Over 50% of workers worldwide spend a considerable part of their workday standing. Unfortunately, standing all day can lead to various problems for your legs and feet. Some of the most common problems that arise from prolonged standing are pain, fatigue, swelling and discomfort in the legs and feet. Prolonged standing can also worsen existing conditions like varicose veins, coronary heart disease as well as chronic venous insufficiency. It can also lead to permanent muscle damage and severe back pain. So, what can you do to prevent foot and leg problems that arise from prolonged standing? Here are some simple actions to consider:
Wear the Right Shoes
Good foot health starts with the right pair of shoes. Therefore, if you want to avoid feet and leg pain from prolonged standing, then you should choose a pair of shoes that are comfortable, supportive and fits well. If you are buying a new pair of work shoes, make sure you do so in the evening, when your feet have already expanded. Also, make sure you leave some allowance between the toes and the tip of the shoe. But the allowance should not be too much in a way that your foot keeps sliding back and forth. It should be approximately half an inch or just enough. Avoid heels and shoes with pointed toes as much as possible. While such shoes might appear stylish, they are not designed for standing all day. They force the legs and feet to assume an unnatural position, and this might lead to pain and discomfort.
Also, your work shoes should be elevated slightly – at least a quarter of an inch but not higher than that. You should also make sure that your work shoes have ample arch and heel. You can also consider using custom made orthotics, in case your shoes don’t offer adequate arch support. If you spend long periods on your feet, custom orthotics will help to relieve joint stress, improve your posture, treat overpronation and support your ligaments. They can also help to minimize the risk of various foot conditions like metatarsalgia and plantar fasciitis. Ensure you consult a podiatrist before you buy custom orthotics.
You should also rotate your work shoes frequently. Wearing the same pair every day can increase the discomfort that you experience after extended periods of standing. Therefore, ensure you have at least two to three pairs of work shoes, which you will be alternating. Rotating your work shoes will allow the foam in the midsole to decompress. It will also help to re-distribute your body weight, thus helping to minimize strain and fatigue on your feet. By alternating your work shoes, you will avoid overloading any one bone, muscle, ligament and tendon, thus helping you to maintain proper posture. Rotating your work shoes will also keep them fresh and prolong their lifespan.
Maintain Good Posture
Maintaining posture will put minimal pressure on supporting ligaments and muscles, which will, in turn, reduce the strain placed on your feet when standing. Also, adopting the right body posture will minimize the chances of developing leg problems and back pain associated with standing all day. If your work involves lifting heavy objects, make sure you’ve planted your feet firmly on the ground, before attempting to move any object. Maintaining good posture will also help to open the blood vessels while ensuring proper breathing. And with proper breathing, there will be enhanced flow of oxygenated blood to your legs, feet and other areas of the body, helping them to function effectively.
Take Regular Breaks
As noted above, prolonged standing without rest can lead to various health problems. For instance, when you are standing, your heart is forced to work harder so that it can pump blood against gravity. Apart from that, prolonged standing forces the muscles to assume one position, leading to cramping and loss of flexibility. Also, individuals with pre-existing conditions like plantar fasciitis or rheumatoid arthritis may find prolonged standing extremely painful and challenging. Taking regular sitting breaks will help you to avoid some of these issues. For example, if you are a factory worker, a cashier, a bank teller, or a chef, you spend most of your time standing. However, there is a high chance that you usually get some opportunities, where you can sit and rest. Make sure you take advantage of such opportunities and notify your supervisor what you are up to. If you are filing paperwork or answering a call, you don’t have to do it while standing. Instead, you should find someplace where you can sit and allow your legs to rest. Also, make sure you take your lunch while seated. As much as you might be in a hurry, it doesn’t mean that you should take your lunch while standing. You should also take your allotted breaks when seated. And during your breaks, you can roll a tennis ball or a golf ball under your barefoot, to help relieve some tension that might have built up in your feet.
Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks are specially designed stockings, which work by squeezing your lower legs gently, thus helping to increase blood flow. With increased blood flow to your legs and feet, these stockings will prevent your feet from getting achy and tired. They also alleviate swelling in your ankles and feet, while preventing and treating varicose and spider veins. Compression socks may also prevent feeling dizzy or light-headed when you stand for long. And since they keep blood flowing to your lower legs and feet, it will be harder for blood to form clots. There are three main types of compression stockings – graduated compression stockings, anti-embolism compression stocks and non-medical support hosiery.
Soften Hard Flooring
Most workplaces today have floors made of marble, ceramic tile or concrete. And as you might already be aware, such floors lack shock absorbency, cushioning and insulative properties. Therefore, if you stand for long periods on such floors, it’s highly likely that you will experience pain in your knees, legs, back, and ankles, among other areas of your body. Besides that, floors made of ceramic tile or concrete will transfer cold directly to your feet, which will, in turn, affect blood circulation. You can minimize some of these issues by using an antifatigue mat. Anti-fatigue mats are basically mats that are designed to minimize fatigue and stress that comes with prolonged standing on hard surfaces. They are made of soft, flexible materials like memory foam and rubber. Just like their name suggests, they will absorb the shock and impact that comes with prolonged standing on hard surfaces, thus helping to alleviate foot fatigue. There are numerous types of anti-fatigue mats out there. Therefore, make sure you choose a pair that suits your personal needs as well as your work environment.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Considering that your feet bear the entire weight of your body, it’s no surprise that obese or overweight individuals are at a high risk of developing leg and feet problems, especially those who spend a considerable amount of their time standing. Apart from pain and discomfort, carrying extra weight can lead to foot problems like sprains, fractures, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, fallen arches and tendonitis, just to name a few. Also, carrying extra weight might lead to changes in gait and posture problems. Shedding the extra pounds can help to ease the discomfort, pain and problems that come with carrying excess body weight. Cardiovascular exercises like jogging, running, walking or riding a bicycle, combined with the right diet, can help you to reduce weight.
Take Care of Your Feet at Home
Apart from the above tips, taking proper care of your feet when you arrive home, will help to alleviate leg and foot pain caused by prolonged standing. So, how can you alleviate pain and discomfort at home? Here are some effective methods that you can consider:
- Ice your feet: Immersing your feet in a bucket with ice and water for approximately 20 minutes, can help alleviate the inflammation and swelling that comes with prolonged standing.
- Footbaths: Soaking your feet in water containing Epsom salts, lavender, lime or mint can also help to soothe aching muscles and improve blood circulation. Epsom salts are renowned for their effectiveness in alleviating pain and inflammation. Lavender, on the other hand, will not only alleviate pain and discomfort, but they will also leave your feet feeling and smelling fresh.
- Foot massage: Rolling your foot over a baseball or a tennis ball will help to massage the arches and feet gently. A foot massage will also help to stretch tight muscles while promoting quicker foot recover.
Once you’ve finished applying the above therapies, you should then place your feet on a raised platform. Elevating your feet above your heart for at least 15 to 20 minutes will help the fluids that might have accumulated in your lower legs and feet to gently drain away, thus helping to minimize swelling.
If you have tried all the remedies provided here but you can still experience some pain and discomfort on your legs and feet, you might have a serious medical condition and you should visit a foot specialist. You might be suffering from bone spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen arches or arthritis or other foot conditions – all which can contribute to foot pain after prolonged standing. A podiatrist or a foot doctor will examine your foot, diagnose the cause of the pain and then recommend the right treatment plan for your situation.