One of the most common questions I receive from new amputees, especially in the winter and cold months, involves footwear. Never being a shoe connoisseur myself, having to tackle footwear post-amputation quickly became an exercise in frustration. With my apologies to my fashionista friends, I admit to sticking with the same pair of shoes regardless of the rest of my outfit. I prefer to go for comfort and, with the exception of a social protocol, I would probably never change out of my sneakers.
Of course, some situations require a change in footwear. With a massive snowfall and a little boy eager to go outside to play in the winter wonderland, I was confronted with one of those situations yesterday. While I technically only need to wear a boot on my biological foot, the difference in heel height makes trudging through the snow difficult. My lower back and hips thank me when I take the time to put the same shoe on both my prosthesis and my foot.
Slipping a boot onto my prosthesis is not always an easy task. Because the ankle is fixed, guiding the foot shell into the bed of the ankle can be difficult. Thankfully I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to donning boots onto my prosthesis.
First of all, I always try to buy the boots ½ size larger than my needs. Because I know I will be in the snow, I anticipate wearing thick socks to make up the size difference on my biological foot. The extra room makes sliding the prosthesis into the boot a little easier.
I don’t worry about wearing a sock on my prosthesis (after all my toes certainly are not going to become cold) so I have forged even more wiggle room to fit the boot. Perhaps my favorite tip, I have discovered that slipping a plastic bag over the entire foot shell helps to minimize friction, making donning the boot a breeze. Since I learned the plastic bag trick, I no longer dread putting on boots! If need be, I pull out my extra-long shoe horn to make the final push into the boot.
While my foot never becomes cold in the snow, my residual limb can become downright icy. The compromised circulation, the result of the amputation, makes me more vulnerable to temperature extremes. On more than one occasion I have come inside after snow fun to discover my residual limb is purple from the cold.
My second winter as an amputee I discovered the joys of air activated hand warmers. Typically sold in the check-out lines of the big box stores and sporting goods stores, I now buy them by the case online. Before sledding, snowball fights or fort building commences, I always activate and throw two hand warmers into the bottom of my socket. These little satchels help to keep my limb warm, regardless of the temperatures or the depth of the snow.
With a little preparation and some of my “go-to” winter tips, I have become completely UNlimited in the snow. How do you deal with the winter weather?