How Long Will My Recovery Take After Bunion Surgery?

Peter Wishnie, D.P.M.
Owner of Family Foot & Ankle Specialists in Piscataway & Hillsborough, NJ

This is the most frequent question I get when discussing bunion surgery with someone...."how long is the recovery time for bunion surgery?" The answer is it depends and depends on what you mean by recovery.  Recovery means different things for different people.  It can mean, when can I start walking, or it can mean when can I get started with my training for a marathon. 

Resuming Activities:

But for most, it means, when can I resume my regular daily activities.  In addition, there are several types of bunion surgeries.  These are divided into three groups, with each group having a different answer.

In all cases, patients stay home for three days and will rest either in bed or on a couch or chair with their feet elevated.  After that, most patients can perform regular daily activities, like going to work at a desk job, go to the movies or out to dinner.  The key is not to be on your feet too long.  If you have to get up and make copies, that is fine, but if you are a flight attendant, it can take 2 months before you go back to work.  To be more specific, I listed the three types of bunions and their recovery times below.

Mild Bunion Operation

The first group is the mild bunion operation.  This is when the bump or spurs are just removed, and this group is listed as having a mild bunion.  People in this group will be walking immediately in a walking boot.  The boot will stay on for two weeks.  At this time, the patient will undergo physical therapy and will be allowed to get into sneakers.  It might take another couple of weeks to get into a Men’s dress shoe or a flat shoe for women.  It can be 6-8 weeks before women get into a moderate high heel, like about 2”.  From that point on, just add two weeks for every inch, but you know, we don’t recommend long distance walking in a very high heel.

Moderate Bunion Operation

The moderate bunion will require not only the bump being removed, but the bone (first metatarsal) to be cut and moved into a corrected position and being held in place with a screw.  The patient cannot bear weight without the walking boot for four weeks.  At this time, the above regimen for the mild bunion is followed.  

Severe Bunion Operation

The severe bunion requires a fusion of a joint, also known as a Lapidus, which is performed with a couple of screws, or plate with screws.  This patient will be in a below the knee cast for six to eight weeks.  The patient will need to use crutches or a roll-about walker and cannot put weight on the ground during that time.  Once the cast is removed, the patient will be in a walking boot for two more weeks followed by physical therapy.  So, it can be up to three to four months before a runner with a severe bunion can start training again.

Here is the key.  If you are having bunion pain, do not wait before it gets too severe.  Also, another key point is, a lot of people do not have bunion pain with their bunions, but they have lower back or knee problems.  This is because the bunion alters their gait and thus causes the whole body to move differently.

Remember one thing.  The purpose of getting your bunions better is to increase the quality of your life.  So, don’t focus on the recovery, but instead, focus on the things you will be able to do, that you can’t do now.

Don't let your bunion go from moderate to SEVERE! Make an appointment to discuss how our doctors can get you out of pain and back to your life!