Labor day is just around the corner (September 4th – in case you didn’t know) and it’s a day that celebrates the contributions common working folk have made to the social and economic growth of America. In a strangely ironic way, Americans celebrate this holiday shopping and enjoying time outdoors while the common working folk continue to labor, mostly in the retail and food service industries. People who work on their feet all day have an increased chance of major foot and leg problems. Just a short list of possible conditions include varicose veins, heel pain, leg or ankle swelling, bunions, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, joint damage, fallen arches, poor circulation…should I go on?! Since that’s a bit too many to go through one-by-one, let’s look at how best we can avoid any or all of these from occurring in the first place.
The Right Shoes
There is nothing so valuable to your foot health as wearing the right shoes. For active jobs you need proper footwear that has the right features for your profession. When you shop for shoes, do so at the end of the day and make sure to try on both shoes to check for foot size differentiation. Stilettos are not good for daily wear. Save them for the extra special occasions and choose a stylish low heel (1-2 inches) instead for those long days in the office. If you’re in the food service industry, be sure to find shoes with enough tread to give you stability on wet floors. Making good decisions from the start can help avoid injury in the first place
…And Other Important Accessories
Let’s say you work outside and need heavy work boots in hot weather; your feet probably sweat. To avoid problems with fungal infections like athlete’s foot, keep your feet cool and dry with sweat-wicking socks and foot deodorizing powders. If you have existing foot problems like flat feet, you need to have special orthotics to give additional support. Proper shoe inserts align the body and alleviate more than just foot pain. They can straighten the spine, alleviate pain from your toes to your shoulders, and increase your circulation. If you struggle with leg swelling, you may need to consider wearing compression hose
You may think it sounds mad to say that those who work on their feet all day need to do extra foot exercises, but in fact, stretching overused muscles can help prevent chronic injury for those who rely on their feet for their work. When your muscles stay in the same position for extended periods of time, like those who stand for most of the day, they can literally ‘freeze’ in place. For those with active jobs, who repeat the same motions over and over again, overuse leading to redness, tenderness, and strain is common. Try basic stretches like toe raises to work your calves or try removing your shoes to roll a tennis ball under your arches for a few minutes every few hours. Stretching now can lead to fewer problems later and it doesn’t have to take very long. In addition to stretching, try raising your feet during lunch breaks.
I’ve had days where it was hard to take a bathroom break, much less time to stretch or put my feet up. In that case, I need to pamper my tired dogs when I finally get home. One of the best things you can do for your feet is sitting down, alleviating pressure on the feet and knees. If your ankles show signs of swelling, raise them and pack on the ice to reduce inflammation. Don’t forget to pamper yourself every once in awhile too. Regular pedicures can help reduce buildup of dead skin and keep nails healthy and free from infection and ingrown toenails.
Seeing Your Podiatrist
When in doubt, see your podiatrist. A quick trip to the doctor when you first experience symptoms can do a lot to keep healing time to a minimum and your work efficiency to a maximum. Don’t wait until you have to miss work due to your foot problems, make your appointment today.
I hope that everyone has a great Labor Day full of safe fun and proper footwear, and for those who have to work and be on their feet all day, make sure to follow our instructions to avoid a painful ending. Happy Labor Day all!