For many of us, work involves standing and being on our feet for long periods of the day. Nurses, cooks, waiting staff, and retail workers are amongst those workers frequently standing, walking and lifting throughout the day, and feet take the brunt of that work. They are our foundations, and it is essential to take good care of them.
Not only is being on your feet all day very demanding physically, your feet can also suffer from more extreme working conditions such as cold surfaces, slippery surfaces or heat.
Foot and lower leg problems are a common cause of work absences, missed days, lost wages. Often the injuries are not directly work-related but may be related to sports injuries or the wearing of inappropriate footwear. If left, these problems can lead to more serious, long terms issues such as arthritis or muscular problems.
Working with a qualified podiatrist will enable you to receive a diagnosis of your specific symptoms and they can provide a personalised treatment plan to enable you to get back to a full and active life. We can also provide you with good advice to avoid foot problems in the workplace in future.
What are the common risk factors at work?
Standing or walking for excessive periods of time. After 4 hours of standing, the pressure forces your weight into the balls of your feet and can create pain in your arches along with leg and lower back pain. To prevent these problems, look for suitable footwear with good arch support. Studies show workers who wear such footwear tend to suffer less ankle, foot and knee problems
Hard surfaces. Walking on concrete all day in un-cushioned and inflexible footwear will create problems for you that cushioned soles and orthotics can help prevent. Cushioned rubber or soft soles are also more effective on slippery surfaces and provide shock absorption to help prevent fatigue in your lower back, hips, and legs.
The need for appropriate and well-fitting footwear cannot be stressed enough. Shoes that are too tight affect circulation and will rub and cause discomfort. Equally as bad are shoes that are too big and loose as these can make you more prone to slipping as well as causing you to try to grip with your toes.
Wearing high heels can have a negative impact on your feet and on your stride. Wearing heels puts pressure on your toes, and it causes calf muscles to shorten, which is why people who wear heels often complain of aching calves. Wearing high heels can also cause bunions, callouses, hammertoes and nerve and ligament damage.
What are the most common foot problems?
All of the above issues can lead to common foot problems, including corns, in-growing toenails, strains, sprains, stress fractures, arch pain or ball pain, and heel pain. If you do not seek to find a solution to such problems, you will find yourself walking and using your feet differently to compensate and this can lead to further problems with lower legs, knees, hips and lower back.
Reducing the risk
Getting the right footwear is particularly effective in reducing the risk of foot problems. Both you and your employer should take reasonable measures to ensure you have the right footwear to give you protection and comfort at work. Workwear for the feet should be of suitable material and with a good, supportive sole, and the feet should be measured accurately and correctly before fitting.
Shoes should have straps, laces or buckles to keep the shoe in place and wear shoes with backs. Shoes without backs can cause the toes to claw, as you try to keep hold.
Change position frequently. Move about and make sure you are not standing in one spot and in one position for long periods of time. Sit for a time if you can.
Good foot hygiene is also important. Dry feet thoroughly after showering or bathing, keep toenails clipped and check your feet regularly for corns, calluses or cuts.
How can a podiatrist help with workplace issues?
We can provide biometric assessments which examine the way your lower limbs work, allowing us to check for potential abnormalities and possible causes of foot pain, as well as knee, ankle and lower back problems.
We can also help with the treatment of existing conditions, ensuring that you receive the correct treatment and a safe return to work.
As a podiatrist, we are able to give you advice on the best footwear for your working environment, one that gives suitable support and comfort.
Finally, we can provide orthotic inserts if these are required. These custom made pieces of foam provide extra support and relief. They are also available for high heels.
Hopefully, all the points above will help you to prevent possible foot problems in the workplace or encourage you to seek help if you have an existing problem. If you are suffering with foot pain or lower leg pain or a foot condition, do not hesitate to contact a podiatrist who will be happy to help.
*This blog contains general information about medical conditions and is not advice. You must not rely upon the information in this blog as medical advice. Medical advice should always be sought from an appropriately qualified podiatrist such as ourselves.