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Getting better after foot surgery

Foot Surgery Advice

First two days

Lots of rest.

The heel of the affected foot is the ONLY part of the foot that can touch the ground – when you transfer from bed to sofa or when you visit the toilet.

Elevation of the affected foot is the key to an uncomplicated recovery; the foot should be elevated to hip level or slightly higher in the first week. This is to help minimise post-operative swelling which, if left unchecked, makes the foot unnecessarily painful.

Ankle exercises are encouraged (move both ankles up and down, side to side, clockwise and anticlockwise). These exercises assist blood flow around the lower limbs, therefore reducing the risk of blood clots.

Drink lots of fluids.

Day 3 onwards

Start to mobilise more frequently, but for short periods of time.

Remember you should still be walking ON THE HEEL of the affected foot at this stage.

Elevation is still crucial to your recovery; when you are not ‘pottering’ the foot should be in an elevated position.

PROLONGED STANDING IS NOT PERMITTED, the foot will swell and it will hurt.

‘Listen’ to your foot.

If your foot aches you have done enough and you need to elevate it.

If your foot HURTS you have over done activity.

Day 7 onwards

By this stage you can stop walking on the heel and take more weight through the length of the foot. Do not be concerned if this is initially uncomfortable; try again in a few hours and then a few hours after that.

The foot still needs to be in an elevated position whenever you sit down throughout the day.

You will find you gradually become less reliant on the crutches.

Week 2 onwards

At this stage you should no longer require crutches.

The dressings need to be removed and an appointment will be made for you to see the nurses at the Outpatient Department for this and as long as we are happy with the wound your stitches will be dealt with.  The blue stitches will be removed and any white stitches will be trimmed, flush to the skin of the foot (these are the dissolvable stitches).  The surgical wound will be inspected and according to this you will be advised how to self-care for your foot.  A dry dressing will be applied to the wound to prevent rubbing from footwear.

The aim is that once you have your stitches removed you immediately return to enclosed footwear. TRAINER SHOES are recommended, with lace-up or Velcro fastening. This is a very important stage of your rehabilitation as the footwear offers compression (initially provided by the bandaging).  This, along with frequent periods of elevation, will prevent the foot from swelling and therefore recovery will be swifter. You need to put on your trainers first thing in the morning and leave them on throughout the day.

BATHING – you may resume bathing/showering as soon as the incision line has ENTIRELY HEALED.
However THE WOUND MUST NOT GET SOGGY so instead of soaking the foot in the bath/drenching it in the shower, briefly wash the foot and then rest it on the edge of the bath/away from the flow of water.
The foot should be gently patted dry. DO NOT use a hairdryer to dry the foot.

DRIVING – you may resume driving when you can walk comfortably, usually 4-6 weeks post-op depending on the procedure undertaken.
Sit in a stationary vehicle and pump the pedals with your foot.
If your foot is not painful or aching the following day then this is a good sign.
It is advisable to initially go for short drives, with someone who is also insured for that car, in case your foot should start to ache.

Advice regarding ‘listening to your foot’ still applies at this stage.

Frequent periods of elevation of the affected foot should still remain a key component of your daily routine for the first few months.
Please note – it is the frequency that is most important!

Going barefoot is not advisable for the first three months.

Month one

‘Socially’ fit and able. You will be able to go out and about and see friends quite well but you will need to put your feet up now and then. If you work in an office this should be fine as long as you pay attention to your work patterns. The average patient can now drive.

Month two

You can spend most of the day on your feet but you will be tired by the end of the day. Most sports can be started except full contact.

Month three

Patients say that they can do most things fairly normally, but they cannot wear all their shoes at this time. This is because the foot will still be a little swollen but this is now beginning to noticeably recede.

It will take the average person six months to forget that their foot has had an operation. This is because the foot will still be a little swollen and probably tired at the end of a long day, particularly if you have had to stand for a long time. It will take this time to be able to wear all of your best shoes.

Total Foot Health’s expectation is that after foot surgery you will be to able to return to your normal levels of activity, but without the pain or discomfort that your foot problem was causing. If you can run a marathon now then we expect you to run one after your surgery. We also expect your foot to look good after surgery, as generally a foot that looks cosmetically pleasing is also a foot that works well; form and function go together.

The time line will apply to the recovery from most foot surgery.