Bunion Surgery Recovery One Foot at a Time

Photo: The Aircast is a life-saver. Two weeks post bunion surgery on my left foot. Right foot is next. 

There are so many bunion post-surgery and recovery details that I didn’t think of until after the fact. Here are 12 tips I’ve learned to make it easier for you to successfully recover from bunion surgery:

1.  GET A HANDICAP PASS. Went out to get the mail and lunch today. I wish I’d gotten a handicap pass. Not sure where to apply for one, but will look into it. (So many details you don’t think about until after the fact.)

2.  WEAR YOUR WALKING CAST BOOT EVEN IF YOU FEEL GREAT. Drove to the post office. Wore my driving boot to the car and in the car and the “Aircast” boot, which looks like a (very) big ski boot, into the post office and to the restaurant. What a difference that walking cast makes! It’s tight but I feel secure in it and there’s only a little aching after about 15-20 minutes, which is my sign to get my leg up, which I do.

3.  ARRANGE FOR AN AUTOMATIC SHIFT CAR IF YOU HAVE A STICK SHIFT. Today I stopped at the beach after a quick Mexican lunch (is that an oxymoron?) at Roberto’s. I reclined in the car (thanks Kim for exchanging cars so I could drive an automatic shift), put my foot up across the center dash board and took a 1/2 hour siesta. I get tired easily still, so even though I so want to be out in the world, I come home, put my leg up and rest. Napping is good.

4.  ICE, ICE, ICE AND TAKE ARNICA. No noticeable swelling beyond what I originally experienced the first day. Bruising is intensifying on the sole of my foot. The bandage is covering the top, however, my 3rd, 4th, and 5th toes are slightly yellow and blue. I wonder what it would have been like if I hadn’t iced and taken the Arnica Montana homeopathic remedy (thanks Mimi for the reminder not to touch the pills) every day since surgery?

5.  WEAR YOUR BOOT AT NIGHT IN CASE YOU FORGET YOU JUST HAD SURGERY AND GET UP TOO QUICKLY. I sleep with the blue driving boot on at night just in case I wake up and need to move quickly, but during the day, I keep my foot unbooted and propped on a long couch pillow from thigh to toe either on the bed or couch . Works great.

6.  PUT PRESSURE ON YOUR HEEL. I walk from my bed or couch to the bathroom without the boot on and with most pressure on my heel. I’m only walking about 10 feet, and since I’m not feeling pain, I imagine I’m helping my foot heal with the slight movement, although I do wonder if the bone might be moving when I walk but that screw is supposed to make it seamlessly tight. I guess I’ll find out with next x-ray.

7.  ANKLE ROLLS FOR CIRCULATION. I exercise my foot with ankle rolls – 10x each way on the hour. As well, I wiggle my toes and flex my feet back and forth. It feels really good to do that. Sometimes it feels like my foot is falling asleep so the movement seems very important to keep circulation moving.

8.  EXERCISE WHILE YOU’RE HEALING. I’m exercising lightly doing leg lifts, crunches, bike pedals, and modified push ups on my knees – 10 to 20 of each. Read yesterday that the body heals faster with exercise.

9.  MOOD SWINGS MEAN ASK FOR MORE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT. My mood wavers up and down. Being single and living alone with most friends at least 30-40 minutes away makes it lonely for me. Thank God I had 4 days at Lorna’s in the beginning and now the phone, my laptop, an internet connection and the hummingbirds that feed outside my window every few minutes.

10.  BE GRATEFUL AND VISUALIZE WALKING. When I feel low, I get grateful for my new foot and all the kind people and goodness that surrounds me and I think a lot about walking again in 3 weeks and how good that will feel. That excites me!

11.  DON’T MESS WITH YOUR BANDAGES. This one is tough! My next appointment is next Monday. I wish I could change the bandage now. My 2nd toe incision was still bleeding a bit when they redid the bandage 3 days after surgery so the bandage looks nasty. But all seems well along the edges and I’m not showing any signs of infection.

