Broken ankle, Phase III: Getting back to normal

It has now been 12 weeks since I broke my ankle, and I’m pleased to say that I am well on the road to recovery. Sadly, however, I am not back to normal. Yet. However, I am now into the next phase of the healing process, so I expect to get back to normal, eventually. (Eventually, but not soon enough for my impatient nature.)

(Don’t worry: Now that Phase III has begun, which will be a long, slow process, I will stop sharing regular ankle updates. No more bi-weekly reflections; no more ankle-specific posts. Well, until or unless something significant happens or I decide to share a final missive once all of the swelling has gone away, which will be months from now. But I digress…)

To recap the journey so far, Phase I was the initial six weeks after the break. I spent those first six weeks relatively immobile, wearing a walking boot all the time, except for when bathing or sleeping. Phase II was weeks 7-12. Those six weeks were spent strengthening my ankle and calf muscle, whilst decreasing my use of the walking boot until I was able to walk unaided. (Links to the nitty-gritty bi-weekly updates are at the end of this post if you need more than that brief recap.)

I am beginning the most exciting part of this journey: Broken ankle, Phase III: Getting back to normal.

Unlike the first two phases, Phase III doesn’t have a real timeline or an end date. Instead, it will be a long process that takes as long as it takes. Although, because I am generally a fairly active person it might take a bit longer for me to get back to full power (and full marathon-running ability!). At the same time, however, going into the break with a fairly healthy body in the first place will also speed things up, in some aspects. So Phase III may be longer or shorter or both… depending on which bits of normalcy I’m using as a benchmark.

It’s a bit of a challenge because I honestly don’t know how long it will take for my ankle and the rest of my body to be strong enough for different activities. So I’ve decided to set myself some relatively simple goals between now and the end of the year, which is about 11 weeks away. This way, I have something to work towards and it might help me to better understand how long other goals will take.

The goals I’ve chosen to start with might be relatively easy to reach, meaning I’ll be able to push even further than hoped. However, I would rather set realistic and simple goals than push myself too hard too soon, meaning that my healing takes even longer. (See that? I’m trying to be sensible. It’s not an easy thing for me to do!)

So, my goals are simple:

  1. Be able to fully flex my ankle.
  2. Be able to walk (comfortably) in high heels.
  3. Be able to run a 5k.

To be honest, I don’t know if this will be possible. But I won’t know if I don’t try. I do know that it will be a bit of a “sore” goal as working on flexibility means I have to intentionally put myself in pain. Not a lot of pain though; more of a discomfort. I also have to work to find a balance between pushing myself to stretch a bit further for the benefits it will provide, yet not pushing myself so far that I am causing damage. Yes, it’s a balancing act!

The second goal is a bit frivolous, I know. But I like to wear high heels on occasion and I figure that it might be a great way to help with the flexibility work, too. Of course, my idea of heels is far, far more sensible than most of the women I know, but they are still heels which is still a risk. Not only is there a risk of injury because of an unstable ankle, but there’s also the issue of swelling which may (or may not) be exacerbated because of the silly shoe choice. But I’m not looking to walk far in them or to wear them all day. I just want to be able to change into them at the office and manage a standard workday in them. (It will be a while before I’m wearing them for an all-day event that includes a lot of standing.)

The last goal sounds really easy, but I have a feeling it will be really hard. Not only because I will have to slowly build up my ankle’s ability to run, but also because my lungs and my legs have not run in three months. And that means that they will be a bit unhappy about being made to work again. But I have a little over ten weeks to build up to running a 5k. And it may be a very slow 5k, but at least I will do it!

I did manage to do a bit (a very, very little bit!) of running this morning. It didn’t hurt (much), in part because I ran for less than a minute and in part because I took it very carefully. But whilst it didn’t hurt (much), there was a very odd sensation in my ankle, which I think might turn to a painful sensation when I run a bit longer and/or further.

Ultimately, I would like to have full strength and flexibility back to my ankle before the end of winter. I would also like to see my overall strength and fitness levels back to a healthy level. This way, I can be ready to do some serious running in the spring and summer. I worry, however, that I will be a little too cautious about my ankle, which might slow me down. (I had the same issue after a severe sprain in the same ankle many, many years ago.) I think that my confidence will need to build up slowly (along with my strength), I just don’t know how slow slowly is! (And I am a bit impatient!)

But as they say, time heals all wounds. However, I fear that this wound will take much, much more time than I had thought. I know it sounds silly, but when the doctor said I would be healed and able to run (gently) in 12 weeks, I thought that meant that I’d be healed in 12 weeks. But I’m now entering week 13 and I am still feeling a bit of pain. And I am still experiencing a bit (a lot?) of swelling.

