Bunions Surgery & Recovery

A bunion, a growth of bone and soft tissue on the joint of your big toe, develops from a condition called hallux valgus, in which the bone turns outwards, forcing the big toe into the second toe. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, or AAOS, says that the major cause of bunions is overly tight shoes; the condition is nine times more common in women than men.

Taking care of your feet by avoiding shoes with narrow toe boxes after surgery will help to prevent future bunions. Also, wearing shoes that are designed for optimal support and structure can help you move more comfortably and ward off future foot ailments. However, if a bunion is very painful, you may require surgery.

If you choose bunion removal surgery the good news is that a highly successful procedure that can be done in several hours as an outpatient.

What to expect if you decide to have bunion surgically fixed

Before anything, talk to your doctor about measures you can take to ensure your foot heals correctly because this is a long term healing process after your surgery.
While recovery after bunion surgery takes about six to eight weeks, full recovery from bunion removal surgery can take an average of four to six months. For the first two weeks following your surgery, you’ll wear a surgical boot or cast to protect your foot. You should avoid getting your stitches wet. Caring for the incision properly can help prevent infection and promote healing.

After removing the cast or boot, you’ll wear a brace to support your foot while you heal. You won’t be able to bear weight on your foot at first, and you’ll need crutches for assistance. Gradually, you can start putting some weight on your foot, using a walker or crutches for support. Keep off your feet as much as you can, and ice your foot and toe to speed healing and reduce inflammation. After a week or two, you can drive if necessary.

Expect your foot to remain swollen to some degree for several months after bunion removal. Wear shoes with ample room to minimize your pain. Women should try to avoid wearing high heels for at least six months after bunion removal. Your doctor may send you to physical therapy, where you’ll learn exercises that can strengthen your foot and lower leg.

Medical Aftercare

See the surgeon regularly for a few months following your bunion surgery. Your foot will be bandaged, and you may also have a postoperative shoe or cast to protect it. Not only will stitches have to be removed — usually in two weeks — but Bunion Surgery Recovery states that the surgeon will need to change the bandages to check for infection and ensure that the first metatarsal bone is properly aligned. It is important to keep the dressing dry. The AAOS recommends covering your foot with a plastic bag when showering or bathing, and watching the dressing for signs of bleeding or drainage. If the dressing gets wet or starts to come off, call your doctor for instructions.

Post-Surgical Self-Care

For the first few days after surgery, the AAOS advises keeping your foot elevated and applying ice as your doctor recommends. You should stay off your feet for 3 to 5 days after your surgery. The AAOS advises using a walker, cane or crutches to get around. Follow your doctor’s recommendations exactly for any medications you have been given.

Signs of Infection

Be alert for signs of infection, which can include fever, chills, and a feeling of persistent heat or warmth in the affected foot. The AAOS says that persistent or worsening pain can also be a sign of infection, as can a swelling in the calf of the affected foot.

Later Recovery

After the dressings are removed, you can return to wearing shoes; take care that they allow your feet plenty of room. Premier Podiatry notes that 60 percent of patients will be able to resume wearing shoes in 6 weeks, with 90 percent able to wear shoes at 8 weeks after surgery. The AAOS recommends wearing athletic shoes or soft moccasin or oxford-type footwear, and gradually putting more weight on your foot and walking farther as your incision heals. Do not wear high heels. You should also wait 1 to 2 months to begin driving again, and refrain from driving until you feel confident that you can come to an emergency stop. It’s also good to notify your insurance company. If your surgeon has opted to use a plaster cast, the recovery process will be slower. When the cast is removed, your surgeon may have you wear a walking boot; you can then gradually return to walking over the next 2 to 6 weeks.

Change in Future Footwear

Certain types of footwear may increase bunion pain. High-heeled shoes increase pressure on the front of your feet, decreasing the amount of space available for your toes. Wearing flat-soled shoes that are wide through the toe area may relieve pressure on your bunions, decreasing pain. Abnormal walking patterns may contribute to your bunion pain. In these cases, an orthotic can reduce pain caused by your bunion.


Pain and swelling caused by your bunion and the subsequent surgery can interfere with daily life. In these situations medications may help reduce pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter or prescription strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be taken, as directed by your doctor.
With patience and allowing your body to take care of itself, your road to recovery will end up a smooth one.