How to Take Care of Your Feet If You Work Standing Up

Working on your feet all day can do a number on your feet, legs, and back. In the United Kingdom, around 2.4 million work days were lost in 2009 and 2010 due to lower limb disorders. A 2014 survey of 1,000 American adults from the American Podiatric Medical Association found that half of respondents lived with some form of foot pain. Much of this pain and discomfort 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.

Wear the right shoe

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 Canada’s Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc., your heel should be elevated by at least ¼-inch and should be less than 2 inches.

Work shoes should also provide good arch support. This helps reduce weakness and soreness in the legs and feet. If your shoes don’t provide enough support, you can purchase arch support insoles from a drugstore or an athletic store.

Make sure they fit

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.”

Stretch when you can

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 help pump blood out of the foot and back to the body.

  • Stand tall on the edge of a step or platform, 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.

Another great stretch is the runner’s stretch.

  • Face a wall and place your hands against it.
  • 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.

Take care of your feet at home

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 your feet.
“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 in Pleasanton, 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 your feet.
Propping your feet above the rest of your body will help decrease the day’s swelling. You can place them against a wall or on a stack of pillows.

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