Sunday, November 17, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Not to Break Your Ankle

Valerie's seminar on the advisability of not breaking your ankle

(photo by Andrea P.)

1. Half of your wardrobe will stay in the closet because it doesn’t work with your brand new moon boot. The act of dressing will be like kabuki, a slow, dignified ritual. No more haphazardly throwing things on. Everything has to be planned. The boot enforces order and organization in dressing.

A few things, happily, will naturally complement the boot ... but only if they're black.

Some things won't work naturally, but you can force them with a little ingenuity, a couple of extra hours of spare time, and $20 worth of custom-cut premium velvet ribbon.

In the summer, there just isn't a lot you can do with a monolithic black boot. Here's what happens to a summer dress matched up with a big black boot that's matched up with a black shoe.

You think it might be better to try a red sandal? It's more summery? It matches the dress? Nope. Besides, the sandal is flat, so you'll be limping. Unless, of course, you ask your shoe repairman to add a platform for $45. A lot of my summer wardrobe stayed in my wardrobe this summer, and never got taken out for a spin. Sigh.

2. You will have to put platforms on your shoes (or bring out your ‘70s platforms) so as not to limp in your boot. I took a leaf out of Jean's book and added a platform to what was already a slightly high shoe so it was as even as possible with the boot. It wasn't exactly the same height, but it took a lot of stress off my back.

Longtime readers know that neither of us can wear heels. This was the only other elevated shoe I had. If you've ever had a very special article of clothing (let's say a dress), you might have gotten confirmation from a passing admirer, exhorting you to "wear the hell out of that dress". I can tell you I wore the hell out of these two shoes - these two RIGHT shoes - without ever getting a compliment from a passing admirer.  (Jean's 2 cents:  And forever onward, one shoe in each of those pairs will be more well-worn than the other.  Looking on the bright side, of course, if you have surgery or break each foot or ankle, then it all evens out!)

3. You know that person you avoid going anywhere with because they walk soooooo slowly? And they refuse to walk any faster and you in your perpetual rush find that very frustrating? Once you are in your moon boot, you will be the slowest person you know. Even well intentioned people (insert Jean's name here) will get tired of slowing down for you. (Cardboard and walnut tortoise by Valerie's mom, many decades ago.)

4. You will go bankrupt taking taxis trying to keep the weight off your ankle. Here's a look at one column of one of my credit card bills. I've blanked out the non-taxi entries so you can see how they took over my life. I live and work in the same neighborhood, and go home at lunchtime. Ideally, I took a taxi to work in the morning, walked home (picking up lunch on the way), took another taxi back to work, and then another back home in the evening. Sometimes I waited forever for an evening taxi in rush hour, so I gave up and limped home. (Jean's 2 cents:  I confess I was quite often the beneficiary of Valerie's wild spending whenever we were out together in the evening because she'd insist on taking and paying for a cab.  What can I say?  Rather than trot alongside the taxi, I happily hopped in.  Let the record reflect that I did jump in first, so Valerie wouldn't have to slide all the way across the back seat!)

I got to know taxis pretty well, and was most surprised by the legroom issue. I've never been taller than 5'7", and now I'm shrinking (this is the solemn duty of all older women), so I've never had to think much about fitting into taxis, but having a moon boot gave me new sympathy and empathy for anyone who wears a size 13 shoe. Here was a rare taxi that gave me and my boot room to maneuver in.

More typically, I had to wedge my boot under the driver's seat.

Sometimes I couldn't even get the boot on the floor, and had to ride sort of side-saddle, like good Victorian ladies in their voluminous dresses. What in heaven's name do tall men (with proportional feet) do when they have to take a taxi???

5. You will shop only at the store closest to you. Not at the cheapest or the best or your favorite, and you will buy a lot of products that you are unfamiliar with to avoid walking further. And you will buy the smallest size, because economy size may be good for your wallet, but it’s not good for your ankle.

6. You will twist your back all out of shape, and have to take a hot bath every night so as not to wake up feeling like Quasimodo. The plus side of this is that if you put a chair next to the tub, it's a great way to spend quality time with your cat.

7. If your boot is on your left foot (like mine), you will find it more comfortable walking on the right side of the street. You've probably never needed to notice this before, but the streets of New York are ever so slightly angled, most likely to encourage run-off after it rains. This is genius engineering for city planners, but a nightmare for someone whose leg is already out of balance. The picture below is not retouched. The street really is angled up to the right, which made it great to walk on. Walking on the opposite side of the street, however, would have made me hobble as if I had an arthritic hip. Jean gets a lot of credit for putting up with this little idiosyncrasy on our outings together.  (Jean's 2 cents:  I became acutely aware of a very strange anomaly of the law of averages:  If it was roasting hot, the side of the street we had to walk on was always in the blazing sun.  Likewise, if it was chilly and breezy, we always had to walk on the shady, windy side.  AND we had to walk really slowly ...)

