Cam walker boots are commonly recommended for ankle fractures and severe ankle sprains because they’re convenient, effective and improve recovery times after injury.
There’s a wide range of cam walker boots, all with slightly different features and dimensions. Our Physiotherapy team will take you through the best cam walker boot options so you can get the right one first time, without wasting money and time.
Cam walker boots are also referred to as ankle fracture boots or ankle sprain boots as that’s their most common use. However these medical boots are also used for severe Achilles injuries, some foot injuries and after foot and ankle surgery.
Different features and options for cam walker boots
Boot height – short and tall
The first and most significant difference that you’ll see is the height of the boot, or how far up your calf the boot will reach.
That’s a key point – the higher the boot goes, the more control it’ll have over your ankle movement.
So if you’ve injured your ankle, Achilles or any injury that worsens with ankle movement, you’ll want the taller cam walker boot.
If it’s a toe or foot injury and ankle movement isn’t going to add pressure to it, you can go for the shorter medical boot.
If you’re not sure, or if you want to buy a boot that can help your current AND future injuries, buy the taller boot. It might be overkill this time around but it’ll cover all the bases for future injuries.
Air cushions or not
Every cam walker boot comes with basic spongy foam padding around the foot and ankle. It adds some comfort but also protects you from the harsher plastic edges of the boot’s frame.
You’ll also see some medical boots have a golf ball sized red bump at the front of the shin – that’s the pump for an air bladder that sits on either side of the ankle, running the length of the upper section of the boot.
Other brands will have a small “straw” sticking out, just next to the ankle joint. These use a separate pump that slots into the straw to pump it up.
These air bladder designs are referred to as “pneumatic” boots.
It adds a little cost to the boot, typically around $10 more. So is the air bladder worth it?
It can add a little more comfort and improve the fit of the boot, so that’s a good thing.
If you have significant swelling around the ankle, the bladder can help resolve that swelling as well as adjusting the boot’s tightness throughout the day as the swelling rises and falls.
If you have a foot injury, the air bladder isn’t worth it as it doesn’t add anything to the function of the boot.
If you have very sensitive areas around the sides of the ankle, such as a Fibula fracture or a bony bruise inside the ankle, the air bladder might put too much pressure on that area and not be advisable.
Open front vs solid plastic plate
Another feature that you’ll notice is on the front of the boot.
Some boots have a solid plastic piece, or tongue, running down the shin and across the top of the foot.
Other medical boots will have exposed padding and straps across the front, so you can’t see the foot and ankle but it’s not protected either.
The main feature of the solid plastic tongue is to improve the fit of the boot and improve the comfort of the straps.
The straps will pull tight across the foot and shin; the tongue can help spread out the pressure so the straps don’t cut in over time.
Having that pressure spread over a larger area also improves how the boot fits, holding it snug against the leg.
The solid plastic tongue does add to the cost, as it’s usually only available in the more expensive ranges. So the price jumps ~$30 but that’s because it includes some other features as well.
Overall the solid plastic tongue is recommended unless you’re in a very hot climate (and prefer more ventilation, although it’s not a huge difference) or you’re just looking for the cheapest option to use for a week or two.
The last major feature of different cam walker boots is toe protection. And this one might surprise you…
Some medical boots have an open toe, with the tips of your toes visible between the padding and the base of the boot. If you get the wrong size, you might even see the toes dangling out the end.
Other cam walker boots have a rounded bumper sitting around the toe section and although it’s not completely enclosed, it’s referred to as a “closed toe” design. (Side note: the toe bumper is not sufficient protection for occupational settings such as working on building sites or in warehouses).
If you have a toe injury, the bumper is brilliant at saving you from very painful impacts with furniture and other people.
If you’ve had toe surgery, you may require the open front for medical hardware (like wires protruding from the ends of the toes).
And for growing bodies (teenagers), the open front of worthwhile so the boot will be able to be used for a few years (otherwise the toes get squished and you’ll need to buy another boot every year).
Overall, the toe bumper is good protection but you need to get the size right to avoid running out of room.
Cam walker boots recommended by Physiotherapists
Look down the list for the feature combo you’re after:
- short vs tall cam walker boots,
- open or solid tongue,
- open or protected toes, and
- with or without air bladders
Short cam walker boot – open front, open toe
Short cam walker boot – solid tongue and/or protected toe
Tall cam walker boot – open front and open toe
Tall cam walker boot – solid tongue and/or protected toe
Additional items to help with your boot/injury
Use a shoe leveller to balance out height of boot for other foot, or grab an ice wrap for pain relief.
Affiliate disclaimer for Best Cam Walker Boots for Ankle Fractures and Sprains
**Special note: this article has Physiotherapist-recommended products with affiliate links to trusted vendors, selected for their fast & reliable service and great prices. The article was written prior to sourcing the affiliate links and the links in no way influence our recommendations.