after a broken ankle

When I got home I took out the crutches and practiced walking while putting some pressure on the left foot. I found it impossibly clunky to try and walk with the boot on so I ditched it immediately. My foot needed a lot of support which the boot did not provide. Not having anything suitable I ordered orthopedic shoes which helped me a lot.

my fuchsia vionic shoes

My fuchsia orthopedic shoes help me walk without limping

The next day I went to the physical therapist. They gave me a walker to use for as long as I needed. They told me to practice putting pressure on the foot, shifting from one side to the other.

And they also told me to practice walking around about 5 minutes a day. I ended up doing a lot more than that though, sometimes too much, resulting in a couple of setbacks.

One of the scariest things happened to me two days after being FWB. It was midnight and I was trying to see if I could vacuum using the walker. I used my left foot to release the vacuum cleaner, lost my balance and fell backwards, landing on my rear end.

I wasn’t hurt, just scared at what might have happened. The tension of being alone and feeling vulnerable for so long overflowed in that moment and I just sobbed my heart out.

The next day I kept at it, using the scooter to get around and practicing with the walker. I would tell myself, “You know how to walk, just walk!” But it was too painful and I couldn’t…yet. Each day I was able to tolerate more pressure on my foot.

And then one day I walked…on my own. Granted, I looked like a monster come to life but I was walking! Like Quasimodo without the hump. Twenty days after being FWB and 87 days after the accident, I could walk on my own at last!

Driving after a broken ankle

It’s illegal to drive with a cast or a boot on either foot. When I became FWB I was legally allowed to drive but couldn’t since my car has a manual transmission which requires the use of both feet. So I had to learn how to drive again.

A week after being FWB I started getting ready to drive. I practiced turning on the motor and shifting the gears with my right foot on the clutch. Then I turned the car off and practiced pressing the clutch with my left foot, using it as an exercise machine, pressing it 50 to 70 times. That was the first and second day.

On the third day I pressed the clutch 100 times, then drove up and down driveway a couple of times.

On the fourth day I drove around the block.

On the fifth day I drove to Trader Joe’s. And this was 11 days after being FWB. I was actually able to drive a stick shift before I was able to walk. Going to the store meant I had to take both the walker and scooter.

I needed the walker to get to the back seat where the scooter was. Then I took the scooter into the store where I was able to steer it with one hand and steer the shopping cart with the other. People stared at me but I didn’t care. I was finally on the road to freedom.

Walking without a limp

While I was able to walk on my own, limping was a problem. I began using one crutch (on the good side) for support most of the time while training myself to walk properly.

Believe it or not, it takes a lot of mental concentration to walk normally. It was frustrating as I told myself, “Why am I limping? I know how to walk.” My foot wasn’t strong enough to support my weight through each step. I would automatically throw my weight to the left and as I began falling to the right, my right leg took a step. Spending unequal time on each leg produces a limp.

To conquer that I actually had to practice walking while repeating “heel, toe” and trying to balance my weight in the center instead of throwing it out to the left, spending equal time on each step.

I also found it very helpful to do calf stretches followed by a 15 minute walk unaided.

I was finally able to ditch the crutch 53 days after being FWB.

flowers on concrete

Pain during and after a broken ankle

Pre surgery

For me there wasn’t a lot of pain when I first broke my ankle. I rated it as a 3 out of 10.

I was sent home from the ER with my foot wrapped in an ace bandage with splints which doesn’t provide a whole lot of support. I was happiest when my foot wasn’t flopping around too much. I used ice packs and occasional prescribed meds to combat the pain.

By the day of the surgery I had no pain at all.

Post surgery

I’ve already described the horrendous pain following the outpatient surgery. That was definitely a 10 out of 10. I did a lot of foot icing the first two days which was hard because the weight of the ice bag was too much for me to bear and I had to use very little ice.

I took my pain meds on schedule for the first two days, gradually increasing the time in between doses so that by the fifth day I stopped taking it altogether.

