What is a Heel Float?
A heel float is a type of soft boot designed to protect the heel skin of patients who are either bedridden or able to walk around a little.
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The heel is the second most common anatomical location for skin damage due to pressure. Damage occurs in two ways: Friction injury is caused by the constant movement of the heel on another material such as a shoe, or bed linen, which can lead to blisters. Shear injuries, which are caused by gravity and friction, damage deeper fatty tissues and blood vessels, leading to pressure ulcers.
Heel ulcers can take up to a year or longer to heal, depending on individual patient health, and in severe cases can lead to amputation, so it is obviously imperative to do as much as possible to prevent ulcers developing. It is recommended that heel floats should be used for any patient who is immobilized for longer than twelve hours. Studies have shown that patients who move around in bed or who are otherwise at high risk for ulcers benefit greatly from wearing a heel float boot.
The heel float boot is designed to raise the heel and suspend it over an air cavity in order to protect fragile skin from developing ulcers or sores through pressure or friction. It does this by supporting the lower leg by way of a removable gel pad or integral foam under the calf or ankle. This holds the heel up over the cavity. The boot surrounds the lower leg, foot, and ankle.
The intention is to avoid any pressure on the vulnerable areas of the foot and ankle. To this end, the boots may have cutouts, or open ‘window’ areas to allow air circulation for skin health and healing of any existing sores. These may be positioned to eliminate pressure on the anklebones. Straps will be positioned so they attach below any bunions. Some boots are adjustable to accommodate patients who may not be able to stretch their feet normally. Sometimes a firm insert is provided for extra support and to keep the foot at a 90-degree angle, thereby avoiding foot drop.
The heel float boots are kept comfortably and securely in position with Velcro straps that do not touch the skin. Soft, cushioned fabric protects the skin and wicks away moisture.
They are primarily designed for immobilized patients, but some styles have a detachable tread pad that makes them suitable for standing and walking in. These pads can be removed for cleaning and to keep bed linens clean. Another feature that may be offered is extended foot supports that help to keep bed linens away from the toes.