12.  FASTER BONE HEALING? I’m told bone heals in 6-8 weeks and today I read that toe bones heal faster with screws in it. I wonder if that’s similar to baked potatoes that cook faster with nails pushed through the middle from end to end the long way? 🙂 Whatever the case, feet are amazing and healing energy is a miracle. Go feet!

40 Thoughts on “12 Tips for Successful Bunion Surgery Recovery

  1. Paula on June 30, 2011 at 2:51 am said:

    Thanks for the tips-helpful my second foot- can’t wait to be back on my feet. I am exercising and it feels good.

  2. Paula on June 30, 2011 at 2:54 am said:

    It all seems bad at first but with a good doctor, support and a good outlook it will be fine. If you are a teacher get it done during the summer-its impossible during school-no rest. All should know to never put the surgery off and put it off- the longer you wait the worst and how ugly it will get. I was very pleased with my first surgery-nice straight toes NO Pain and can wear all kinds of shoes.

  3. Della C. Fenkner on April 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm said:

    Thanks for all those tips. REASSURING !

  4. I just had my right bunion removed 16days ago and I’m doing very good now . I don’t need any pain med now but I do keep elevated and iced at night. I also do a lot of foot circles and try to move my toes esp. Big toe. I started back work yesterday and it was swollen at the end of the day, so I ice last night and it was down this morning. Keep being reassured every day gets better. I did not see this wray the first week so I was depressed then. But take hope for anyone trying to have this surgery done to do it as the earlier u do it the better, don’t wait intill the bunion gets worst and feet becomes all deformed as then it will take more intensive work to repair and recovery will b longer and more painful. God Bless.

  5. Bunion Survivor on August 30, 2014 at 5:02 am said:

    Pauline, I’m so glad you’re doing well! Our feet are an incredible gift that we so often take for granted. Your advice to elevate, ice, exercise, keep a positive attitude, and take preventative pain action sooner rather than waiting until it’s too painful are all great tips for an easier bunion surgery recovery. Thank you for sharing your experience and encouragement.

  6. I am 1 week post op from a bunion removal (small one) and 2nd & 3rd toe being shortened. I am feeling great. I stopped pain meds on day 4. They were making me sick. Managed through week 1 with just Aleve, ice, and elevation. This week (week 2) the stitches come out. I feel tingles of sensation (good way) in my big toe where it was numb. I wiggle my toes even through the bandages. Have to admit I was down reading other sites about horrific stories of recovery. Your site and info just literally refreshed my mind. I know I serve a God that is a healer and I will be well in time. Look forward to being out of this boot and back to driving the week of Thanksgiving. Also note, I have a few aches on the top of my foot.I think it’s the pins, but have NO need to take a pain pill!

  7. jenny.webster@ocs.co.uk on January 23, 2015 at 4:40 am said:

    I have had both feet operated on now. The first operation was on the 6th, this included my second hammer toe. My second operation was performed on the 20th,just a couple of days ago.
    The first operation was pretty plain sailing, the pain only lasting a few days,the thick dressing was removed whilst under the anaesthetic on the 20th, I changed the light dressing myself this morning, I have a straight foot ! I am delighted
    This second left foot, has had less done to it, only the bunion but it hurts like mad.
    Mobility is a challenge and not a pretty sight! I hope that the boredom with feet iPod worth it.

  8. Bunion Survivor on March 3, 2015 at 12:41 pm said:

    Jenny, congratulations on having a straight foot! Sorry that your second bunion removal has been painful. I hope that the pain is gone by now. Definitely understand the mobility issue – did you get an Aircast? That’s what I had and while it was quite a conversation starter, gave me so much freedom and comfort sooner than other options others have had.

