The Woodlands (281) 292-4944 | Magnolia (281) 789-4956

Certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery

3 min read

Cast vs. Boot

Broken or fractured bones in the lower leg aren’t all treated the same. Sometimes a cast is used, other times a boot is the preferred method of treatment and sometimes both are needed. Discover how surgeons and doctors determine which type of orthopedic device to use when working to treat a broken or fractured bone.

What is a Cast?

Orthopedic casts, often referred to as a cast, are hard shells made of plaster or fiberglass that encase a broken bone during treatment. Plaster and fiberglass is used because when it hardens, the material is extremely durable and rigid. The rigid structure of the cast immobilizes and stabilizes the broken bone so that it can properly heal.

What is a Walking Boot?

A walking boot, sometimes referred as an orthopedic boot, or just a boot, is a specially designed medical shoe made out of lightweight, yet sturdy material. The design of the walking boot is similar to a big, bulky shoe but with a few noticeable differences. Some noticeable differences include the use of adjustable straps that allow for a customized fit, varying lengths in the height, and the toes aren’t covered.

Will a Cast or Walking Boot be Recommended for Treatment of a Broken Bone?

A walking boot is used to help immobilize and keep intense weight off of a recently injured foot. If the injury isn’t too severe, such as a minor bone fracture that doesn’t require surgery, a walking boot may be used as the primary form of treatment. However, if a fracture is severe, the walking boot is used as part of the second stage of treatment.

For severe fractures that may require surgery or when there is a concern that the bone could break further if intense stabilization isn’t applied, a fiberglass cast will be used for the first few weeks. When the fracture stabilizations, which usually occurs in a matter of weeks, the fiberglass cast is removed and a walking boot may be recommended. Sometimes, a walking boot isn’t even needed after wearing a fiberglass cast.

Should I Wear a Cast or Walking Boot for My Broken Bone?

If your broken bone is extremely severe, you may not have a choice in what type of orthopedic device is used during treatment. However, some individuals may be able to choose which type of orthopedic device they wear during treatment.

Some of the reasons why people choose to wear a cast include:

  • Fewer complications – the cast cannot be removed and therefore there is no worry that the fracture may become more severe or other complications may arise
  • Easier for busier lifestyles – while the cast may bigger, bulkier and heavier, people with busier lives find it easier to use because they don’t have to worry about constantly remembering to put it on or wear it for the recommended amount of time
  • Bright colors are available – people often like to wear a cast because they can come in a variety of bright colors. Younger children, teens, and some adults enjoy being able to wear a cast in a favorite color.  

Some reasons why people choose to wear a walking boot include:

  • Lightweight – the lightweight material used on a walking boot makes it easier for people to wear for prolonged periods of time. The lightweight material also helps protect nearby muscles and tendons as people are less likely to strain them due to wearing a heavier cast.
  • Removable – the walking boot can be removed for showers or baths
  • Less skin damage – skin underneath a cast can become raw and painful. The open-air design and lightweight material helps to prevent skin damage when wearing a walking boot.
  • No loud saws used – walking boots can be removed without the use of loud saws. This is helpful for children who may be afraid of the saws
  • Faster treatment times – some fractures may heal faster with the use of a walking boot because weight isn’t kept completely off of the area of the injury. By applying some weight to the area you are still keeping tendons, muscles, and ligaments strong. When the walking boot is removed, you won’t have to work so hard to build the strength back.

Call our office today to schedule an appointment to speak with our doctor about which type of orthopedic device is right for you. Our doctor will help you weigh the pros and cons of each type of treatment so you can determine which one is right for you.