"How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives," says writer Annie Dillard.
Most people work for most of their lives. In fact, you’ll spend about 90,000 hours of your entire life working — that’s about one-third of your life. Some people spend 57 percent of their workday standing up, but some professionals (medical staff, wait staff, chefs, front desk workers, and construction workers, to name a few) barely get a chance to sit down at work on most days.
It’s safe to say that your type of job affects the health of your feet. But often, your feet don’t get the attention they deserve, and it can lead to job-related foot and joint pain, and in turn, impact your job performance.
What are the things that can hurt your feet while you’re working, and how can they be prevented? Let’s find out.
The Foot: A Quick Look
First, let’s talk about the anatomy of your feet.
Your foot has three sections: the forefoot (where your toes are), the midfoot (where your foot arch forms), and the rearfoot (where your heel and ankle are). Your foot and ankle have 33 joints, 26 bones, and over 100 ligaments. These bones and ligaments make for a lot of movement and a lot of possibilities for damage.
Common Workplace Foot Injuries
There are two main reasons why your feet suffer at work: accidents and overuse.
Accidents at work — like slipping, tripping, or dropping things on your feet — can, and do, happen. Depending on the accident’s severity and the nature of your job, you could suffer from ankle and muscle sprain, fractures, or other trauma-based injuries.
Overuse injuries develop over time and result from standing too long. They can cause issues like foot fatigue, chronic heel pain from standing, foot and joint pain, blisters, and aching arches, to name a few. These problems can interfere with your work.
Your Feet and Work: Things That Can Hurt Them
No matter your job, several things can hurt your feet while you’re trying to earn a living.
The Wrong Shoes for the Job
Having supportive work shoes, especially if you’re on your feet most of the time, is essential. Shoes that don’t fit properly can cause blisters, calluses, and corns, and can lead to foot pain over time. Not paying particular attention to the shape of your foot can lead to problems as well. It's important to look for shoes that fit the shape of your foot well. Adding an insole like Superfeet to your footwear can give your feet the support they crave.
If you are in a job that includes manual labor, ensuring that you have protective footwear (like shoes with steel toes) can go a long way in preventing accidental injuries. If you need to stand up for a long time, stay clear of shoes with synthetic uppers because the material can cause your feet to sweat excessively.
Maybe your job requires you to wear high heels? High heels can be fun to wear for short stints of time, but they could be harmful to your feet if you wear them every day for long periods. As the shoe heel increases in height, the pressure on the forefoot increases, leading to the thickening of the tendons and shortening of the calf muscles. It can also cause you to lean forward and can lead to back problems.
If you can, wear shoes with a lower heel. If you must wear high heels every day, add a specially-designed high heel insole to your footwear to help redistribute pressure off your forefoot.
The type of flooring installed in your workplace also has an impact on your feet.
Hard floors like concrete are the worst, and working on these types of floors without proper footwear has an impact of a hammer on your heel when you walk. Even office carpets can cause stress and strain your feet. To prevent accidents, wear appropriate non-slip footwear and also make sure that the areas you walk in are well-lit, to avoid accidental trips and falls.
Standing Too Long
If you work in construction, in a hotel, in a restaurant, or in a factory, for instance, you are on your feet for most of the day. According to medical experts, spending more than four hours a day standing up can cause pain and lead to foot ailments, like plantar fasciitis or metatarsalgia. It can also lead to lower-limb muscle fatigue, chronic pain, and musculoskeletal issues.
Taking Care of Your Feet
The good news is you can do several things to make sure your feet are well taken care of, even if you work long hours.
Wear the proper footwear
The appropriate footwear for the job protects you from accidents and is comfortable as well. If you work in hot weather, breathable shoes are a must. Consult a podiatrist for advice on work-appropriate footwear if you need to.
For foot pain relief, you can incorporate foot stretches into your everyday routine. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A five-minute stretch is enough to prepare your feet for the workday.
Enjoy a foot bath
Treat your hardworking feet to a warm foot bath. Warm water improves circulation and can reduce inflammation.
Happy Feet Means Happy Work Life
Your feet are one of the essential parts of your body and one of the most ignored. Taking excellent care of your feet is vital, especially if you work in an industry that requires you to use them a lot.
Making sure your feet are healthy can mean a more productive and pain-free work life, and can help you get more enjoyment out of your time off the clock.