  9. Bunion Survivor on March 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm said:

    Liana, hooray for you! You had a lot of procedures done and it sounds like you sailed through it and your positive attitude helped. Thank you for the kind feedback. I’m glad your mind felt refreshed. Healthy mind, healthy feet. Take care. Mary

  10. Star simone on March 23, 2015 at 10:24 am said:

    Hi everyone
    I am 3weeks post op. I had both bunion and hammer toe done on both feet.
    I am not doing too bad, still quite painful if I walk mire than 5 minutes. I also was given aircast boots after the 1st week but I am unable to wear them. As soon as I put them on I get this excruciating stabbing pain in my right foot and my ankle hurts on the left foot. My surgeon is surprised as it should control pain and not cause it. Has 2nd X-rays and it was all ok. So I am wearing kind of Velcro post op shoes. With those on I don’t get the zinger sudden pain and can walk more. I just wondered if anyone else has had problems with the aircast boot or is it just my bad luck.

  11. I read so many horror stories about bunion surgery I almost didn t go through with it. My issues stemmed from a broken foot that healed incorrectly 4 months prior to foot surgery.

  12. Great suggestions that I’m following 6 days after surgery. Find a shoe that is about the same height as your post-surgery walking boot so that its can be worn on the opposite foot to minimize imbalance. I also assembled a basket with cell, charger, melds , Chapstick etc to minimize trips for essentials. Ice & elevate tons is helping me a lot.

  13. Mimi V on May 14, 2016 at 5:53 am said:

    I had my right foot’s bunion and hammer toe removed on March 22nd oft this year. It has been 7 weeks and 4 days. I can’t bend my toes all the way but I’m in physical therapy for that. Week 6 I was walking with my sneakers and feeling great! However, that didn’t last because on May 10th, I got my left foot’s bunion and hammer toe and tailors bunion(bunionette) removed. So I have another 6-7 weeks ahead of me before i can walk… Again!

    After my first surgery, I was hard headed and tried to roll around the house and do laundry and cook while in my rolling chair. Dumb idea. I know this interfered with my healing time. My dog also stepped on my foot and one time, caused me to hit my foot on the side of the tub. Painful. This time around with my second surgery, i make sure I barely move so that I heal correctly and in a timely manner.

    It’s day 4 and I don’t need the pain meds. I’m trying to wiggle my toes and rotate my ankle for exercise but it’s a challenge. Hopefully I’m fully healed in time for my wedding! (July23) In the mean time, I’m always rubbing my toes with vitamin e oil to help with the scaring and using Mederma scare gel as well as suggested by my doctor. I think this helps a lot especially because I’m African American and scars on our skin tone seem more noticeable. There was this really expensive scar medication he suggested but it wasn’t covered under my insurance and costed like $200! Mederma is like $35 at CVS

    I’m thankful for everyone sharing their experiences… It definitely helps to know there are other people going through or who have went through the same thing. If you have any questions please feel free to ask! I have pictures but want able to post them here 🙁

    God bless!

  14. Pat Brumfield on August 6, 2016 at 3:12 pm said:

    This is Day 5 of my 2nd bunion surgery. This time the screw extends out but I am moving a lot quicker. I am elevating and icing . My Follow-up appointment is Monday with doctor. Thanks for the tips

  15. Elizabeth Heathman on August 6, 2016 at 11:01 pm said:

    I am going into my 5th week post-op. I have had some minor set backs. The 3rd week I developed an infection and it was quite painful. I live alone with 2 dogs so it been a really rough ride. I still have pins in my toes which is pretty uncomfortable and I am still pretty swollen. The pins should come out on Monday, looking forward to that. Then I should be able to drive again. How long does it take to resume regular everyday chores? My house is really needing attention. I don’t know if I will ever do the other foot.

