As a healthcare worker, you have a mentally tough job; it’s easy to forget that being on your feet all day can also be tough on your body.
Not only do you need to take care of your feet and body to extend your daily endurance and your career – you want to avoid taking your work home with you in the form of pain.
Fortunately, proper preparation, the right footwear, and simple self-care will go a long way in keeping you happy and productive on your feet.
Finding the proper shoes
Overall, it’s imperative for foot health and to avoid injury that you find proper-fitting shoes made for standing all day. Use the following tips:
Find shoes with sufficient arch and heel support.
Shoes with a low, broad heel often provide better support and allow for more comfortable walking and standing than flat shoes. It can also decrease strain on the Achilles tendon. Health and occupational studies vary in their suggestions for heel height; the consensus is to look for heels that are at least quarter inch but less than two inches high.
Avoid narrow-toed or high-heeled shoes. This leads to compression of the toes which can lead to pain for worsening of deformities such as hammer toes.
Shoes that absorb shock and weight distribution are particularly helpful for those that walk or stand on hard surfaces, such as an athletic shoe.
Other tips on fit include finding shoes with a firm grip on the heel and a fastening, such as laces or Velcro, over the instep. Both will help you avoid slipping.
Other practical gear
Use a mat or carpeting over a hard surface if you tend to stand in the same place or places with frequency. Look for anti-fatigue mats, which are often made of rubber, carpeting, vinyl, or wood. Thicker, softer mats may actually cause more fatigue, so be sure to do your research.
Consider using orthotics. See our recent blog post for information on the benefits of custom orthotics.
Wear socks that are made of materials that breath, that fit properly, and that are clean and dry. Tight socks or socks that bunch up because they are too big can cause blisters and other problems.
Consider wearing compression socks. They help decrease muscle fatigue and swelling (edema) build up for those who stand at their jobs.
Regular practices that will help you stay on your feet
Rotate shoes daily. By wearing different shoes, rather than the same pair day after day, your feet will experience different pressure points and areas of support. This will give areas that are overused in one pair of shoes a rest and will ensure different muscle groups are working. This practice also allows your shoes to air out on the days when you are not wearing them.
Replace shoes that have worn down. Shock absorbency decreases when shoes have been worn for a long time, meaning old shoes provide little to no protection for your feet.
Switch between standing, walking, and sitting when possible. Walking stimulates blood flow that standing does not, and sitting gives your feet a break. Consider shifting from one foot to the other, giving one leg a chance to rest. Also, try standing with one foot in front of the other. Raise the front foot if possible. This shifts your weight from the heel to the ball of the foot, which helps with weight-bearing.
Stretch throughout the day. Stretch your toes and feet out in the morning, or before your shift. Take a moment every hour or so while on the job to stretch, which will relax and lengthen the muscles in your lower legs and feet, increasing your endurance and decreasing your chances of injury. Try doing calf raises, which help pump blood that has pooled in your feet back to the body. Runner’s stretch can also be done quickly and unobtrusively in the workplace. At home, either before or after your shift, consider doing more extensive stretching.
Use good posture and walk with good form. Keep your back straight and your head up. Avoid slouching your shoulders. Walk from heel to toe.
Strengthen the lower body and core, and build up your physical endurance. Squats, weight lifting, and Pilates will strengthen your body and help with endurance for standing all day while on the job. Swimming is an excellent way to stay fit while allowing your bones and muscles to take a break from gravity and bearing your bodyweight. Furthermore, if you are overweight, your joints will experience more stress while standing all day. Healthy weight reduction will reduce this strain.
Elevate your feet at home after your shift.
Massage your feet. Give yourself a small foot massage in the morning, perhaps while you’re still in bed, to warm them up, increase blood flow, and prevent micro-tears.
Ice your feet if you’re experiencing swelling or inflammation. Ice them for around 10 minutes right after you get home from work and before bed.
Care for your feet, including proper skin care and toenail care.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to check your feet regularly. Please make an appointment to discuss any concerns or issues with us. It’s important to address issues before they get worse.