The pain greatly diminished with each passing day. Toward the end of the eight weeks while waiting to be released by the doctor, I was once again pain free.

Post FWB

The pain returned for the FWB phase. My foot hurt all the time but obviously the most when I was putting pressure on it. It felt like pins and needles combined with very sharp pain concentrated in the heel. I would rate it a 5 or 6 but I refused to take anything for it.

The one thing I did do was get acupuncture because it’s helped me a lot in the past. Right after I began driving I started the treatments, five in a three week period. I was using the walker at that time and desperate to walk on my own. The treatments did help but were not the miracle I’d been hoping for.

After I began to walk, I was still in constant pain and also began getting leg spasms in the left leg which kept me awake at night. My shins hurt too. And then my left knee started hurting as a result of limping.

Sometime in early January I noticed that there were some breaks in the pain, mostly when I wasn’t moving. It’s been gradually going away since then (but not entirely).

And I haven’t mentioned it before but there was a lot of swelling from the time I broke my ankle which continues to this day. The more swelling there is, the more pain I have.

Timeline from broken ankle to recovery

9/6/15 broke ankle, couldn’t walk, NWB

9/17/15 ankle surgery, in cast, not allowed to walk

10/1/15 cast removed, stitches removed, given walking boot but still NWB

10/23/15 started physical therapy, NWB exercises

11/12/15 released by doctor, allowed to walk, FWB

11/19/15 started “driving” practice

11/23/15 able to drive, made my first trip to the store

11/25/15 began acupuncture, five treatments

12/2/15 could walk a few steps unaided but used walker then one crutch part of the time

1/4/16 stopped using crutch, walking entirely on my own

1/23/16 walking without a limp, went dancing for the first time

My life today (March 3, 2016)

Very gradually my foot went from being something strange attached to me, a separate entity with its own needs, to once again being a functioning member of my body.

At the present time I usually only have pain when I walk or do my foot exercises. If I’m on my feet too long, it will hurt afterwards even when I’m resting. I mostly feel pain on the right side of the ankle and the top of the joint.

The numbness is almost gone but the lump on my arch remains.

I’m still going to physical therapy, with only two sessions left.

I can do almost everything I could do before. I can climb ladders, go up and down steps normally, and of course dance to about 90% of my former ability. The dancing does cause me to suffer for a day or two afterwards but hopefully that will improve soon.

I can’t wear high heels yet and had to buy some low-heeled booties to dance in.

my low-heeled shooties

These boots are made for walking…and dancing!

At night I sleep with my legs on top of a flat pillow. I’ve been doing that ever since the accident and it’s still too uncomfortable sleeping without it.

I recently resumed my kettlebell exercises.

I’m able to walk much faster now, almost up to my pre accident speed, although I’m very mindful of where I’m stepping.

To look at me now, nobody can tell anything happened. Things are looking up!

If you have any questions on things I may not have covered, please leave them in the comments below.

Update: June 14, 2016

It’s now seven months FWB and my ankle is feeling so much better. I’m able to stand for as long as I want doing my normal things like cooking, cleaning, shopping and working in the garden. In fact, I just completed a large garden project which involved a lot of digging.

I can dance for hours without suffering afterwards.

I don’t need to sleep with my legs on a pillow anymore.

There’s still some pain doing certain movements and some swelling, but not enough to make me want to ice my ankle. I haven’t used the ice pack in a couple of months.

Now I can even get out of bed in the morning and walk perfectly without having to stretch first.

I would say I’m 95 percent recovered.

I still can’t wear high heeled shoes but I don’t need to wear my magic pink shoes all the time.

Standing on tiptoe on just the left leg is difficult but getting easier every day.

I’m able to squat all the way down to the ground like I could before even though the dorsiflexion is not quite back to normal. I suspect that might be the last thing to come back.

Related posts

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My magic shoes for broken ankle recovery

Broken ankle recovery: one year later