Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (2022)

Pain and Stiffness after Bunion Surgery – Treatment and Prevention

We see patients regularly who have had recent bunion surgery but are still having significant pain, swelling and stiffness in the first 12 months following Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (1)surgery (if you have questions on bunion surgery in general you canlearn everything you need to know in our Guide to Bunion Surgery).

In many cases we find that the patients were not given adequate instruction on how to care for their foot in the first year after they come out of the walking boot they wore after surgery. With proper instruction on what shoes and arch supports to wear in that first year most of these patients wouldhave substantially less pain.

Many of these people are confused as to why they are still having pain when their expectation had been that surgery would relieve their pain. The information below will help many bunion surgery patients eliminate their pain.

There are, however, other causes of pain after surgery and we strongly recommend you get an opinion from your surgeon (and second opinions)if you are still having pain.

Why the First Year After Bunion Surgery is So Important

  • It takes over a year for a bunion surgery site to heal completely. The cellular work of bone repair takes at least a year. This doesn’t mean that the bone is weaker than normal or you are significantly limited in activity during most of that time, but the foot is prone to pain and swelling during that entire time unless the foot is well protected.
  • Bunion surgery does not eliminate the forces that caused the bunion in the first place. Unless the abnormal forces that caused the bunion in the first place are addressed with proper orthotics and shoes, those forces will still act to damage the joint even after surgery.
  • Feet are under more stress than other body parts. The reality is that feet have more pain after surgery because feet have more force going through them. Every step you take puts approximately 4 times your body weight through your foot. Thus it becomes critical to protect the footfor the entire year following surgery.

Why Surgery Doesn’t Eliminate the Forces that Cause Bunions

Bunions are caused by excessive compression in the big toe joint. The video below explains big toe joint function including how bunions are formed and how to prevent the damaging forces that are present both before andafter surgery.

In order to eliminate the forces that cause pain after surgery (and can also lead to a return of the bunion) you must significantlydecrease the forces that go through that big toe joint.

What should you do in the first year after bunion surgery?

We recommend the following to our patients for the first 12 months after coming out of their walking boot post bunion surgery.

(Video) Managing Pain After Bunion Surgery

General Recommendations Post Bunionectomy:

  • Don’t go barefoot at all. Ever. Even at home. For at least the first 12 months after you come out of your walking boot you should wear shoes or supportive sandals at all times when you are bearing weight. Always be wearing either shoes with arch supports or sandals with built-in arch support
  • Wear arch supports or custom orthotics 100% the time. Use good custom orthotics or arch supports in every pair of shoes. Properly made custom orthotics will help to decrease damaging forces in the big toe joint and improve motion of the joint. A good OTC arch support will also help, although not as well as an appropriate custom orthotic.
  • If you are having pain even with the orthotics or arch supports then wear rocker soled shoes. Rocker soles will limit motion in the joint and thus decrease trauma to the joint. You may not need to wear rockers all of the time and in fact you will often want to encourage motion in the big toe joint. But rocker shoes can help decrease force in the joint during the healing period if you are still having pain.

Specific Recommendations for Preventing Pain After Bunion Surgery

A custom orthotic designed specifically to improve big toe joint motion will provide the best outcomes for most patients. Learn how custom orthotics should be made for bunions and big toe joint pain here or in the video below

If, however, you are not able to get a custom orthotic or simply wish to try a less expensive prefabricated orthotic first, there are some very good over-the-counter arch supports that will also help.