That pain and swelling worry me a bit, but I don’t know how worried I should be – or when I need to consult with a doctor. Do I need to just suck it up and realise that I will never be fully healed? Or is there actually a timeframe that I can look at for 100% healing? And is there a point in time when I need to get a medical professional involved with the post-Phase II healing and recovery portion? And what is that point?

I suppose I’ll know the answers to these worries as I begin to get back to normal. Normal. What is that? And how do I get there? Well, I suppose I’ll find out when (and if) I come to the end of Phase III.

Wish me luck!

To read more about my progress, follow the links below:
I am broken
Two weeks broken
Four weeks broken
Six weeks broken
Broken ankle, Phase II: Learning to walk again
Eight weeks broken
Ten weeks broken
Twelve weeks broken
Broken ankle, Phase III: Getting back to normal

9 Replies to “Broken ankle, Phase III: Getting back to normal”

  1. Im so happy to find you. No one understands what im going through and i give myself a hard time about not progressing fast enough anyways but knowing how you were at these stages is such a comfort to me

    1. Hi, Nicola. I am glad that you’re finding comfort in reading about my experiences. It took a while to get fully back to normal, but after Phase III began, it went quite quickly. You just need a bit of patience and you’ll get through it!

      Good luck!

  2. I’m 3 weeks out from breaking my left ankle. I am so grateful to find you. Thank you for blogging your healing process. Your experience has helped me so much; to know what I’m going through is a normal part of the healing process and it’s going to take longer than I thought. Sigh.

    1. Hi, Sheila. Thanks for reaching out! I know how important it is to find/seek similar experiences, so I am pleased to hear that you’ve found my writings to be helpful. Here’s hoping that you continue to heal, even if slowly! It will take time, but it you’re like me, you’ll be back to “normal” in time. Just take it easy and your body will do the rest!

  3. Hi there,

    Thank you so much for writing this blog of your journey, as I just had ORIF ankle surgery on the 30th of April/2021. Two screws on the inside left, and a plate with three screws on the outside right of my right ankle.

    I’ve always been pretty active at 62…I walk my dogs a 1/2 mile everyday, plus walk 5 miles in addition weekly. Not to mention I was a veteran of 3 1/2″ heels worn daily. As my doctor knows of this and claims that I’ll be walking out of his office in my high heels on my last appointment with him (maybe 3″ now). I certainly am praying for that outcome.

    I appreciate your hearing your journey as it gives me hope that I will conquer this hiccup in my life and resume a more, somewhat modified, normal life again.

    Thanks again, and the best of Chi to you!

    1. Hi, Tamara. Thank you for your message!

      I am sorry to hear that you’ve joined The Broken Ankle Club, but I am pleased to hear you’re already on your way to healing and recovery. It sounds like your break was much worse than mine (which wasn’t “bad” in the grand scheme of things). But you seem to have the positive attitude that is required to get through it!

      Good luck with your healing. It will take time, but you’ll be rocking those 3″ heels before you know it!


  4. Hi, I guess I’ve joined your club! Broke my ankle in 4 places and a bone on top of my foot. I have 2 plates 15 screws over 50 staples, over 5 hour surgery. Had to wear the boot for 8 weeks, been doing pt for the past 6 weeks. Still can’t wear regular shoes have to wear crocs because that’s all that fit… my accident was April 7,2021.

  5. Hi i have joined the broken ankle club. I am curious to know how after 10 weeks, how do u know you can walk without crutches? i am into 10 weeks and cannot walk properly without crutches. I have transitioned out of the walking boots and am wearing sport shoes. When i walk with crutches, the heel pain was tingling but temporary.

    Wonder how u knew how to walk without crutches? Do i need to rely on crutches till ankle joint is no more stiff?

    1. Hi, Frances. I am sorry to hear you’ve joined the broken ankle club (but yay for being in the Frances Club!). It sounds like your break was more severe that mine, as I never needed the crutches beyond the first couple of days. I just hobbled slowly in the ankle boot.

      That said, I can say that I found the process of walking without the boot to be slow. I had to do a lot of stretching exercises to rebuild the flexibility and strength in my ankle. I also had to do a slow transition from boot to shoe, wearing the boot a little less each day as I built my strength back.

      Sadly, the healing process will always be slower than you want it to be. However, in my case I did get to full strength in about 6 months total and was back to running as normal within 9 months.

      I hope you heal quickly and without complication!!

      All my best,

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