How to Splint a Foot

Feet are complicated. There are 26 bones in each foot. That's a lot of opportunity for fractures or dislocations. To make it worse, the shape and function of the foot makes it a little tricky to splint. Here's one way to splint a foot using nothing more complicated than some basic household items.

Evaluate the Foot

Evaluating sensation in a foot
The patient should be able to identify which toe is being touched. Rod Brouhard

Before applying any type of immobilization to a suspected break, dislocation, or sprain, it's important to evaluate the function of the extremity. In the case of a broken arm, evaluate the patient's hand. In the case of an injured leg, evaluate the patient's foot.

There are three main points to assess.

  1. Circulation: Assess circulation by feeling the temperature of the foot. Compare the temperature of the injured foot to the temperature of the uninjured foot. You can also assess circulation by feeling for the presence of a pulse in the foot or by checking capillary refill. Note any difference in temperature between the patient's two feet.
  2. Sensation: Assess the sensation of the foot by touching a toe and asking the patient to identify which toe is being touched. Note any numbness or tingling the patient feels when his or her injured foot is touched.
  3. Motion: Have the patient wiggle the toes on the injured foot. Note any inability of the patient to move the toes or foot.

Create a Cardboard Foot Splint

Homemade cardboard splint
By folding it correctly, a piece of cardboard will make a fine splint. Rod Brouhard
Cardboard is a very easy way to make a splint at home or at the office. Any piece of cardboard that still has its integrity will work. For this example, I used a new divider from a cardboard file box.

Using the edge of a desk or the corner of a wall as a straight edge, make two creases in the cardboard. The creases should mark off the cardboard into thirds lengthwise.

Pad the Splint

Cardboard splint with towel
Pad the splint with a towel or sweatshirt. Rod Brouhard

Place a towel over the splint to pad the cardboard. Padding takes up space around the injured foot and provides support.

Position the Splint

Positioning a foot on a splint
Position the splint under the lower leg, ankle, and foot. Rod Brouhard

Place the splint under the leg and foot. Correct positioning will support the lower leg, at least halfway to the knee, and immobilize the ankle and foot. This is where padding becomes very important: fill in the space below the ankle with padding to provide support. A rolled up towel or t-shirt will work fine.

Secure the Splint

Splinted leg
Close the splint and tape it several times to secure it in place. Rod Brouhard

Close the sides of the cardboard splint and secure them in place by taping. For this step, any kind of tape is fine. I used 1" wide cloth medical tape. Pad any spaces between the leg or foot and the sides of the splint.

Ice the Break

Leg splint with ice
Put an ice pack on the injury to reduce swelling. Rod Brouhard

Put an ice pack over the break to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Do not leave ice on any injury longer than 20 minutes to avoid frostbite.

If you prefer, you can use warmth to promote healing instead of ice

Assess the Splinted Foot

Checking sensation of a splinted foot
Re-assess the function of the foot after splinting. Rod Brouhard

Recheck circulation, sensation, and motion after the splint has been applied. Note any changes from the first assessment. Loss of function in the foot can be a result of time or can have something to do with the splinting process. Either way, an orthopedic surgeon will need to now when any loss of function occurred.

Once the foot is splinted and function has been re-assessed, elevate the splinted foot to reduce swelling and take the patto medical care. This type of splint is not intended as a substitute for medical care.


Fractures (non-complex): assessment and management. | National Guideline Clearinghouse. (2017).