  16. I am scheduled for my bunion/hammertoe surgery on the 25th of October,
    any encouragement would be much appreciated

  17. Bunion Survivor on October 22, 2016 at 10:25 am said:

    Hi Terri, you’re three days away from your surgery and I am ten years past my surgery along with millions of others who have had bunion surgery. Reread the tips I’ve offered, trust your intuition and follow your doctor’s suggestions, stay ahead of the pain with your meds and you’ll be walking comfortably in no time. I know it’s a scary decision and I think others will concur that the fear of the surgery is worse than the surgery itself. Take a deep breath, say yes when people ask to help, and if they don’t, ask for help. You’re worth it and so are your feet! Check in and let us know how you’re doing. My best, Mary

  18. SANDY HERBERT on November 17, 2016 at 1:23 pm said:

    Thanks for all the information. I am day 3 with my bunion surgery and am feeling quite a bit of burning/tingling on my entire foot and toes. I had a dissolvable screw placed. Is it too soon to start with the ankle rolls? I am afraid of pushing it too hard and making it harder/longer for healing?

  19. Mary aka Bunion Survivor,
    I am grateful for your words and tips for successful bunion surgery. Great advice and so glad that I found your site. Today I am 21 days post op and going back to see surgeon in 3 days to remove last of outside stitches. I have had the walking boot for 2 weeks now and that I can get around easier but I think I push it too much at times. It is hard for me to slow down and take the time to put my foot up often. I am working on it though. The electric/warm feeling in my foot is bothersome. Doctor said that is normal though. I did get a temporary handicap placard which was a great idea.

    Also appreciate all who have shared what you are going and/or have gone through. It really helped me.

  20. I am one week post bunion surgery on my left foot. I had a pretty severe angle repair that required two screws and some “bailing wire” to secure. This entire week I stayed on the sofa, leg iced and elevated, took my pain meds RTC first four days, I am happy to report my pain is minimal at worst. Today I am starting with my air boot to move about the house. I hope the remainder of my healing is as easy as the first week was. I have had nightmares over this surgery and the horror stories that I’ve heard. Wish I’d have done it sooner, thankful I only have one to repair.

  21. 7 days after surgery, big toe fusion, taking off the extra bone growth and clearing away painful arthritis. the “heel boot” is amazing! Another 9 days before the stitches come out. I know my other foot will need the same op one day, but for now, I am looking forward to putting my shoes on without pain and some good walking. I wish I had read your advice re arnica earlier. Is it too late now? Am managing with paracetamol. The advice here is to take it regularly. Am grateful that the help/op is available.

  22. Bunion Survivor on February 1, 2017 at 6:14 am said:

    Vera, I’m so glad your surgery went well and the boot worked out for you. Since I’m not a doctor I can’t give you medical advice regarding Arnica, but if it were me, based on the success I had along with other’s positive experience and that it is sold over the counter, I would give it a try, as well as give my doctor’s office a call to get their opinion. Best wishes and let us know how it goes.

  23. I had surgery for a mild/moderate bunion & bone spur on little toe w/partial fusion of toes on Feb 3rd. I too had heard horror stories. But am happy to report that I’ve had minimal discomfort & swelling. Stopped taking hydrocodone after 5 days because of dizziness. Advil has worked for me. 2 every 4-6 hrs. Occasionally will feel a shooting pain through incision area.
    Up & about quite a bit now always wearing pneumatic boot. Try to elevate foot about 20 min out of every hr.
    Did not receive enough Info from dr on moving toes. I have some numbness & tingling.Just put in a call for nurse to answer questions. I had a follow-up 6 days after surgery. Everything looked good. I hope he didn’t take too much bone off because my right foot is more narrow than my normal left foot!
    I had put this surgery off for so long because of negative feedback . My experience has been good so far. Just praying I continue to heal well.
    I appreciate all the information available on this forum.