The arch supports and shoes below are those that we recommend to our patients. These are affiliate links and if you choose to make a purchase we will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you

Best Arch Supports When Recovering from Bunion Surgery

  • Best Arch Support for Athletic Shoes: To best protect the big toe joint an arch support should conform as close as possible to the arch of Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (2)the foot and be firm enough to transfer pressure off of the big toe joint. For athletic shoes we recommend the FootChair Podiatrist DesignedOrthotic.This unique orthotic has a very supportive arch along with an adjustable arch via pads that can be inserted under the cover.
  • Best Arch Support for High Heels, Flats and Soccer Cleats: TheFootChair Slim Orthotic with adjustable arch support.Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (3) It’s the most effective OTC arch support we have found to fit in women’s heels and flats and is also great for cleats. It has the same exceptional adjustable arch support as the full-size FootChair but with a much slimmer profile. In addition it flexes to adapt to most heel heights.
  • Best Sandal and Slipper Arch Supports. We are huge fans of Vionic sandals and slippers for all Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (4)of our bunion post-op patients. Vionic sandals have exceptional arch support and will help protect your big toe joint.

Best Shoes to Wear After Bunionectomy

If you have tried arch supports or custom orthotics and are still having pain during the bunionectomy recovery period then consider using a shoe with a rigid rocker sole. Shoes with a rigid rocker sole are very effective at reducing painful forces in the big toe joint because they limit both motion of the joint and forces going through the joint.

Best Running and WalkingShoe with Rocker Sole to Protect the Big Toe Joint

Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (5)

Hoka One One: If you have had bunion surgery and are still having pain this is one of our go-to shoes. It has an excellent rocker that protects the big toe joint. In fact, the rocker in these shoes is as close as you will get to the rocker on the walking boot you wore after surgery.

Best Running and WalkingShoe with Rocker Sole for Wide Feet

Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (6)

(Video) I Had Bunion Surgery -- Why Does the Ball of My Foot Hurt Now?

Altra Olympus: Patients who have had bunion surgery on one foot often have a bunion on the other foot and still need a wide shoe. This Altra isbest running and exercise walking shoe with a rocker sole for people with wide feet.They are used by serious runnersbut also good for daily walking.

Best Walking Shoe with RoPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (7)cker Sole for People with Wide Feet

New Balance 928: This is a great walking shoes for those recovering from bunion surgery or who have pain in the big toe joint – especially if they need a wider shoe. The New Balance 928 comes in widths up to 6E in addition to having a generous toe box and an excellent forefoot rocker. Probably the best rocker walking shoe we have seen for people with wide feet.See the New Balance 928 here.

Best Dress and Casual Shoes for Big Toe Joint PainPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (8)

Dansko: We have recommended Dansko for years to our patients with bunion pain and those recovering from a bunionectomy as most Dansko clogs and shoes have an excellent forefoot rocker. You can see a selection of Dansko shoes here.

Best Rocker Shoes for People with Hard to Fit Feet

Pain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (9)

PW Minor Rocker Soled Walking Shoes: If you have a difficult to fit foot, consider PW Minor. PW Minor shoes are know as one of the best shoes for people withhard to fit feet – including those with bunions and other big toe issues. The PW Minormodels Quartz, Emerald, Diamond and Jasper all have an excellent rocker sole and are the models we recommend the most for our post-bunionectomy patients.

Best Rocker Sole Sandal for Big Toe Joint PainPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (10)

Alegria: We often recommend this sandal to our patients following bunion surgery. Alegriahave an excellent rocker sole and in addition most of their sandals also have a removable insole so that we can make a custom orthotic to go in the sandal. See a selection of Alegria sandals here.

Best Rocker Sole WinterBootPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (11)

El Naturalista Boot: For those with bunion or big toe pain who are also in need of a fashionable boot this is a very good choice. Ithas a thick crepe rubber sole that is very stiff in the forefoot. In addition it has a removable foot bed that makes it a great choice for those who wear orthotics. orthotic wearers.See the El Naturalista Boot here.

Best Rocker Hiking BootPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (12)

Hoka Hiking Boot: The Hoka hiking boots are the best midweight rocker hikers we have found for those with bunion (and bunion surgery) pain. This boot iswaterproof and has a high-traction outersole. It has a “metatarsal rocker” which is the best type of rocker for people with pain in the big toe joint. See the Hoka hikers here.

