Standing for long periods at work? It seems so simple and effortless, but what many don’t realise is that in order to keep you standing upright, stable and still, many muscles throughout your feet, legs, hips, core and back must stay constantly engaged, while your feet bear your full body weight over and over. There’s no break or downtime for your muscles like you get when alternating from one leg to the other – and your body is having to constantly work against gravity to keep blood moving up and away from your feet.
Long story short? There’s a lot going on when you stand – and our bodies are expected to do this effortlessly and tirelessly – which isn’t always the case. Maybe that’s why one in five people in an Adelaide-based study reported foot pain that had a detrimental impact on their quality of life. So then why do some people end up with tired and achy feet after a long day while others don’t?
Today our Podiatrists are sharing what may be making you more vulnerable to aches and pains at work – and what you can do to feel more comfortable on your feet, all day long.
Is It Normal For My Feet To Ache After A Long Day At Work?
Is it normal? No, it’s not. Does it happen to many people? Yes. Pain is actually never ‘normal’ – it’s our body’s way of warning us that something is going wrong – or about to. This is where taking the right steps to keep your feet supported can help reduce, or prevent, your foot pain.
This is also how many people manage their workdays without pain – because they’ve controlled the factors that would make them vulnerable, giving them the upper hand. Don’t worry, you can have it too. Now, let’s look at some of the common reasons we see for foot pain in people that stand for the majority of their workday.
The pressure on their feet isn’t evenly distributed
When we stand, we expect the pressure placed on our feet from our body weight to be distributed relatively evenly between both feet, right? Unfortunately, for a number of people we see who have foot pain that’s significantly worse in one foot than the other after a day of work, that’s not the case. Pressure testing their feet shows that one foot is taking on more weight than the other – and specifically, certain joints are taking on that stress and pressure. This is a quick road to foot pain – and even longstanding injury.
Studies show that age can affect our pressure distribution too – with older adults tending to bear more weight on the outside of their feet, which may also affect their stability.
Their ground is amplifying the problem
Remember when you learnt about opposite and equal reaction forces back in school? This is what’s happening with your feet. Walking and standing on hard, unforgiving concrete sends ground reaction forces back through your feet that are much more intense than the forces you experience from walking on carpet, for example. This is why some professions are more susceptible to foot and leg aches – like tradies.
Their feet aren’t supported
We have natural variations in the shape and function of our feet. This means that some of us naturally have to work harder to take a step or stay standing than others. While keeping our feet supported using orthotics and the right shoes can help with this, many people don’t wear orthotics – or realise the difference they can make to our comfort and pain levels.
They have problems with their circulation
Your body has to work hard to move blood and fluids up your legs and back to your heart when you’re standing all day, as it must work against gravity. This can create problems with circulation, resulting in swelling and in the feet and legs, as well as varicose veins and other vein problems. This can leave your feet and legs feeling heavy and tired.
They’re wearing the wrong shoes
Our shoes become the new ground under our feet – and this ground can either help our feet or hinder them. Good shoes can also support and control the function of the feet, helping to prevent overuse. Often when we see workers with achy feet, their shoes are either too heavy for their feet, offer little to no support, or are completely worn down.
They have muscle imbalances
Having tight or weak muscles can cause muscle imbalances. Having a muscle imbalance means that other muscles and parts of our body have to work harder to compensate, and this compensation all day, every day, can definitely be a cause of tired and achy legs and feet. Common examples we see include tight Achilles, and weak glutes.
They have an existing foot problem
When you already have a foot or leg problem, it’s likely that this area is weakened and not up to full functional capacity. In this case, you risk aggravating the problem and making it worse, while your body compensates using other muscles (see above) to help keep you standing all day.
The thing about foot pain when you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day – is that it rarely gets better on its own. It’s like asking a basketball player to keep playing all day every day, while expecting their wrist injury to get better. While they’re using it – it’s just not an environment that is helpful for healing and repair.
You Can Feel More Comfortable On Your Feet
The good news is that you can feel more comfortable on your feet and make your way towards pain-free work days. This is something our podiatrists help with by understanding what’s going on to cause your aches, and create a plan to address those factors in order to offload the stress and pressure, correct imbalances, and keep your feet supported.
We make excellent foot care simple. Book your appointment with us by calling (02) 8405 6850 or book online here.