  24. Donna on March 16, 2017 at 5:27 pm said:

    I am about seven weeks post op. I had bunion surgery, second toe was a hammer toe, and all the rest of my toes have screws where they were straightened. Pain meds for three days only. The pin in my hammer toe came out at five weeks. I’m still wearing the Velcro boot, icing down and elevating the foot at the end of the day. I’m 64 and should have known better than to put this off as long as I did. This recovery is nothing compared to the pain I’ve had in my foot all these years. I can’t wait to have my second foot done. It is not nearly as bad as the first one. If you are in a similar situation, please don’t put it off.

  25. Gloria Aguilar on March 26, 2017 at 12:18 pm said:

    I had my surgery March 2nd big toe fusion and 3 other toes repair for hammertoe shortening and ligament extension. Still in lots of discomfort and in short cast.
    Also feeling a lot of electric/warm feeling with sharp pains. No longer on pain meds but dr prescribed Gabapentin but does not seem to help. In small town so hope to find Arnica supplement in San Antonio, TX. Going for follow up next week and hope to be in boot. I did have fall right after first week follow up so i know this delayed the healing. What i have read keeps me positive and pray i have a good outcome.

  26. Jackie on April 2, 2017 at 12:48 pm said:

    Hi, I am booked in to have bunions removed from both feet. I don’t work and my daughter is coming to stay to help me on my recovery. I am scared about doing the two together but am grateful that hopefully I’ll have the whole thing over with and both feet will be done. Any advise for. Anybody that has done things this way would be most appreciated

  27. Barbara Mancini on April 26, 2017 at 9:36 pm said:

    Recovering from bunion surgery Feb 21, 2o17. Had bunion removed, hammertoe straightened, and other three toes moved. 3 pins, 1 screw and 54 stitches. Absolutely no weight bearing for 6 weeks. Started with large splint and dressing, week into it, a fiberglass cast, then back to get pins and stitches out, another fiberglass cast. Still no weightbearing! The first two weeks were horrible, must keep on the pain with your meds! I could only get around in a wheelchair the whole six weeks, as swelling and throbbing were constant. What a relief to finally get the cast off, went in to an airboot when I went out. Into my 7th week, starting physio, my legs are weak and toes still a bit numb, still swelling, painkillers occasionally at night. I’m still sore and at this time, feel this had been a horrible painful surgery, but to be fair I had a lot of work done, should have had it done before it progressed this far. Most people don’t have to have all their toes straightened. My Doctor is gòod, but, you follow his orders, he even examined my casts to see if I walked on them, thank goodness they were clean! At this time I would never do this again, but still too fresh, and am still swelling a lot. But good luck to anyone considering this procedure, it’s a necessary surgery if you suffer from bunions, the sooner the better!

  28. Sherry O'Shell on June 3, 2017 at 11:42 am said:

    Had bunion and 2nd hammer/crossover toe done 2 days ago. Doc said i could remove bandages in shower in 2 days…im afraid to take off bandages, although bloody…dont return to doc till 2 weeks for stitches removal, then 3 weeks for pins removal. Will call his office monday re bandages, but i dont know what to do. Am thinking of going to an urgent care monday tha. Have bandages changed???

  29. I am having both of my feet done the end of Oct.
    I am very active in the gym and running…not to mention full time sit job and part time waitress.
    I decided that I just want to get both done and move on per say.
    I am planning on doing my fist marathon in May if all goes well.
    Anyone out there that has done both at the same time?
    Any words of advice?
    Thank you:-)

  30. Bunion Survivor on September 14, 2017 at 9:59 am said:

    Hi Angie, best wishes on your upcoming surgery. With all the standing and physical activity you’re doing (good for you!), if I were in your shoes and having double bunion surgery, I’d make sure I had someone full-time to help me the first two weeks. Moving around will be very limited and cumbersome (One reader said she crawled on her kneels with feet up to get from bed to bathroom) for a while. Also, make sure you elevate and ice as much as possible, especially when you go back to work waitressing. Plan on at least a half hour when you get home for the first month. I’m a race walker and speaker on my feet a lot; I thought was a ready to move on two weeks after my single foot bunion surgery and took an hour walk. A month later was on my feet for three hours. Came home from both to serious swelling and admonishment from the surgeon that I slowed down my bone healing by doing too much too soon. Just work yourself back into activities slowly, follow your doctor’s orders, do scar massage and toe exercises as soon as you can, do visualization exercises of finishing your next marathon so your body has muscle memory activated, and you’ll have a great marathon. PS. There are many more great tips in my ebook if you need more support, which you can get at http://bunionsurvivor.com/ebook. Best, Mary, Bunion Survivor.