(Video) Bunion Pain Relief Tips WITHOUT Surgery | Easy Tips from a Podiatrist

Best Rocker Sole High Heel Dress Boots for WomenPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (13)

Earthies Ferrera Boot: This boot should only be worn 6 – 8 months following bunion surgery and then only if there is enough motion in the big toe joint to handle the amount of heel on this boot. But if you fit those criteria, this is an excellent fashion boot for those with big toe joint problems. Not only do Earthieshoes generally have excellent arch supports but many come with exceptional rocker technology in the soles. If you are looking for a great looking high heel boot with a rocker the Earthies Ferrera boot is the best we have found.

Best Women’s Dress Sandalfor Big Toe Joint PainPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (14)

Earthies Sandals: Earthies also makes a number of fashionable sandals with a forefoot platform rocker sole that help protect the big toe joint. They are not a running shoe of course,but they are the best fashionable sandals tominimize foot problems.

Best Pumpsfor Big Toe Joint PainPain After Bunion Surgery - What to Do? | Seattle Podiatrist (15)

Platform Pumps – Various Brands: As with the fashion boot above, wait at least 8 months after surgery to wear pumps. And then, again, only if you are no longer having pain and have plenty of motion in the joint. Also check with your surgeon first. But if you fit those criteria, there are a number of pumps with platform soles that can be very protective of the big toe joint. In fact, pumps are the shoe type with the greatest amount of choice in manufacturers. This is because platforms are popular now in fashionable pumps and by definition a platform happens to be a rocker. We again really like Earthies pumps because they have a great rocker andin general Earthies fit women’s feet better than most dress shoes. You can alsosee many other choices of pumps wtih rockers here.

Bunion Surgery Should Be Your Last Resort

The above information can help if you are having pain after bunion surgery, but our first goal is to help you avoid bunion surgery. If you are having bunion or big toe pain of any kind contact us for an appointment in our Seattle clinic.

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Dr. Larry Huppin

Podiatrist specializing in biomechanics at

Lawrence Z.Huppin, DPM is an internationally recognized lecturer and teacher on orthotic therapy and biomechanics.In his Seattle private practice his focus in on treatment of mechanical problems such as heel pain, bunions, ball of foot pain, athletic injuries and children’s foot conditions.In addition he specializes in toenail problems including ingrown and fungal toenail conditions. He is always focused on helping patients avoid surgery if at all possible and keeping your medical costs as low as possible.

(Video) Don't Have Bunion Surgery Until You Watch This -- Podiatrist Explains How to Avoid Bunion Surgery

Latest posts by Dr. Larry Huppin (see all)

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  • Flip Flops and Sandals for Ball of Foot Pain | Podiatrist Recommended - August 5, 2018
  • How To Strengthen the Arch of Foot - August 31, 2017

FAQs

What is the role of a podiatrist after a Bunionectomy? ›

To begin with, your Podiatrist will prescribe you gentle semi weight-bearing exercises and mobilisation exercises to help restore some strength and range of motion into your big toe joint.

How do you get rid of pain after bunion surgery? ›

Reducing Pain After Surgery

You may be given over-the-counter or prescription medication to lessen the pain. Applying ice to the area can help ease any acute toe pain you experience as well. Ice also helps to keep the swelling down in your foot.

How long does foot hurt after bunion surgery? ›

Your Recovery

You had bunion surgery to remove a lump of bone (bunion) from the joint where your big toe joins your foot, and to straighten your big toe. You will have pain and swelling that slowly improves in the 6 weeks after surgery. You may have some minor pain and swelling that lasts as long as 6 months to a year.

Why does my foot hurt at night after bunion surgery? ›

It is normal to experience swelling and pain after foot surgery especially if tissue has been cut or removed and bones were moved back into place. You may even experience tingling or burning as your foot heals. Once healing takes place, the pain should continue to decrease until it subsides.

