Magazine articles and blogs routinely tell us about the importance of getting up from your desk regularly and walking about during your working day. However, they often neglect the millions of people who spend their entire working day on their feet – those working in retail, nurses, hairdressers and people working in the foodservice industry are just some of the people who don’t get a chance to sit down. Your whole body weight is on your feet when you are standing up, so it is understandable that it can lead to pain and health problems.
Some of the problems caused by standing up all day can include:
- Poor circulation
- Swelling in feet and legs
- Joint damage
- Tendonitis (damaged Achilles tendon)
- Knee problems
- Poor posture
- Varicose veins
- Heart and circulation disorders
- Neck and shoulder stiffness
- Complications in pregnancy
- Arthritis in the knee and hip
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Plantar fasciitis
Luckily, there are plenty of things that you can do to lessen the impact that being on your feet day can have on your body, which we are going to explore in more detail in this article.
PChoose proper footwear
This is one of the most important things that anyone can do for good foot health, but if you are standing up a lot, it is even more essential that you wear comfortable well fitting shoes. High heels, flip-flops and unsupportive flat shoes, such as ballet pumps, are going to cause you no end of discomfort and pain. Avoid any shoes that force your toes forward and shift your centre of gravity. You want to wear something made of leather or rubber, with adequate ventilation to prevent hot, sweaty feet. Make sure that they have a good grip and provide full arch and heel support. You might also want to consider insoles to give a bit of extra padding and cushioning.
Think about your posture
When your back is starting to ache after standing up all day, it can be tempting to slouch and slump, but poor posture is only going to make neck, shoulder and back pain even worse. Our culture has shifted towards a sort of hunched position, where our head extends from beyond our shoulders. This moves our mass forward, putting a lot more pressure on the arch of our foot. In turn, the muscles that support this part of the foot have to work a lot harder, which can cause strain. To stand correctly, try to keep your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. When you can sit down, strengthen the muscles in the front of the lower leg which supports the arch of the foot by flexing your feet towards your shins.
Wear compression socks
If you are standing all day, your blood circulation system has to work extra hard to get the blood back up to your heart from the lower areas of your body. It can also cause blood and fluid to leak from the vessels into surrounding tissues, which leads to varicose veins. Not only do these purple-blue veins look unsightly, but they can be painful and cause swelling. Wearing a pair of compression socks can help encourage better blood circulation. They might not be the most attractive items of hosiery, but they will make a difference! These are quite tight fitting and elasticated, and work by putting pressure on your ankles and legs. This sounds counterproductive, but what it does is compress the arteries and veins at the surface of your skin, helping vein valves function properly and force blood to flow back towards the heart without any obstructions. It is equally important to make sure they aren’t too tight though – you don’t want to start cutting off circulation to your feet! If prevention of them is too late and you are looking to get rid of them, there are plenty of non-invasive varicose vein treatments available.
Soak Your Feet
Obviously, this isn’t something you can do when you’re at work, but it is something to look forward to when you get home. Fill a big enough container with warm – but not too hot – water and add some Epsom salts and essential oils of your choosing. Soak for 20-30 minutes, and dry and moisturise afterwards thoroughly. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate compound, which helps to remove toxins and from your body known to cause inflammation and pain. The magnesium and sulfate enter the bloodstream which can boost the amount of magnesium available for your body to use for muscle function and energy production.
If you’re standing in one position for long periods at a time, your muscles can become stiff and painful. Every so often, try to stretch, relax and lengthen any tightened muscles. Try calf raises: stand on the edge of a step or platform with your tummy muscles pulled in, secure the balls of your feet on the step and let your heels hang over the edge. Raise your heels a few centimetres above the step as you stand on your tiptoes and hold for a second, before lowering your heels back down even with the platform.
Repeat a few times.
Another one to try is the runners stretch: face a wall and place your hands against it, while you extend one leg out behind your body. Push your heel to the floor as far as it will go, and hold for a moment to feel the stretch. Swap sides.
You can also try figure of eight hip rotations, which will prevent tightness in your hip and stagnant blood from pooling in the lower parts of your body.
If you are in a confined space and you are having to stand on a hard floor, see if you can get a rubber mat or a rug to be placed on the floor. This will cushion the area that you are standing on, reducing the impact on your legs and feet from the hard surface.