  31. Anthony Caccioppoli on September 25, 2017 at 1:55 am said:

    Hi, I am having Bilateral Bunionectomy/ Exostectomy of both 1st and 5th Metatarsophalangeal joints on 27th Sept 2017. About 42 hours time in Perth West Australia. Looking forward to wearing shoes that don’t kill my feet after a few hours. My 8 hour shifts on my feet are over as I retired 3 months ago. Nervous but ready to go. Thanks for the stories

  32. Kathleen Livingston on September 26, 2017 at 7:13 am said:

    Hi ANGIE,

    I am 4 weeks post op and just now able to walk in a boot and back to driving a little. I have to chase into my surgical shoe to be able to drive but it is well worth it for freedom. I had my surgery on right foot. Chevron Bunionectomy on big toe and little toe with hammertoe rotation. What can I say. Very painful in the beginning. The most pain I feel now is the pin sticking out of my little toe. I have a pin which stays put in my big toe but the other one comes out next week. 5 weeks of pain. Just praying for good outcome and able to get back to walking 7 miles a day. Good luck to all that has the surgery done. Most helpful to acquire a Knee Scooter before surgery.

  33. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:21 am said:

    Hi Anthony, I hope your surgery went well and you’re healing well. I know that feeling about comfortable shoes. Glad you found the info helpful. Let us know how you’re doing. Mary

  34. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:23 am said:

    Kathleen, thank you for your update. It’s helpful to all our readers. Glad to know you’re on the other side of your surgery. And WOW, 7 miles a day walking. Good for you! Mary

  35. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:44 am said:

    Oh my Sherry, I’m so sorry you’re experiencing so much pain and so sorry I missed your comment. I get so much spam and your comment landed there. By now, I hope you’re up and moving around and your surgery is a distant memory with a great outcome. Let us know how things turned out. Best, Mary

  36. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:50 am said:

    Oh Barbara, what a painful process for you! Agree about taking care of bunion issues sooner rather than later – as soon as you begin to feel pain, not waiting until you can’t walk. Glad you’re on the other side of the surgery. Let us know how you’re doing. Warmly, Mary

  37. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:53 am said:

    Jackie, your fear is totally normal and I’m so glad you have your daughter to help you. By now you’re on the other side of your surgery and hopefully back into your regular activities and feeling no pain. My apologies for the delay in responding. Unfortunately, your comment got stuck in spam and I just found it. Let us know how it is going. Thank you, Mary

  38. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:56 am said:

    Gloria, sounds like you had quite a bit of surgery. So sorry to hear about your fall. That must have been scary. Did you find the Arnica and did it help? My apologies for the delayed response, your comment got caught in spam along with many others. Best wishes and thanks for checking in. Let us know how you are. Mary

  39. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 10:57 am said:

    Donna, thank you for your comments. It’s always helpful to hear from others who found the surgery a better option than suffering with the pain. Best wishes on your next surgery. Let us know how it goes. Inspired by you. Mary

  40. Bunion Survivor on October 14, 2017 at 11:03 am said:

    Lisa, so glad to hear your surgery went well! Staying in touch with your doctor and nurse right after surgery is so wise. And yet, I agree, taking care of bunion issues before it becomes so bad you can’t walk is a smart decision. I wish I’d done that with my first surgery on my right foot. Will be doing it with the second surgery on my left foot. Take care, Mary

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