Sunday, 29 June 2014

Shoe shopping!

I did my first long haul flight last week. During the flight, my feet were fine but they became very swollen the following two days. I had a bit of free time to do some shoe shopping and see what kind of summer shoes I wanted to get - well, trying on. Since size 41's are like gold dust apparently. Nonetheless, it allowed me to have a look at some brands and styles, so that I could buy them online once I returned home.

One thing about this surgery that nobody tells you is how hairy your feet get! I have a friend who had ankle surgery, who has assured me that it's goes back to normal after a while.

Post flight swelling.

Up to now I've pretty much been wearing my surgery boots around the house as a comfort blanket sandals. They're really comfortable and protective, but it's time to get some real shoes!

More often than not, I like to wear trainers or flat shoes, because comfort is the deciding factor in my choice of footwear. However, there is one flat shoe variety I have always shied away from. The sandal. When you've got wonky, bony feet, you don't really want to show them off. I would never even consider an open toed shoe. Feet were always something to be kept as hidden away as possible. But now, I have new feet that I'm proud of and I want to wear sandals.

Whilst this is all very exciting, I'm still going to err on the side of sensible rather than fashionable. I won't go for anything too strappy or without support. Interestingly, according to the latest trends, Birkenstocks are having a bit of a revival. Now, I have always considered these to be ugly monstrosities that one should bring no where near one's feet. But they are stocked in Topshop, ASOS and Office, amongst others. Most high street shops stock some style of Birkenstock and are even making their own versions! I began to research a little more...

Firstly, I never knew Birkenstocks had built in arch supports. They are made of a cork and latex footbed which is designed to encourage a healthy foot shape whilst providing firm support for your feet. They are also eco-friendly, so that's a plus. I ordered a few pairs from Amazon with a view to trying them on and sending back what I didn't like.

'Madrid' in Ice Pearl (41, Medium) & Black (42, Narrow)
'Rio' in Black (42, Narrow) & 'Gizeh' in Ice Pearl (41 Medium)

I ended up keeping the Marid sandal in Black (Euro 42 in Narrow width). I liked it that I could just slip them on and not have to worry about fiddling with buckles or anything.

I needed to go up a size because of the shape of my feet, which is unusual for Birkenstocks. Birkenstocks fit quite large, because you're supposed to leave a few millimetres to give your toes space when walking. From what I've read online, some people can buy a size down and they fit 'normally'. I suppose that having bunions for so many years has slightly pushed all my other toes a little, causing them to fan out. This is visible in the photos of the Madrid sandal in Ice Pearl and also in the Gizeh style.

I also came across a brand of orthopaedic sandals named Mephisto. These too have built in arch support, and a whole host of other technology which is detailed in their leaflet. Mephisto seems to focus on making 'fashionable' orthopaedic shoes. This is a bit of a paradox to me, but if you're after a bit of bling, they would be able to accommodate.

'Helen' in Grey Etna (41)
I'm not sure how i'm going to fare with the toe post. I'm not used to having anything near my big toe, but I'm hoping it will help to keep it where it's supposed to be, and not become a rubbing nuisance.

Mephisto: Soft-Air Technology

I found three online stockists in the UK who seem to have a large selection of Mephisto sandals:

I'm excited to see how I go with these. I normally don't even wear flip-flops, so I'm interested to see if I can work a sandal in to my day to day wardrobe. If not, I can always use them as house slippers!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

10 Weeks Post-Op (26th June, 2014)

I believe this will be my last check up with the surgeon. No x-rays needed, just a quick look at my feet to check everything is okay, and then I'll be on my way.

Overall, I'm really happy with my feet. I do have a slight niggle though, which is that my big toes are not dead straight and seem to roll in slightly still. Of course I can appreciate that I've had bunions over the course of what might be two decades. But I thought that the surgery would have completely straightened my feet out.

In the picture to the left, you can see the direction my toes go in when flexing.

In the picture to the right, I'm demonstrating what it looks like when I put my toes together.

Now, it looks like I have the beginnings of very small bunions. I suppose, when I look at my before picture, I can see just how much of a difference the surgery has made.

Feet when standing.
Post-Op vs Pre-Op

The surgeon said that the shape of my joint is more oval shaped, than circular, which is why my toes have a slight problem moving in the correct way when walking. He suggested I continue to wear the pink toe spacers for a while, so that as I keep walking, the muscles strengthen in the right way.

I asked if he would make up some new spacers for me, since the one for my left foot is massive and allows my toe to rotate slightly. I'd prefer it if I had a spacer which encourage my toe to lie flat. I was actually unable to get these made, because he had run out of the hardening agent used to make the spacers.

There is no more money left in the insurance kitty now, so I was a little peeved that the only solution would be to come back next week and have them made then. I couldn't justify the cost of another appointment and train fare, just for some toe spacers.

So, I decided to have a look online and see if it was something I could buy myself. That way, I can make them as and when I need.

So much fun to be had!

