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Hiking with Post Ankle surgery

I had a fracture in my fibula bone in two places while coming down the mountain back in December 2020. I seemed to have healed well as I walk 5 days a week around 5 miles. 

Last weekend, June 14th, decided to go for a longer hike and hiked Mt. Humphrey in AZ, 12 miles round trip with around 3400ft elevation gain. I felt out of confidence coming down. took me almost 11 hrs to complete the hike. I was not walking normally as I was trying to lift both legs to avoid exposed roots and rocks in fear of tripping over. I have done this hike before and takes me half of that time and felt extremely tired. I was wearing an ankle brace. Didn't feel any pain.

Am I overdoing this? Any tips or ideas, please?


2 Replies

Happy to hear that you didn’t experience any pain.  Thats a great sign.  Definitely cut yourself some slack, you did break your leg after all.  In all likelihood you will fall back into your natural groove the more you are back out there.  You’ve probably lost some conditioning due to the injury.  Walking, as much as I love it, isn’t activating all the muscles and neural networks that hiking over varied terrain does.  Psychologically you may be being prudently and understandably cautious.  

You are being mindful of where and how you put your feet.  This isn’t emphasized enough.  Athletes of all sorts spend hours on foot work.  Yet people go off into the most varied terrain on earth without giving it much thought.  This is fine if you are a seasoned outdoors person. Sadly too many of us have become to far removed from the earth. 

I’ve been hiking for several decades now and foot placement is still my greatest focus especially on rocky descents. I try to always no where I’m placing my foot and what the nature of that ground is.  For example, I’m always aware to never place my leg between to rocks on a descent.  My concern being, if i fell I might fracture or break a leg (leverage).

 I try to pick an appropriate pace for: the terrain, my conditioning/health, my pack weight, how tired I am, my fellow hikers, the total length of the hike, the amount of daylight,  weather conditions, and importantly train conditions (slippery, slimy, scree, unstable,…). For hiking I usually find my pace is 2-3 miles an hour, adding and extra mile for each 1000 feet of elevation gain.  Everyone’s is different.  Sounds like you were in that same ballpark.   

My experience is that after injury (I’ve had ankle surgery), you tend to be a little cautious at first until you get your groove back.  As you had no pain,  it seems that your slower than normal time was more due to prudent awareness.  You were testing the waters on your recently healed leg.  It sounds like you are off your usual pace.  With time my guess is it will naturally come back.  

Given you were on the trail twice your normal time its expected you would be more tired.  Depending on your pack weight this extra time can really add up in terms of energy depletion.  

Perhaps the answer is in your question, “I’m I overdoing it”.  If you are too tired at the end of the hike then perhaps yes.  You don’t want another injury by being too tired.  Many people’s big mistakes in the outdoors come from being over tired.  Its a simple fix though, dial back to shorter hikes for the next couple times out and adjust from there.  You can also try and select hikes with good ground conditions if you want to go longer.  Play with the variables. 

I find the great outdoors to be a great teacher.  It keeps telling me to listen to my body, pay attention to my experiences, and keep learning.  I am in awe of all the legendary outdoors people who have come before us.  



“Take care of the earth”

@Walker thank you ever so much for the detailed response. I don't feel so bad now. Your valued suggestions will definitely be considered such as taking a little shorter and smoother hike and build up slowly. You are correct, whenever I am tired I seem to lose my footing. Thanks