By Rehan Iqbal
You may already know the discomforts that come with jobs that require all-day standing. You feel it every day as you walk over concrete for the fifth consecutive hour, take your classroom out for recess, or hustle between five patients all in need of your constant attention and care. You’re here reading because you know there’s a way to limit the discomfort you feel while protecting your feet, legs, and lower back from overuse injuries.
We understand the discomfort you’re feeling and have some tips for managing aches, pains, and stiffness. The more of these tips you implement, the more likely you are to adjust to standing all day and limit your risk for workplace injuries that develop slowly over time.
Check Your Footwear
What you wear to work is critical when standing is a part of the job description. Even if you need to wear steel-toed work boots, arch support is important. You also want a comfortable fit that doesn’t crowd the toes in front or rub the heel in the back. If your ankles need support as well for your job, then a high-top shoe with ankle cushioning may work best.
If you struggle to find work boots or other shoes that are suitable for your work environment and that offer the arch support you need, you can add orthotics. Find a replacement insole that was designed for people who stand all day, and you will instantly add support to the shoes of your choice.
Stay as Fit as Possible
We’re not here to lecture you about eating that donut in the breakroom or picking up your decadent coffee on the way to work each day. We understand the little pleasures in life make it all worth living. Our recommendation is just that you improve your fitness level as much as possible to help your body adjust to excessive standing without overuse injuries.
The heavier your body, the more pressure pushes down on your feet during a long shift of standing. The weaker your muscles, the more strain they place on surrounding joints and ligaments. You’re also more prone to workplace injuries if you stand all day and don’t have the adequate muscle strength to support your body.
You can fix this by doing a few simple things every single day:
Care for Your Feet Between Shifts
Some of the most effective ways to ease tired feet and reduce discomfort between work shifts are easily performed at home. You don’t need a partner to help, and you can safely do these things every day to prepare for a shift or recover after standing all day.
Stretch & Lengthen with a Foam Roller
Foam rollers are pieces of firm foam used to roll over muscles. They’re effective for working out a lot of the knots and tension that develop in muscles after intense or consistent use. Many athletes use them to keep their muscles loose and comfortable after intense workouts, but anyone who stands all day can use them for the same reason.
You can find videos online to show you how to foam roll your feet. There are a variety of ways to do it with many exercises that you can do while relaxing at home after work each day. You can buy affordable foam rollers online or get one at many local stores.
Also, consider loosening the muscles in your lower back and calves. Those muscles are stressed by continuous standing and can influence the amount of pressure on your feet.
Elevate Your Feet Above Your Heart
One of the problems with standing all day for work is your calf muscles may struggle to keep blood flowing from your feet up to your heart. That’s especially true if you stand in one position for a long time, limiting lower body movement. You calf muscles are responsible for pushing blood back up, but they have to contract in order to do their job.
When you’re at home relaxing from a long day on your feet, find a way to put your feet up on a wall or piece of furniture. You want your feet to remain above the level of your heart for at least 15 minutes at a time. If you can do at least 30 minutes, even better.
Elevating your feet allows the blood to flow freely from those tired feet and legs back to your heart. Your calves can rest because they aren’t needed when you put gravity to work.
Give Yourself a Spa Night, Every Night
Your feet, ankles, calves, knees, and back are all exhausted at the end of a long day of standing. One way to reward them for making it through another day is to soak them in Epsom salt. You can even add a few drops of essential oil or a bubble bath that smells good.
The Epsom salt will work to soothe tired muscles, helping to relieve tension and ease some of the soreness you may feel. Essential oils will give you a touch of aromatherapy, helping you relax and ease into your recovery period.
Yes, you should think of your time away from work as a recovery period! You work hard during those hours on your feet, and your body needs to recover just as an athlete’s body recovers from an intense training session.
Find a Massage Partner
Do you know someone else who also works hard on their feet all day? What about someone who sits at a desk and suffers from swelling, aches, and pains in their feet and legs? Recruit someone with similar problems and commit to giving each other a good foot massage a few times a week. You can even extend it to a calf massage if you’re both comfortable, depending on the relationship.
Massaging is similar to foam rolling in that it eases tired muscles and helps lengthen and relax them. Massage is also a great way to relax, which helps you control the stress that often comes with an intense job. Lay back, close your eyes, and thoroughly enjoy the massage. If you tend to fall asleep, you may rotate giving one another massages each day.
Stretch Throughout the Day
Are you thinking that you don’t have time to stop and stretch while at work? You may not have time for a complete workout, but most people can find a minute or two here and there to stop and stretch their lower back and legs. Even 30 seconds of stretching repeated over the course of the day can help keep your muscles loose and comfortable.
Ideally, you should stop by a table or wall so that you have something to hold onto while you stretch at work. Simple stretches like pulling each foot up behind you and holding for a few seconds will help. You can also spread your feet and lunge out to each side, stretching the muscles along the inside of each leg as you lean out.
Wear Compression Stockings
You can buy compression socks at online marketplaces like Amazon or in most stores that sell clothing and gear for nurses, teachers, and other workers known for standing long periods. Some of the designs are quite decorative while others come in neutral colors.
Compression stockings or socks apply light, continuous pressure on the leg muscles to help keep blood circulation going. You can wear them all day underneath your pants to support your calf muscles. Many people find that their legs don’t feel as much fatigue during the day when they wear them.
If you don’t have any known vein or circulation issues, then you don’t want to wear compression socks with a lot of pressure. The less pressure, the more comfortable they’re likely to feel. Look for socks with 15-20 mmHg of pressure. That’s a good starting point, and many people get the support they need at that level. You can move up to 20-30 mmHg compression stockings if you believe your legs are still struggling with circulation and fatigue.
Most compression socks go up the calf and rest just below the knees. You can buy thigh-high stockings if you want a bit more support.
Don’t wear your compression socks to bed. Take them off in the evening and at night to give your legs a break.
Get Help if You Experience Foot Problems
As soon as you notice any problems with your feet or ankles, it’s important to seek help from a trained medical professional. The longer you wait, the worse the pain and discomfort are likely to become. While a simple blister will quickly relieve itself, continuous blisters and calluses are something to talk to a professional about.
If you want help addressing a known foot problem or just protecting your body from the risks of all-day standing, contact us. We’re dedicated to keeping your feet and legs healthy so that you can enjoy your life to the max.