Physical ailments that impact those who sit in an office environment seem to get all the press. Every week there is a new Mashable or Huffington Post article about a tech office swapping out chairs for exercise balls and balance stools. And that’s great. But a significant portion of the population stands through most of their day. In fact, recent data shows that over 60 percent of the working populous stands on the job, while 39 percent spends the bulk of their workday sitting.
And while standing all day can impact your physical health from top to bottom, the focus of our article is on the part of the body that carries all of the weight – your feet. This one goes out to you baristas, retail salespeople, pharmacists, security guards, chefs, and the rest who return home from a long day to hit the sofa and rub their dogs in pain. There are practical solutions to your woes, from heels to toes, so let’s get to it.
5 Practical Tips to Keeping Your Feet Free from Pain When You Stand All Day
1. Take a Seat
More often than not the obvious solution is the most effective one. The very same logic that dictates that office workers should stand for 10-minutes of every hour at their desk or cubicle, has standees doing the same, but in reverse. Granted, that’s a perfect world scenario, and one that may not be too realistic for those on the shop floor (etc.) attending to a steady wave of customers.
Keep in mind there is no one size fits all here, but if there is to be one singular rule of thumb (or toe?), it would be to take a brief seat at least every 30 minutes during your standing shift. We know that many of you will be afraid to do so, given that “sitting down on the job” is an expression old-school managers are ready to blurt out upon the sighting of a seated employee. But try to create an open dialogue with them, so that they understand that by taking a seat once or twice an hour, you will be healthier and more productive. As a last resort, you can always send them a link to his article, anonymously.
2. Try Some New Positions
Security guards, restaurant hosts, Abercrombie & Fitch greeters, and those guys with the funny hats in front of Buckingham Palace will benefit here.
Standing still reduces blood flow to muscles and prevents the “pump” that returns blood from your lower extremities to the heart. If your leg muscles don’t contract, blood and other important fluids don’t move through the body as they should, resulting in vein inflammation and subsequent swelling of legs, ankles, and feet, which causes an achey sensation.
Therefore, if your career position has you standing in one position all day, it’s time to shake things up. Move around often, even if that means pacing in a six-foot radius or doing a little shimmy shimmy shake. If you absolutely must stand in one spot, stretch (calves, hamstrings, and thighs) as often as possible, alternate knee flexion, do some figure-eight hip rotations, and change the position of your feet often, adjusting to move your weight around.
3. Pad the Floor
Standing on hardwood or concrete will definitely take its toll on your feet. Where viable, place (or request placement of) a rubber mat where you will stand for the bulk of your time. Ideally, you would opt for an ergonomic mat. The use of ergonomic (or anti-fatigue) matting is deemed a critical means to alleviate foot pain associated with longterm standing in the workplace. Thankfully, it is becoming more common to find ergonomic matting behind retail cashier stations, host podiums, on the floors of manufacturing facilities, and so forth.
4. Smart Footwear
Save the high-heeled and pointy-toed shoes for special events (if you must). These are not to be worn in the normal course of day to day activity, especially if you are experiencing chronic foot pain. In fact, if you have to squeeze into your footwear, stop wearing them.
When you don’t allow “breathing room” for your toes, your reduce circulation and help facilitate a wide range of problems. Cramping, bunions, swelling, joint damage, and other feet-specific ailments can ensue. We won’t even bother going into the other issues (another article, another time) that follow the feet upwards to the rest of your body.
In addition to sensible footwear, you may want to consider compression socks, stockings, and hosiery. These foot-smart accessories can improve blood flow through the veins, increase circulation, increase oxygen to muscle tissue, and effectively reduce the likelihood of aching and swollen feet among other connected issues.
5. Get Outfitted with Custom Orthotics
Your pain may be coming from more than a long week of standing on your feet. For instance, you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of foot/heel pain. It involves inflammation of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. The condition commonly results in stabbing pain and is most frequently felt in the AM after waking from your slumber. While the pain normally decreases through the day, it is more likely to return after long periods of standing. The more someone who suffers from plantar fasciitis stays on their feet, the greater the likelihood that plantar fascia stretches and tears, and the more your feet will become weak, swollen, and irritated/inflamed. Sounds pretty intense, doesn’t it? It can be, but there is a solution – custom foot orthotics.
Orthotics are worn like traditional insoles, but they are biomechanical medical appliances that are custom designed to align the foot and ankle into the most anatomically efficient position, and when worn as prescribed, will correct the unique foot imbalance that is causing you so much pain. In addition to plantar fasciitis, custom foot orthotics can remove the pain associated with bunions, hammer toes, metatarsalgia (pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot), and other ailments.
If chronic foot pain plagues your life, and it doesn’t seem like your routine of standing all day will change anytime soon, we encourage you to complement the above with a consultation with your local physiotherapy clinic. If you reside in the Burnaby and Coquitlam area, that clinic, is right here. Contact us today to take the first step towards living life without sore feet.