Can I run after major foot surgery?
After you have fully recovered from most major foot surgery there often will not be any specific restrictions that will be placed on your activity level (however, there are certain foot surgeries such as total ankle replacements where running will be prohibited). Nevertheless, it is common to find that you will not be as comfortable doing heavy loading activities (ex. long runs and long hikes) that you may have done in the past. If you do try and return to running after surgery, it’s important to ease back into it, gradually making sure that you run on soft surfaces when possible and that you always wear good shock absorbing running shoes.
It is not often apparent how long it actually takes to recover from major foot surgery. A full recovery takes a long time! Even though you may be able to weight bear after 6-8 weeks it is often 12 months or more before you are fully recovered. There are a few reasons why this is, including:
- Persistent Swelling: there is increased blood flow to the operated foot for many months after surgery. This is part of the normal healing response. However, it does mean that the foot will swell much more easily than the other side. This can create discomfort and limit the rate at which you increase your activity level.
- Gait Asymmetry due to pain and/or muscle atrophy. Even if your gait looks normal you will likely have significant gait asymmetry when you return to running. This is often due to muscle atrophy in the operated extremity which takes months to normalize. Running with a gait asymmetry often leads to overload of another area (back, opposite hip, etc.) which can become quite symptomatic. A consistent physical therapy program aimed at regaining lost strength and improving the rate at which your muscle strength returns to normal levels can be very helpful.