I fractured my foot just over 3 weeks ago and had significant pain initially, but the pain has steadily improved. I now walk without pain in the walking boot, can stand for prolonged periods without noticing the foot (most the time) and can even stand or (carefully) walk on the foot without the boot and not have pain. Any pressure or touching of the fractured area produces no pain either. Since vibration to the bone has never hurt in this particular fracture, it still doesn't. Does that mean I am healed and can stop wearing the boot?
The easy answer to this question is No. Bone healing is a process that takes anywhere from 6 - 8 weeks to heal. Poor circulation, smoking (which decreases blood flow to the feet), removing the cast or boot (which allows movement of the fractured area) and poor nutrition can all slow this healing process. Kids also usually heal more quickly than adults. Therefore, the area should be protected during this healing process for at least 4 weeks, but usually 6 - 8 weeks.
How Do I Know When The Boot Can Be Removed?
Often people will remove the boot because it doesn't hurt anymore. This will usually happen around 3-4 weeks and indicates that the bone is more stable. On some fractures removal is not a problem at this time, but could slow down the healing, or worse allow the area to be refractured before it is healed.
Since I currently have a fractured 5th metatarsal, I will explain what I am doing. I want to stay active and return to running as quickly as possible. I don't want to limit my activities any more than I need to (even in the boot). I will therefore stay in the boot (24 hours a day, except showers) until the one is sufficiently healed on x-ray. This increased protection even when pain has resolved will allow me the quicker recovery that I desire. I am therefore in this boot at least 4 weeks, but probably 6 weeks.