8. Everything in the street becomes an obstacle. In preparation for repaving, the street outside my house was torn up shortly after I broke my ankle. The moon boot is built to protect the leg from any jostling. So it will survive an asteroid crash, but the trade-off is that the leg becomes insensitive to everything. The very slight ridges and grooves that we never notice under normal circumstances become looming threats to the body's delicate balance. Add to that legs of different lengths, and you have a recipe for disaster. The sight below stopped me in my literal tracks. Until the streets were repaved, about a week later, stepping out into the street was like re-enacting "The Perils of Pauline".

9. Velcro. The velcro on my boot was so strong, NASA could use it to fasten an astronaut to the wall of a rocket so she could get some shuteye without floating away. It was so strong, I couldn’t peel my boot open without bending my nails backward. So I cut up little bits of black industrial felt and put them on the end of each tab, as here. And we’re not even talking about the strained relations between velcro and your stockings or velcro and your dress.

10. You will have to wear a boot for what seems like eternity, except in bed. You will scuff your polished floors wearing your boot and shoe indoors, and seriously consider renting a buffer when it's all over. If you do your dishes by hand, as I do, you will pamper your leg by propping it up on a chair to take the pressure off. Sharp-eyed readers will recognize this chair as the one I fell off when I broke my wrist. This is part of its penance.

Oh, wait, sorry - there are eleven reasons!

11. Unless you are at the bus stop waiting for it, you will miss the bus. A lot. Even if it's just across the street, like this one, because you can't run to catch it anymore. And don’t even think about the subway because you can’t get down the stairs and the elevator is closed while they clear away what the last drunk left there. You will have to stop jaywalking and learn to cross only at the cross walk, and only starting at the moment the light turns green. No more sprinting through the yellow light.


First, I am delighted to say that I am in charming company. Helen of Chronic Knitting Syndrome sent me this photo of actor John Hurt talking with director Alan Parker on the program Living the Life, in which he's wearing the very same moon boot. I could also show you pictures of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Aniston in leg casts, but since that's not quite the same thing, we'll just keep it simple. (Helen has a four star list of great movies on her website, by the way, even if you're not knitting while you watch.)

When I first arrived at my doctor's office way back in August, I figured I had a bad sprain, but one never knows, so I had it x-rayed, and the doctor told me I had chipped it. No big deal, right? Not as good as a sprain, but not so bad. This is what I envisioned, and in my mind's eye, I saw the little chip re-anchoring itself to the bone through the miracle of the really tight boot.

The doctor put me in the boot, and sent me on my way. When I came back two weeks later complaining that it still hurt, the doctor said "of course it hurts - you fractured your ankle." This was news to me. I thought I'd gotten off easy, but in fact I was now one of the Truly Injured.  I had to change my vision, as below. Kind of like the thin lines you see in your dishware. You know that if it ever breaks, it will break along that line, but it's not broken yet.

Those of us of a certain age have noticed that lately the word fracture has become synonymous with break. Is that a euphemism, like powder room? When I was finally declared boot-free, last week, I asked the doctor if I'd fractured my ankle, as in hairline, or if I'd actually broken it, and he said I'd broken it. So the above two cookies are wrong. The cookie below is correct. It wasn't a bad break, and he says the healed area won't be more likely to break again in the future, which is good to know. But if there are any doctors reading this, please, no euphemisms. Call a spade a spade, and a break a break. (Jean asks: May we please eat the cookies NOW?)

Even in the boot, and even with foam pads inside the boot, my foot moved around a little, so for two weeks the doctor put my leg in a small "wet cast" for additional stability. It was so light that I could still get into my shoes, and made what little walking I did a lot easier and more comfortable. The down side was that I was not allowed to get it wet. The lady below is smiling because the plastic shower protector on her leg works just fine.

Unfortunately, my shower protector, which I'd had since my first foot surgery three years ago, finally sprang a leak. You can immerse a tire in water to find a leak, but you don't get any results when you immerse your shower protector. I only needed it for two weeks, so I didn't want to invest another $30 for a new one (especially when I could invest that in three taxi rides). So I got out the duct tape, and looked decidedly unglamorous when I showered in this:

I live pretty close to the United Nations, so when the General Assembly convened, I knew it would be impossible to get a taxi, or impossible for the taxi to get through traffic, due to the high level of security everywhere. I decided to get a knee walker, so I could roll to work on one leg, and cradle the ankle in the knee walker. I'm not posting any pictures, but you can find them online. I saw a video of a guy zooming around on one, and wondered why my doctor hadn't suggested it.  I had gotten two blocks from home on my knee walker when I hit uneven pavement in the sidewalk, went flying, landed on my left elbow, and was scooped up by two nearby policemen. (My ankle, in the moon boot that will stand up to an asteroid, was unharmed.)  Three hours later my elbow was so swollen my hand couldn't bend enough to reach my face. Alarmed, I ran off to my GP, who x-rayed my elbow and declared it unbroken, but said I had tendinitis and bursitis. I treated it with the old bags of frozen peas method.

