I Got Bunion Surgery—and I Was Walking 3 Days Later

More than three million Americans a year are diagnosed with bunions, yet few seek treatment right away. This surgery could change minds.

radiograph of left foot with medial bunionPeter Porrini/Shutterstock

Nancy Coveney has avoided sandals for decades. The bunion on her right foot embarrassed her and was beginning to make walking difficult. She knew it wasn’t going to get any better, and she had been putting off bunion surgery for years. When a doctor told her it would eventually give her even more trouble walking, she had to make a decision. “I’ve had it on my foot for decades, and my whole foot was out of alignment.” If she’d known how easy it would be to correct her bunion—a bone deformity on the joint at the bottom of the big toe that forced her big toe to turn inward and crowd her other toes—she might have done it much sooner.

Bunions cause pain and stiffness, and the skin covering it usually becomes red and shiny. “I like to do pilates and yoga, and the moves that required me to stand on one foot were hard to do,” says Coveney. The deformity affects all ages, is genetic, and can also be caused by wearing tight shoes; the only fix for bad cases is bunion surgery.

Coveney put off bunion surgery because she was worried that recovery would take months and that she’d have to walk with a cast and crutches. Her podiatrist put her fears to rest: He reassured her that the newest bunion surgery, called Lapiplasty, would have her up and walking in three days. “I was skeptical. I’ve seen people that had bunion surgery, and they were in casts for weeks.”

The operation took about two hours, and Coveney was sedated for the outpatient procedure. She was sent home wearing an orthopedic boot that protected the bone while it healed. She says the recovery hasn’t been anything like what she expected: “It was a lot simpler than I expected. I’m surprised. I was pretty scared before, and I was concerned about maintaining my flexibility in that toe—but I can move it already. After the first three days, I didn’t even need to take Tylenol. It’s a bit sore, but that’s it. It gets better every day.” Some foot bumps like corns and calluses can be treated at home—here’s the best way to do it.

The difference with the Lapiplasty procedure Coveney had is that it allows the surgeon to address the source of the misalignment further up the foot by resetting the metatarsal bone and securing it in place with a titanium plate. Because it involves less cutting and bone work than traditional bunion surgery, recovery is often easier. “I would absolutely recommend this to others if their surgeon chooses this type of bunion surgery. Mine was severe, and I think that is part of why it was recommended to me.”

Coveney says she now looks forward to warmer weather just so she can show off her new foot. “I choked up when I first saw my foot after surgery. My foot finally looks good. I don’t have to be embarrassed to wear flip-flops or sandals anymore. I’m really looking forward to summer. As soon as this boot comes off I’m getting a pedicure!” Caring for your feet pays off once summer arrives—here’s how to get rid of cracked heels and get your feet sandal ready.

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Jen Babakhan
Jen Babakhan is an author and credentialed educator living in California. She writes regularly about advice and culture for Reader's Digest. She is also the author of Detoured: The Messy, Grace-Filled Journey From Working Professional to Stay-at-Home Mom (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She earned her BA in Communication Studies from California State University, Stanislaus. You can follow her on Instagram @JenBabakhan , Twitter @JenBabakhan, and Facebook @JenBabakhanauthor.