Working on your feet all day can do a number on your feet, legs, and back. According to the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, each year 2 million sick days are lost due to lower limb disorders. Many of these sick days could be prevented by wearing the right shoe for the job and following a daily foot care routine.
Whether you’re cooking on a restaurant line, cutting hair in a salon, teaching in a classroom, or folding T-shirts at a clothing store, making an extra effort to take good care of your feet and legs can go a long way toward staying healthy and happy.
Flat sole shoes may seem like the obvious choice if you work on your feet, but these shoes aren’t recommended for prolonged standing. According to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc., your heel should be elevated by at least 1/4 inch.
Work shoes should also provide good arch support. This helps reduce weakness and soreness in the legs and feet. You can purchase arch support insoles from a drug store or an athletic store if your shoes don’t provide enough support.
Many people wear shoes that are too small. This cuts off circulation to your feet, increases your chances of blisters, and makes walking or standing uncomfortable, if not unbearable. Getting your feet properly sized can help you make better decisions when it comes to purchasing shoes and reducing discomfort.
Johanna Youner, D.P.M., a board-certified foot surgeon and podiatrist in New York City, suggests being fitted for your shoes later in the day. “Your feet are naturally larger at the end of the day,” she says. “And for some, buying shoes a half size larger to fit arch supports or custom orthotics will be tremendously helpful.”
Muscles can become stiff and painful as you stand or walk all day. Stop every hour or so to stretch, relax, and lengthen tightened muscles.
- Calf raises. Stand on the edge of a step or platform. Stand tall with your abdominal muscles pulled in. Secure the balls of your feet firmly on the step with your heels hanging over the edge. Raise your heels a few inches above the step as you stand on your tiptoes, and hold for a second. Lower your heels back to even with the platform. Repeat 10 times. This move helps pump blood out of the foot (where it has pooled while you were standing) and back to the body.
- Runner’s stretch. Face a wall, and place your hands against the wall. Extend one leg behind your body. Push your heel to the floor as far as it will go. Hold for a moment to feel the stretch and then switch sides. Repeat three times on each leg.
When you’re in the comfort of home, you can help your feet recover from the day and prepare for tomorrow. Try one of these treatments.
- Ice them down. “As much as people don’t want to hear it, immersing the foot — as long as the person doesn’t have vascular problems — in a bucket with water and ice for 20 minutes works to combat the swelling and inflammation that prolonged standing creates in the foot,” says Lucille B. Andersen, M.D., a foot and ankle surgeon with Webster Orthopedics in San Ramon, California. “Each step we take or minute we stand, we are creating micro-damage that the body has to heal. Using ice is an easy, effective way to help the body heal faster.”
- Massage your feet. Roll your foot from heel to toe over a tennis ball or baseball, Youner suggests. The gentle massage on your feet and arches will stretch tight foot muscles and help your feet recover more quickly.
- Elevate. Propping your feet above the rest of your body (against a wall or on a stack of pillows) will help decrease the day’s swelling.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if the pain continues, gets worse, or you begin to notice increasing symptoms like numbness, stinging, or tingling in your feet and toes. “Pain is a sign that something is wrong,” Youner says. “Do not walk through pain.”
You may have a condition like spurs or plantar fasciitis. Fallen arches can contribute to your foot pain.