Image credit:

The spacers are made out of Otoform Kc and the hardening agent. You need a little scoop for the Otoform and the hardener is red, like tomato puree. I found it quite easily online, but what wasn't easy was actually buying it. Most of the websites needed you to be an industry professional, or buying from a surgery.

Whilst annoying, I did find one website which would accept a credit card payment (I used my debit card) without you having to log in.

I ordered the smaller tub for £11.50:

170g Otoform Kc
5g Hardener
Dosing spoon

I also purchased an extra hardener (20g) for £5.50

With VAT and £6.99 for postage, it came to £27.61, which is around about the same price as my train ticket to the hospital.

The website I used was although they also operate from

Image credit:

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Physio: 8 Weeks Post-Op (12th June, 2014)

I was absolutely beaming with smugness after my physio appointment.

My physiotherapist was so surprised by how mobile I was, and the lack of swelling. I do appreciate that most people who have this operation are much older than I, and I have probably benefitted from an easier recovery because I am in my early twenties. Still, I felt like an exemplary patient and couldn't help but smile as she watched me walk back down the stairs with ease.

The massage she did was not as bad as I thought it would be. There was a bit of discomfort around the first metatarsal, because there is still some scar tissue in there which needs to be broken down. But overall, it was less painful than my usual treatments. She advised me to wear the toe spacers for another couple of weeks and is going to tweak my orthotics to give me more arch support, to stop my ankles from rolling in.

As far as exercises go, she told me to continue the stretches she had already shown me for my outside calf, which gets very tight because of the tendon situation. She also said to manipulate the joint forwards and backwards and to push the big toe up against a wall (like you would for a calf stretch). Other exercises were to practice stretching the toes (without using hands) and to start working the arch by 'scrunching', either with a towel or by picking up a pencil.

The surgeon did explain to me that it was my hyper mobile tendons in the midfoot that were the likely cause of my bunions. This problem is still there and I am more aware now as to how easy it would be for the bunions to return in years to come, if I do not wear the correct support in my shoes.

This website has quite a good selection of exercises, with workouts for adducting and abducting, flexing and extending:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

General update & scar care.

It's been five days since the casts came off and I'm still getting dead skin off bit by bit. Even though everything has pretty much healed now, I'm still very protective of my feet and don't want to over soak them. Generally, I'm feeling very happy and relieved. I almost can't believe that all that time has passed!

I did bang my toe today (big left one), and whilst I was terrified, there didn't seem to be any prolonged pain or crippling sensitivity. You'd think that because I just had major surgery on that foot, that it would be immensely painful. But I'm please to say it was just the standard pain of stubbing a toe.

I've developed a little night time routine of how I moisturise my feet, specifically the scars. Before the surgery, I bought a whole host of lotions and potions which have been waiting very patiently to come in to play:

Foot restoring goody bag.

- Thick socks.
- Hypafix and Zinc Oxide tape. Used to tape the feet, to keep toes aligned.
- Joy-a-Toes. A version of 'yoga toes', gel toe spacers which encourage correct alignment and muscle use.
- Bio Oil.
- E45 cream.
- Aquaphor balm. A really moisturising, thick balm. Also great for chapped lips.
- Tea tree oil. Supposed to help with scar healing and visibility.
- Antibacterial spray.
- Foot file.
- Gel tubing to protect toes.
- Toe spacers.
- Foot massage balls.
- Theraband. 

1. I start by rubbing Bio Oil in to the scars and then sealing the oil in with something a little heavier like the Aquaphor (I have also used Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream as an alternative). 

2. I then take a large oval cotton pad and dribble some Bio Oil in to it, so that I can place it along the length of the scar. I'm doing this so that I don't yank anything off before it's ready. 

3. I saved the bandages I removed from my last hospital visit and just wrap them around the cotton pad to keep it in place. I much rather this method than wearing socks, because my feet are still a little bit swollen and I don't want to go without any protection on the scars.

Post-soak feet.
Scars still have a little old skin on them.
All wrapped up and ready for bed!

My surgeon said I should book in to see the physio at 8 weeks. There was an option to have physio treatment at the hospital, but I felt more comfortable seeing someone who already knows my feet. I informed the the insurance company, and they checked that the facility was fully recognised in their system. I booked in at the practice where I got my orthotics fitted. The same physiotherapist suggested I see my surgeon, so it felt like coming full circle. I'm a little nervous about how much manipulation of the joints there will be, but also excited to finally get some exercises to do, as my surgeon hasn't really had anything to say about that.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

New feet! (Reveal)

I normally get excited about getting a new handbag, but now I have something I have always coveted. Straight feet!

As soon as I was home, I attempted to try my trainers on. I say attempted, because I may have been a little over zealous; my assessment of the situation shrouded by joy and abandon. Since the surgeon said quite simply, "pop your trainers on", I tried to do just that. However, I have been in a cast for six weeks and it appears my feet don't really want to move. There was a slight twinge, and sort of tight feeling as I tried to put my foot in to the trainer. I realised that I had to do a bit of 'bring the trainer to me' coaxing to make it work. This is also true for the reverse. There is much less pressure on the joint if you gently guide the trainer away from your foot as you are pulling it out. It sounds simple, but I've never really had to think about how I put a shoe on before. Apart from negotiating bunions in to tight spaces, of course. 

