Working on your feet all day can result in discomfort and other health risks — not to mention treatment and recovery costs. But members can reduce foot pain and their potential for injury by taking a few simple steps.
Wear the Right Shoes
The right footwear can help mitigate pain and prevent injuries. While workers in industries like construction should be equipped with boots that provide firm footing and protect their feet from falling objects, workers who spend long hours standing in one place should wear comfortable shoes with plenty of support — either built-in or with the help of orthotic insoles.
No matter what kind of shoes members wear, it's important that they fit properly. The wrong size shoe can increase the chance of blisters or damaged toenails. According to Safety+Health Magazine, the best time to try on shoes is at the end of a shift, when feet are at their most swollen. And, as most people have feet that are slightly different in size, it's important to choose the shoe size that best fits the larger foot.
Likewise, members should take care to put on their socks and shoes properly. Famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden spent time each season instructing players to do just that. While members aren't running up and down basketball courts, walking on hard floors in a factory or retail environment can cause serious discomfort. And poorly tied shoes can lead to slips and falls.
Get Off (or On) Your Feet
Members who stand or walk for the bulk of the workday should spend their breaks off their feet. Make sure members know how much break time they have a right to, and empower them take action if managers push back.
At the same time, workers who sit for long stretches, like truck drivers, risk weakening their foot muscles by not using them enough. These workers should get on their feet during breaks, potentially incorporating exercises that build foot muscles, many of which are simple and can be done without special equipment.
Finally, workers should have access to resources that can help them perfect their posture and perform job tasks in ways that don't put undue stress on their feet and ankles. Similarly, workstation layouts shouldn't require them to move in unnatural or uncomfortable ways or overly restrict their mobility.
Watch Out for Outside Factors
Like posture, other outside factors can add to the risk of foot pain or injury. Houston Foot and Ankle Care points out that excess weight can increase stress on bodily supports like feet, ankles, knees and hips, so combining foot health education with more general wellness resources can be a useful strategy. This includes weight management and smoking cessation, as smoking tobacco can lead to circulatory conditions.
Worksite safety risks also play a role, from falling objects to tripping hazards that can damage your members' feet or even lead to a serious fall. Processes should be in place to keep the worksite floor clean. And while covering concrete floors with mats can help relieve foot pain, these mats should have slanted edges and should not be excessively cushioned, which can reduce their stability.
On top of educating members on how to keep their feet healthy and their worksites safe, follow through by offering health benefits that provide access to podiatrists. These foot specialists can tailor treatments to fit the needs of individual workers' bodies and jobs. While foot care can seem like an ancillary concern, they're a fundamental support for workers who spend time walking or standing. Keeping your members' feet healthy will help them focus on the rest.
Phil Britt has worked as a journalist for 40 years, specializing in business issues for the last 30. His work covering the steel industry and its labor issues has been referenced in books, while his articles have appeared on numerous websites, national and international publications. Among current and past clients have been the American Medical Association, Afcom, the Credit Union National Association, Independent Banker, EH Publishing, the Southeast Chicago Development Commission, the Northwest Indiana Times and Insurance & Technology Magazine, just to name a few.