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Working Feet

Not only do feet face the hazards of high heels, steel toe-caps or ill fitting footwear, they also get to work in occupations and environments that can really put them at risk.

 The average person walks the equivalent of five times around the earth in a lifetime, and in simple walking, each step can exert up to two times your body weight in ground reaction force through your lower limb; so a trim 10 stone person will have between 15 and 20 stone of impact going through the heel on heel-strike.

Prolonged standing, walking, operating machinery, high heels, falling objects and slippery surfaces are just some of the dangers we expose our feet to in the workplace.

 The environment in which we work can also impact on foot comfort and foot health, such as the type of floor we stand on. Wooden floors have some ‘give’ but tiled, concrete or marble no ‘give’ at all. It is not unusual for problems to arise within the foot, lower leg and back as a result of working on hard unyielding surfaces.

Standing for long periods may cause pain or discomfort to the feet, ankles, knees, hips , back and neck. Standing in unsuitable footwear can exacerbate any underlying problems with joints increasing the rate of which arthritic changes can take place.

Every year, 2 million sick days are lost due to lower limb disorders, and many of these sick days could be prevented by wearing the right shoe for the job and following an appropriate daily foot care routine.

Regular maintenance for feet is essential to keep them free from injury and pain.

Top tips for working feet:
  • Wear shoes that are appropriate for your job and suitable for your work conditions.
  • Different occupations have different footwear requirements. Caterers and nurses, for example, may simply need a good-fitting, supportive shoe with an enclosed toe for protection, but a builder will require safety footwear with a steel toecap.
  • Wear safety footwear if the job requires or recommends it.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly, allowing your toes wiggle room (about 1cm gap between longest toe and end of shoe). This also applies to footwear with steel toecaps – toes are vulnerable if they’re being squashed against steel!
  • For women who want to wear heels, stick to a heel height of around 4cm for everyday footwear, and do daily calf stretching exercises to keep calf and heel muscles supple. If you’re on your feet constantly, reduce heel height to 2cm.
  • Vary heel height from day to day.Wear shoes with a strap or lace over the instep rather than slip-ons. This will stop your foot sliding forward, a bit like a seatbelt does in a car.
  • Always have two pairs of shoes on the go, alternating on a daily basis so that sweat can dry out properly. Damp shoes each morning are the perfect environments for athlete’s foot and the bacteria that causes smelly feet.
  • Safety footwear such as protective toecaps can prevent toes being crushed.  They’re not all ugly; some high profile brands now make good-looking safety boots.
  • Where slips can occur – wear slip resistant soles.
  • If there is a danger from nails or sharp objects – wear puncture resistant soles.
  • Adopt a regular foot care regime to keep your feet in tip-top condition.