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Is your job bad...
for your feet?

When people choose a career path, one of the last things they probably consider is how it will make their feet feel. Upward mobility, making your parents happy or ability to travel, yes. Will my feet hurt at the end of a long day, not so much.

But, if at the end of the day, your feet are killing you - this may be a clue that something needs to change; there is something wrong with your shoes, your work environment, or maybe you just need a new job.

Many things can go wrong in the workplace with your feet. In many job sectors, there are numerous leaves of absence, sick days and other causes for lost workdays because employees have suffered from some sort of injury; from as minor as a bad back to more severe like a twisted ankle.

Here are several things that may cause your feet pain at the workplace, and some suggestions of what you can do about it.

Troublesome Flooring

Not all of us can choose what type of floor surfaces the places we work in are designed.  A more modern building or a restaurant might have concrete floors. Maybe the floors are slippery. 

In any of these cases, there is potential for an injury.  Depending on the activity level, walking on a cement floor, for example, is no different than the impact of a hammer on the heel.  If the floor is slippery, you may be prone to slipping and falling or straining an ankle.

What can you do?

    • Get orthotics or some added support in your shoes, to reduce the impact to your feet
    • Ask your company to provide you with non-slip footwear
    • Ask for your employer to get padded mats to line the high traffic areas of the work space.

High Heels

There are some jobs where wearing heels are part of what you could call the “dress-code”.  And, while we don’t mean that literally, between fashion magazines, TV shows, and social media, all too often women are shown as powerful when they wear heels.  In fact, a recent study has shown that the perception of women who wear flats is that they are kind, but boring. The perception of a woman who wears heels: confident, intelligent, wealthy, stylish, attractive, and healthy.  It is no wonder more women are opting for The Pump over any other shoe.

There are downsides to wearing a high-heel all day:

    • Thickened tendons and shortened calf muscles
    • Aggravation of an existing deformity (bunion or hammertoe)
    • Blisters, calluses and corns from wearing an improperly fitted shoe
    • Difficulty walking
    • Ingrown toenails
    • Issues with heel, knee, hip and back pain

So what do you do?

First off, we recommend avoiding the wearing of high heels on consecutive days.  When possible give your feet a break; switch from a stiletto to a wedge, or from a 4-inch heel to a 2-inch heel. Maybe even try a cute loafer or ballet flat, even if you might be perceived as boring.

Second, make sure your shoes are fitting properly. Go shoe shopping in the afternoon. This is when your feet might be slightly swollen. The theory is that if they fit properly at that time, they will be comfortable when you first put them on and stay comfortable as the day passes.

Lastly, look for shoes that have a rounded toe box. Pointy toe shoes, while adorable, can restrict blood flow to the toes and make your foot feet even more cramped than it already is. A rounded toe shoe, giving room for your toes to wiggle around, will ultimately make for a more comfortable day.

Safety Shoes

Some employers require the use of safety shoes. These may be non-slip shoes that are used in a restaurant or similar environment, or work boots with steel toes for construction zones. While these are important and in some cases critical to the well-being of the employee, they can sometimes still not be a supportive shoe choice.

If these are required, ask your employer to also supply you with orthotics, so you are getting as much arch support as possible. Lately, we have been using 3D printed orthotics from SOLS. One reason we like them is that they take less time; instead of casting your foot, a image is taken of the foot, by which the company can then design your orthotic.  However, any orthotic that your podiatrist fits you for will be sufficient. Additionally, through work programs or company insurance the cost can be reduced to make them economical to you or your employer.

If not orthotics, you can wear different types of shoes to and from work, so that your foot is not staying in the same position, with the same support, all day long.

These small additions can do a lot for your long term foot health.

Continuous Standing

Yes, we have all heard about the problems with sitting all day, but there are also problems with standing all day, too.

Feet are made for walking. Many jobs require long lapses of standing in one place for long periods of time.  While this may be better than the alternative, sitting for long periods of time, this can still take a huge toll on your body and feet:

    • fallen arches
    • inflammation and swollen ankles
    • misalignment of the joints of the bones in the feet
Again, what can be done about this?

If possible, take a spare pair of shoes to work. Sometimes what is part of the foot tiredness is simply being in the same shoe.  Switching them out mid-day may help to alleviate any soreness.

This is another case, where orthotics will be very valuable to alleviate any pain and give your foot its best support.  Additionally, get shoes that are leather or canvas. This allows your feet to breath and potentially lessen any swelling.

You can also get compression stockings. This will help reduce the risk of swollen and inflamed ankles and feet.

While we can’t dictate everything that happens at work, we can do a lot on our own to make sure we are taking care of our feet in the best way possible. If none of these solutions are working, and you are experiencing chronic pain, please go see your podiatrist. They can help you source out the kind of healthy, protective and supportive footwear that would be appropriate for your job. They can also diagnose and treat any major issues happening with your feet.

Your feet are the first connection to the world in the morning and that lasts throughout the day. You want to make sure they are given the attention they deserve for a healthy and viable you. Wellness begins at your feet.

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