Foot tattoos are somewhat difficult to heal to start with – your feet are the most likely parts of your body to lack proper blood circulation, retain water, and experience stress and fatigue on a daily basis due to normal activity. Wearing socks and shoes add heat, sweat, and friction into the equation, making an already delicate situation even more volatile.
When you get your foot or feet tattooed, it’s important to create the best possible circumstances for successful healing. Drinking plenty of water every day will help to avoid water retention. Being active on a regular basis will keep your circulation strong. Eating well and taking vitamins will enhance your immune system and your body’s ability to heal itself. And last but not least, keeping your feet bare or wearing the least amount of footwear possible – such as flip-flops or sandals – will reduce the amount of damage that can be done to new ink from friction and heat.
Drinking adequate amounts of water and wearing sandals are both more easily accomplished during the warmer months. But waiting until summer can also be detrimental because, as I’m sure you already know, the sun is very damaging to tattoos. Plus, normal summertime activities such as swimming, running, kicking balls, hiking, etc. are not conducive to healing a foot tattoo.
You’ll need to really baby your tattoo for at least two weeks, and then special care still needs to be taken until the tattoo is 3 months old, which is the length of time it typically takes to rebuild the protective cells over the ink. Any excessive rubbing or friction against the tattoo during that time period can fade the color and dull the sharpness of the lines.
That’s not to say nothing can go wrong, even if you do everything right. Foot tattoos are tricky—excessive swelling, pain and infection are all risk factors you need to be aware of. How you react to those problems will also affect the final outcome.
If you have swelling in the day or two after getting the tattoo, it’s perfectly normal and probably is not an indication of infection. It’s more likely caused by lack of circulation and/or water retention. Putting your feet up above your heart and placing ice on the swelling for at least a couple of hours a day will improve circulation and reduce swelling. Be sure you’re also drinking plenty of water; when you don’t drink enough water, your body holds it in so you don’t get dehydrated. Ibuprofen can help with swelling, too, but be sure to check with your doctor about taking it since it can also raise blood pressure.
If the swelling becomes excessive, to the point of preventing your ability to walk, it could be an indication of something more serious or it could cause a more serious problem if not corrected. You need to see your doctor if this is the case. Your entire physiology depends on your feet to work properly and a lot of metabolic “breakdowns” can be caused by not attending to foot issues quickly enough.
Pain is also normal, especially if it’s accompanied by swelling. Over-the-counter pain killers can help with mild discomfort. But severe pain with swelling that lasts more than a couple of days – if your skin is red or hot to the touch – you could be developing an infection. Again, this is something that needs to be attended to immediately before it becomes very serious, and yes—tattoo infections can becoming life-threatening.
Once you’ve reached the two-week point and your tattoo is feeling fine, you can resume swimming and occasional shoe-wearing. One hiking trip or soccer game probably won’t do any serious damage as long as you’re careful, but these activities need to be greatly limited until you reach that three month point.
So, if you want to get your foot tattooed and you’re in a part of the world that has just entered the spring season, now is the time to do it. By the time summer is here, you’ll be completely healed and able to resume normal activities without fear of ruining your ink.