What is a foot or ankle splint/brace?

Splints, also sometimes called "half casts," immobilize your foot or ankle. They provide less support than casts, but they also have fewer complications. Because they're fast and easy to apply, patients can be in and out of their doctor's office faster than if they get a cast. Additionally, splints/braces are easily to loosen, tighten or remove using the Velcro straps that hold them in place. This allows the splint/brace to accommodate any changes in the swelling of the foot or ankle.

Types of splints and braces

There are several different kinds of splints. For example, for your ankle, your doctor might suggest a posterior ankle, stirrup or high-top walking boot splint. For your foot, you might get a posterior ankle boot with a toe box, a high-top walking boot or a hard-soled shoe. Doctors may use splints instead of casts to treat foot or ankle injuries. Or, they might use splints as a first line of defense to immobilize the limb after an injury with a plan to reevaluate the foot or ankle after five to seven days.

What to expect from a foot or ankle splint/brace

Your doctor provides you with an off-the-shelf splint. In some cases, you might need a custom splint. The length of time you must wear it depends on how bad your injury is. In most cases, patients wear a foot or ankle splint/brace for four to eight weeks. 

Your doctor also gives you instructions on how to care for your foot or ankle while it's in the splint. Common instructions include keeping the splint clean and dry, elevating the limb and applying ice to reduce swelling and pain.

Common conditions that require a foot or ankle splint/brace

Doctors use splints to temporarily immobilize the foot or ankle. These devices can be useful as a first step in treating fractures the doctor plans to cast later once the swelling goes down. They can also be standalone treatments for:

  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Joint dislocations
  • Severe injuries to the soft tissue
  • Protection for the foot or ankle after surgery

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