First time wearing shoes (other than my velcro boots) in six weeks!

Once I had mastered the art of trainer wearing, I set about unwrapping my little darlings and getting them in to the bath. This has probably been my most anticipated moment of the whole shebang. I get to soak my feet and get rid of all the flaky dead skin which has accumulated - joy! There isn't as much as I was hoping for (I mean, I've been really looking forward to this bit) but I'm happy to work with what I've got. One thing the surgeon did say was not to soak them for too long, because the skin (especially beside the scars) can become quite raw and tender.

I started by unwrapping the protective bandaging, which ended up being one of the more painful parts of this surgery. My fault entirely. Anyone who's had a wax knows that you pull against the direction of growth. I forgot about this, and proceeded to wax my toe hair. Ouch! It was quite funny in a way. I can get through a major surgery but I can't remove a plaster. At any rate, I'm glad pain is temporary. 

The reveal...

A little mummified...

What lies beneath?

Almost there...


A closer look at the scars.

The actual soaking was interesting. As soon as I put my feet in to the water and sat for a couple of minutes, it was like I'd dropped some powder in there. I guess tiny flecks of flesh had already released themselves and started to sully the water. Halfway through, I had to get out, empty the bath and start again. Then I was able to actually massage my feet a little and scoop (yes scoop) off the skin. It had an odd texture. I was expecting it to be peeling skin. But it's not, it's like soap. Soapy, foamy skin. Not at all what I was expecting, but just as satisfying. I could tell there was more skin to come off, but I'd been in the water for a while by this point, so decided to save the rest for another day.

6 Weeks Post-Op (29th May, 2014)

Oh the excitement! In the week leading up to this appointment, I've probably felt more nervous than excited. It's judgement day. I'll either get the all clear and be able to gallop out of the hospital in my trainers, or it will become apparent that it's all gone horribly wrong, and I need to get myself back on the operating table. That was actually a dream I had. Admittedly, as with most dreams, the details are sketchy. But it was basically that whilst my feet were still all wrong and broken, new bunions had spurted and I would have to spend a further six weeks in casts. Bunion dreams. The struggle is real.

The surgeon took the casts off, as before. The way he peels the steri-strips off the scars, is how you would peel off the sticky bit that's now on most envelopes. It always alarms me, but I really can't feel a thing and should probably just stop fretting about it. I've never had a scar, so I'm a bit anxious to see how to deal with one. I think I was too invested in the Harry Potter books... 

He put some light dressing on my feet, and a quick bandage and sent me on my way (still in my Velcro boots) to X-ray. I didn't have my usual lovely radiographer this time. This one expected me to open my own doors. Maybe I'm being precious, but you'd think she'd have the sensitivity to recognise it's my first time in six weeks without a cast, I'm holding crutches and I'm a very delicate flower that needs to be protected!

My feet felt so slender without the cast on.

New X-rays. If you look close enough, you can see the drill holes.

The X-rays were fine, and my surgeon showed me the drill holes and told me it was all healing very well and that in time, the bone will fill in. I started worrying (aloud) about what the sound of my feet being drilled would do to my subconscious. He ignored me...

All was well, and he told me I would be driving in a weeks time - ludicrous! Absolute lunacy if you ask me. I intend to carry on watching Netflix in my comfies. He also said I should see the physio in two weeks and make an appointment to see him again in four weeks time, but that I shouldn't need any further X-rays. 

He suggested I keep my pink toe spacers in for the meantime, and to always wear trainers when in the house. Just in case I kick something, or something kicks me. Before I knew it, he sent me on my way! I felt a little flustered really. I couldn't believe it was so simple. I felt like I needed more advice or knowledge, or a lollipop.

Wrapping up.

I thought I'd make a quick post to show how I waterproof my feet before leaving the house. It's known to rain a fair bit in good old Blighty, and often, what starts out as a beautiful day can quickly turn torrential.

I was very conscious not to get my casts wet, because my journey to the hospital was nothing short of arduous and I was determined to be an exemplary patient. On my first trip out, I simply put plastic carrier bags over my special boots. Now, not only was I lamenting the silly choice of garish Sainsbury's orange, but I realised that if it did rain, it would actually be a bit of a hazard. Thankfully, it stayed dry and I didn't find myself slipping around on a plastic sheet.

I devised a little system which I hoped would keep my feet dry, and also draw less attention to myself. I got a pair of socks (as it turns out, the lower quality the better because they stretch easily. Mine were from the airplane) and pulled those over the casts. Then I got some small plastic bags (I had bought a box of sanitary disposal bags from boots for all of my stinky baby wipes) and taped them around the cast section. To top it all off, I cut the feet off of a pair of tights and tucked the edges in to the bandages. Et voilĂ ! Waterproof feet. 

It never actually rained on any of my trips out, so I have no way of knowing how effective this little system was. It could be that it wouldn't have kept them dry at all! But it certainly put my mind at ease.

Easy as 1, 2, 3!