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How do I walk?

By February 3, 2011 - 3:00pm
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I fell in Aug 2010 and broke my right ankle. The first surgery plates and pins, 2nd to remove a plate due to infection under it. My 3rd surgery was to cut the ankle bones so they could be fused and a rod and nail's up through my heel. Finally now I can put weight on it. Dr said I could start walking and come back in a month.. And I can drive when I feel comfortable about that.. I asked about PT and he said I would learn just as well at home.. Ok.. BUT I am not sure HOW to place my foot! I have a rocker boot - which is hurting the bottom of my foot now.. I am using my walker but I am having problems on exactly how to place my foot since the ankle does not bend. I have been trying different ways but they don't seem right.. Help..

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Hi Wiley,
Thanks for sharing your story with us! Sometimes I wonder what the long term effect will be not only on my fused ankle but the rest of my body. Like you I've already had knee and lower back issues. I've been able to treat both of those issues with physical therapy. So far my fusion is looking great, I have however recently been having pain in my big toe and metatarsals. Hoping that fixing my shoe insole will make a difference. Great exercise tips!! Since my right ankle is completely fused and I have no movement in it finding exercise activities I can do is always hard for me.
If you have any other tips you can share with us I'm sure we'd all appreciate it.

March 18, 2011 - 10:51am
(reply to angmares)

Hi angmares,
Thanks for the comments. I think the most important thing is to not forget about the right leg with the ankle fusion. I subconciously put all my weight on my left leg while standing and walking. Doing simple leg lifts will keep the muscles from atrophy as well as 'flexing' your calf muscle without the ankle moving. Takes some concentration. Stay away from walking long distances... I know that was tough for me because I refused to let my "disability" get the best of me.... BUT, in the long run, it will be less damaging to the back and knee. I've already had back surgery and I'm looking at another along with a left knee replacement down the road. I was stubborn, worked out 5 times a week (leg presses, squats, stairmaster, (ignoring that my ankle could not move and relying on my other leg ), rollerblading, walking long distances to keep up with everyone. My fusion stays super strong but everything else is starting to fall apart due to my own stupidity. Now I focus on my 'core' and keep my mid-section strong and try not to put all my weight on the left. I also do a lot of gardening which gets me outside and active but easy on the body... and it's theraputic! Looking back, I have to say that being in that horrible car accident improved my life in so many ways. I joke with my friends and say that it is a good thing I have a fused ankle because I would buy thousands of beautiful designer brand stilleto's but live in a cardboard box! About your big toe and metatarsals, it could just be an adjustment in your body to accomodate your gate change. There is also soft tissue healing that goes on for quite a long time after the fusion. Bones heal faster than tissue and nerves. I would still let your Dr. know just to be safe.

March 19, 2011 - 4:17am

Hi everyone,
The ankle fusion process is life changing... or I should say life 'altering'. I was in a head-on collision in 1985 (I was 19 yrs old) that shattered my talus, and broke the bottom head of the tibia/fibula. Initially I was in surgery that same night for about 4 hours until my bp got too low and they had to sew me up (two 9-10 inch incisions on both sides of the ankle) but nothing was put back together. I tried a bone graft from my left hip to generate some bone growth because what bone was left was necrotic. The graft didn't take so 5 years post accident I had a total fusion. Best decision I ever made! I was in so much pain for those 5 years and the fusion took most of that away. I also did not have any physical therapy. To quote my orthosurgeon "what do you need physical therapy for? Nothing moves. You just need to learn how to walk again." I thought it was odd, but I believe he was right. The atrophy of my calf is the most noticable thing and I am self conscious of it when wearing dresses/skirts. I can wear up to a 2" heal for work as long as I'm not doing a lot of walking. 25 yrs post fusion, My 'good leg' suffers from knee joint issues and my back has suffered from the subtle altered gait. I ended up with 2 long scars on the inside and one long scar on the outside of my ankle. I also have scars where the Charnley Device (rods for fusion) were placed. I have no internal hardware and my leg is shorter. Basically they fused the head of my leg bone it to the calcaneus without any talus in between. The small piece of dead talus that was left was removed. No one knows that I have an ankle fusion unless I tell them! I tattoo'd over my scars with beautiful flowers so you can't see those either. I do have to say though that the muscles on top of my foot that are connected to my toes are quite large due to all the work they do. I'm just glad I can walk at all and I live a fairly normal life. I can't run, but why would I need to??? Riding a bike is the best form of all-year exercise and swimming is great as well. Good luck, it takes time, but it will get better!!!

March 15, 2011 - 4:36am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Wiley)

I got my right ankle fused and has a shorter leg too by 10mm ,i am not yet fully recovered but I am worried about my being able to walk normally again ,and at what percentage of normallity will it be. Can I learn from your experience ?,how do you walk ?,how is your gait ?


May 31, 2015 - 6:08am

Yay!!! So happy to hear that you have no pain. What a great suggestion, something I'll keep in mind if I run into the same issues down the road with my ankle. It's the little things we get excited about! Look forward to hearing how you progress with your walking. Before you know it you'll be walking without your cane or walker!

February 9, 2011 - 10:42am

Hi Shill,
Is the walking getting any better for you or is the pain just as bad? I don't recall my foot hurting in the middle when I started walking again, but I do remember it hurt at the heel. I know we all recover different but makes me wonder why you're having so much pain in the middle? Could it be the rod? Did they doctor have any suggestions? May be now that he knows you are having problems and it's so painful, he'll send you to physical therapy. They (PT) should be able to help you with the walking and pain management. If nothing else, provide you with some options (shoes, insoles, etc) as you learn to walk again.
Let me know how you're doing. Take care, Ang

February 8, 2011 - 2:35pm
(reply to angmares)

I talked with a nurse and she suggested I put a sponge or a arch support under my arch and try that... Am now using a DrScholl's arch support in my boot.. NO MORE PAIN!! My foot still gets sore and leg achy and tired after a short walk. But no extreme pain. I was about in tears before... and now it is much much better and starting to make a little progress now...

February 8, 2011 - 3:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Shill,
I am sorry to hear that you have been dealing with this pain for this long. Normal walking consists of the heel to toe method as described above and 5 months is way too long. I am very glad that you are now returning to the doctor.

I look forward to your update.

February 6, 2011 - 9:08am
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Shill,
I am curious if you talked to your doctor about the pain you are experiencing? I am preparing, myself, for ankle surgery but mine is to remove an accessory bone. I will also be in a cast for several weeks with apparently no physical therapy afterwards. Which seemed odd to me as well.

Thanks for providing any updates,

February 5, 2011 - 11:09am
(reply to Anonymous)

I plan on calling this next week if it doesn't get better. I knew I would have some soreness or pain at first since it has been 5 months since I have done any walking. But have gotten over the soreness part but... I don't know if I am placing my foot wrong or stepping wrong or what. If this is normal at first I need to know. If it is not or if I am doing a wrong placement of foot I need to know.. Or if this is a problem instead.. I feel like I am floundering along alone with this issue.. I had assumed I would be going for physical therapy - he had mentioned it a few times until this last visit and guess he decided I could do just as well on my own..

February 5, 2011 - 11:43am
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