STUDY DESIGN: Randomized 3-treatment, 3-period crossover trial. BACKGROUND: There is variation in clinical practice regarding the type of ankle support used to aid recovery after ankle fracture internal fixation surgery. OBJECTIVE: To determine the immediate effects of different ankle supports commonly issued to patients 6 weeks after surgery. METHODS: Participants were 18 adults, 6 weeks after internal fixation for transsyndesmotic/infrasyndesmotic fracture, in a major trauma center in the UK. Interventions were a stirrup brace and walker boot compared with Tubigrip. Outcomes were (1) step-length and single-limb support time asymmetry (percentage comparing injured and uninjured limbs), (2) step width, (3) gait velocity, and (4) pain during walking (visual analog scale, 0-100). RESULTS: Participants (mean ± SD age, 47 ± 14 years) included 8 women and 10 men, 6 weeks after surgical internal fixation for ankle fracture. Single-limb support time asymmetry reduced by 3% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0%, 6%; P = .02) in the stirrup brace and by 5% (95% CI: 2%, 7%; P = .001) in the walker boot compared with Tubigrip. Step width was 1.2 cm (95% CI: 0.6, 1.7; P<.001) wider in the walker boot than in Tubigrip. Self-reported pain was lower in the walker boot (5/100) and in the stirrup brace (13/100) compared to the Tubigrip (18/100, P = .03). No significant differences were found in the effects of the supports on step-length asymmetry between the walker boot or stirrup brace and Tubigrip. CONCLUSION: At 6 weeks after surgical internal fixation for ankle fracture, pain and single-limb support time asymmetry over a short distance and for a short-term walk were immediately reduced with the use of a walker boot use and, to a lesser extent, a stirrup-brace compared to Tubigrip. Step width also widened in a walker boot, which may confer some additional gait stability. These results apply to immediate effects, so studies with longer-term follow-up are now indicated. The trial was registered at (ISRCTN84536917). Level of Evidence Therapy, level 2b.

Original publication




Journal article


J Orthop Sports Phys Ther

Publication Date





157 - 167


Tubigrip, ankle brace, rehabilitation, stirrup brace, walker boot, Adult, Aged, Ankle Fractures, Braces, Cross-Over Studies, Female, Fracture Fixation, Internal, Gait, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Muscle Strength, Pain, Postoperative, Range of Motion, Articular, Walking, Young Adult