Today, aside from making an occasional popping sound, my elbow seems fine, but it was out of commission for a couple of weeks.  (Try getting into a hot bath with one elbow, one ankle, and a shower protector on your leg.)  If you're thinking of getting a knee walker, keep it in your home or in your place of work, where everything is smooth and flat. It's not for outdoors.  (Jean's 2 cents:  Does she ask me ahead of time so I could tell her the knee walker is designed for people who don't have the upper body strength for crutches; that since she wasn't on crutches and was in a walking, weight-bearing boot, it was contraindicated for her; that it isn't designed for outdoor use, especially not on crooked, uneven sidewalks; or that it was not a good idea? Nooooo.  Only after "The Wreck of The Hesperus" does the captain of the ship ask for directions and the weather forecast ... )

When the two weeks in the wet cast were up, I had the Great Unveiling. This was my daily kit and kaboodle for that two week period. Here's the Ace bandage.

It was sort of like the dance of the seven veils, without the dance. Here's a light elastic bandage.

Here's the wet cast. I think its active ingredient was zinc oxide, but don't quote me on that.

Look how slim that left ankle is! (And look how badly those toes need a new polishing!)

The ankle is healing more slowly than the wrist did, and this is to be expected - the wrist was completely immobilized, and bears no weight. The ankle is not entirely immobilized in the boot (since you take it off at night), and the boot allows it to bear some weight. As with the wrist, when people saw me wearing the boot, they started telling me their own broken ankle stories. One young woman told me she was a dancer, and had broken her ankle three times, but she was fine when we spoke. Another told me it was months before she felt completely healed, so I'm prepared to be a bit delicate for a while. In fact, I have developed a slight case of - shall we say - acropediphobia - fear of high heels. (There actually is no word for fear of high heels, but there should be. I asked my friend Ti-Henna, who studied classical Greek and Latin, to coin one for me. Thanks, Miss Ti!!!) I don't wear high heels, but now when I see them I imagine falling in them, and just about swoon.

I am out of the boot, though not quite out of the woods. I now have (on doctor's orders) an elastic ankle brace (similar to a support stocking), and was told to wear a lace-up shoe with it, for stability. The doctor says I no longer need the Ace bandage, but I feel better with it.

One has to have a sense of humor about all this to get through it, so one recent day as I went through my foot dressing ritual, I was reminded of Winston Churchill and his immortalized comment on Russia.

It is a riddle

wrapped in a mystery

inside an enigma

tenderly swaddled in a big red suede Cole-Haan lace-up boot. (Okay, he didn't say that last part.)


  1. This post convinced me that I should never break my ankle ;) What an ordeal! I'm just glad you are finally boot-free. I like the Churchill analogy.

  2. Great post. It is interesting to hear how poeple heal with an injury and all the elements that go along with coping in DETAIL. Many just gloss over the nitty gritty but this was pretty thorough. Keeping a sense of humor is the best message ever!!!!

  3. Whatta pain! (Literally!) I would imagine the worst thing about breaking your ankle would be the pain. But as I can see by reading your blog, that's just the beginning. I would have to be carried by servants, should it ever happen to me.

    Much love from England,

    Rosemary from

  4. You have my sympathy! Mine broke in two places and wasn't even attached to my leg (skeletally); I've got a LOT of metal in there, some of which you can see protruding just under the skin. It's lovely, really. I chose to use a wheelchair to get around at work and for shopping and that's what I suggest to anyone who has a foot injury. You probably wouldn't have missed that bus if you'd had one. Nevertheless, you have weathered the trauma with your usual good humor! xxoo

  5. I need I am in my 4th week of said boot and only just started 'walking' in it. There are moments I am convinced I'm healed only to reminded I am not when my ankle feels like its been sheared in half. - Thanks for giving me a chuckle. *elevates and meditates*

  6. thoroughly enjoyed reaing this! I'm two and a half weeks into healing a broken fibula and just got a moonboot. Your account has been both helpful and reassuring!

  7. just got through my first week after the operation for fracturing and dislocating my ankle, and loved all 11 tips you shared.. already worried about my unfit wardrobe for my soon-to-arrive moon boots, now i am full of ideas to save me from trainers for the rest of the summer ;) heartfelt thanks!

  8. You're very welcome! Glad to be of help, and thanks very much for the feedback.

  9. mmmmmmm wow i like your walkboot and your sexy toes it's cute i like your feets xo.

  10. Thank you for this. I really needed a laugh. I broke my ankle in two places in December. As a normally independent working mother, I am at the mercy of my 18 year old daughter to look after me. Thanks again.

  11. Yes thanks for the laugh although as I cannot get out of the house independently the fashion and transport tips don't apply so much for me. I broke my fibula near the ankle and tore away the ligament at the end of December 2015. My ankle is held together now with a lot of hardware and I can't walk at all for 6 weeks. I live with only my 8 year old son, the mobility scooter I hired has been my lifesaver.

  12. really interesting as I am in 3 weeks of having broken ankle. Moon boot from hosp too big but they did not care. how will my ankle heal?

  13. Thank you so much for this. I found out today via XRay that i fractured the lower 1/3 of my fibula about 5 weeks ago. Straight into a moonboot at the hospital. Because i wear flat shoes, i certainly am "stepping up" with each step in the MB.
    Cats are terrified of the velcro sound as I walk. Husband not so much.
    I have no idea why/how my fibula broke, but it has started to mend, and i seem to have avoided surgery because of that!!
    Waiting to see fracture clinic now.