Should I wiggle my toes after bunion surgery? ›

Sleep is more important. o If you had surgery on your toes, don't wiggle them. It's fine to move your ankle back and forth as long as it doesn't hurt. Don't worry about wiggling your toes.

When can you put pressure on foot after bunion surgery? ›

The success of your surgery largely depends on you. As the wound heals, you can gradually apply pressure and within the first few weeks, you may walk short distances. You should be able to drive again within a week, but expect minor swelling for about six months.

Why does my foot still hurt after surgery? ›

Pain After Surgery May Indicate a Nerve Problem

This process may be as short as a few weeks or as long as several months, depending on the severity of the initial pain, the extensiveness of the surgery or treatment, and how well you follow up with home care.

What helps nerve pain after foot surgery? ›

These include:
  1. Pain Relievers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol can relieve mild symptoms.
  2. Pain Killers. Opioid drugs like tramadol or oxycodone can relieve moderate to severe pain. ...
  3. Anti-Seizure Medications. ...
  4. Topical Medications. ...
  5. Nerve Blocks.
Sep 15, 2021

How long does it take for nerves to heal after foot surgery? ›

The results demonstrated that the recovery of sensory function in patients with various cutaneous nerve injuries after foot and ankle surgery required at least 6 months.

How long does nerve pain last after bunion surgery? ›

Is the surgery painful? The amount of pain experienced after bunion surgery is different from one person to the next. Most patients will experience discomfort for three to five days. If you closely follow your foot and ankle surgeon's instructions, you can help minimize pain and swelling after your bunion surgery.

Can you elevate your foot too much after surgery? ›

Raising your injury too high can decrease blood flow too much. Elevating an injury for too long can also do this, and both of these issues can slow down your body's natural healing process.

What is the fastest way to recover from bunion surgery? ›

Here at Complete Foot & Ankle, we've helped many of our patients get back on their feet as quickly as possible.
...
10 Tips for Successful Bunion Surgery Recovery
  1. Prepare for coming home. ...
  2. Do some crutch prep. ...
  3. Keep it clean. ...
  4. Keep stuff within reach. ...
  5. Set up hydration stations. ...
  6. Get a little help. ...
  7. Take a back seat. ...
  8. Stock up.

What happens at 8 weeks after bunion surgery? ›

13) Normal walking will not be a part of your routine for at least 8 weeks after surgery. Expect mild pain and restriction of movement (bending) of the toes for 8 weeks or more. Normal shoes may not be possible for 8-16 weeks after surgery depending on swelling.

How do you break up scar tissue after bunion surgery? ›

Recovering from Bunion Surgery - YouTube

Do you need rehab after bunion surgery? ›

While bunions are often asymptomatic, occasionally they can cause pain and significantly impact your ability to walk or wear shoes. In these situations, surgery and postoperative physical therapy (PT) are often needed to address your symptoms.

What can you not do after bunion surgery? ›

What happens after bunion surgery?
  • Avoid putting weight on your big toe.
  • Elevate your foot to reduce swelling.
  • Keep your wound and bandages dry.
  • Take pain medicines as prescribed. (Antibiotics would rarely be required for this type of surgery outside of the operating room setting.)
Apr 16, 2021

Videos

1. What To Expect After Bunion Surgery
(Neuhaus Foot & Ankle)
2. Will My Bunion Come Back After Surgery at Vancouver Podiatry?
(Vancouver Podiatry (Kerrisdale))
3. My Personal MD: Can I Go To Work After Bunion Surgery? | Podiatry
(My Personal MD: Podiatry)
4. BUNION SURGERY VLOG #1 | Pain After Surgery, Cast Removal & Showering
(DESZREN)
5. How long after bunion correction does it take to walk without pain?
(Phoenix Spine & Joint)
6. Recovery from Bunion Surgery
(Anderson Podiatry Center)

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