Life After Surgery
It can take up to 3 to 6 months for your foot to feel much better. It might take over a year for the swelling to go away and movement to improve. Remember to carefully follow your surgeon’s and physiotherapist’s advice about how to care for your wound, how much weight you are allowed to put through your foot, and what exercises you should be doing after surgery. By doing these things you will allow for the best possible result of your foot or ankle surgery.
Taking care of your feet can help you to heal faster.
Keep your feet clean and dry and your skin soft.
Check your feet every day. If you see anything new, such as cuts, blisters, or changes in the colour of the skin, show your family doctor.
Wear good walking shoes once the surgeon tells you that you can wear regular shoes.
Choose the Right Shoe
Good walking shoes or comfort shoes are made to support the bones and muscles of the foot in the right position, not just to look good. You might be able to get walking or comfort shoes at your regular shoe store, or if you have more complex needs, you might need to go to a special shoe store for people with foot problems.
You will know which shoes fit you best when you try them on but there are some things to look for when shopping for comfort shoes.
- The shoe should be wide enough and long enough so that it does not press on your toes, even as you walk. Stand up to try the shoe on and walk around to make sure the shoe is long enough. There should be 3/8 to ½ inch of space for your longest toe at the end of the shoe.
- The sole of the shoe should be able to absorb shock when you walk and have non-slip surface (such as rubber). It should be firm enough that you cannot twist the shoe with your hands but should let your foot bend a little as you walk.
- The shoe should have laces or straps to hold the shoe against your foot. Shoes that have a firm heel cup (the part that goes around the back of your foot) are best.
- The heel of the shoe should be ½ to 1 inch thick (from the ground to the bottom of the back of your foot). Very flat shoes put stress on your ankle and heel. High heels are also bad for your feet and you could fall and hurt your ankle. The heel of the shoe should be wide so that there is more contact with the ground.
- The shoe should support under the arch of your foot.
- The top part of the shoe should be soft and comfortable and should not press on your foot.
- The lining of the shoe should be smooth so that it does not rub against your skin.
- The shoe should weigh as little as possible.
Shop for shoes in the afternoon since your feet can swell later in the day. Once you get home, wear the shoes indoors for a day or two to make sure they are comfortable. Most stores will let you take the shoes back if they do not fit well and you have not worn them outside. Before you buy the shoes, ask what their return policy is.
If your doctor gives you a note saying that you need special shoes, you might not have to pay tax on your shoes.
If you have trouble finding shoes that fit, go to a store with a certified pedorthist (trained shoe fitter).
Driving a Car
Most people are not allowed to drive for some time after a foot or ankle surgery. How long you cannot drive for depends on what kind of surgery you had. You cannot drive while you are wearing a cast or walker boot on the foot that you use to drive.
Your surgeon or physiotherapist will tell you when the cast or boot is no longer needed. This might mean that you cannot drive for 10 to 12 weeks after surgery. There are legal reasons why your surgeon cannot let you start driving as soon as you would like. Talk to your surgeon and physiotherapist before you return to driving.
Refer to the Resources section of this website for information about ways to get around while you cannot drive.
Going Back to Work
How long you will need to be off work while you heal is different for each person. It depends on your job, what kind of surgery you had, and how much pain and swelling you have after the surgery. Some people cannot go back to the same job after surgery. If you have problems from the surgery (such as your wound is slow to heal), you might need more time off work. If a second surgery is needed because of problems, you might be off work for up to a year. Talk to your surgeon about your job before your surgery.
Things to think about for returning to work:
Before the surgery, talk to your boss and your surgeon about when you might have the surgery. Your surgeon might be able to change the date of your surgery to a time that is best for your work.
Can you work while you are not allowed to stand on your foot? Even if you can, pain might still make it hard to work. Most people cannot work for at least three weeks after the surgery often as long as 3 to 4 months after major surgery.
Try to arrange disability forms and payments before your surgery. If you have an extended medical plan, find out what will be covered before you have your surgery (such as paying your wages while you are off work, paying for physiotherapy or equipment).
Going on Trips, Travelling by Air
It is not recommended that you go on a holiday or travel for work for 4 months after foot or ankle surgery. This is because you might not be covered by your travel insurance if you go outside of Canada within 4 months of having surgery.
After 4 months if you travel by airplane, the metal screws or plates in your foot or ankle should not set off the alarm when you go through airport security. If they do set off the alarm, show the security officer the scars from your surgery and they will scan for metal with a special wand. You do not need a letter from your surgeon before you go through airport security.
If you had a total ankle replacement, you might need antibiotics before you go to the dentist. This is to lower the risk of infection in your joint replacement. Not everyone who gets an ankle replacement needs antibiotics before they go to the dentist. Ask your dentist before you book your next visit. Your dentist will tell you how to get the antibiotics, if you need them.
Getting Back to Sports
It will take a while for your foot to feel comfortable doing sports and other kinds of exercise. After minor surgery (such as ankle arthroscopy), you might be able to start doing sports sooner. After major surgery, it can take at least 4 to 6 months for your foot to feel comfortable when you run or do other weight-bearing sports (such as tennis). You should only go back to doing these things if it is important to you and your surgeon has said you are ready. If you go back to sports too soon, you could damage your foot.
If you have had an ankle replacement, you might not be able to go back to running and other sports.