A survey conducted by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists reveals that 93% of nurses suffer from swollen and painful feet after their shift. Left untreated, foot pain can drastically affect your job satisfaction, efficiency and long-term health.
For this reason, its imperative for every nurse to take necessary steps to preserve their feet. In celebration of the National Foot Health Awareness Month, we’ve listed down some of the most effective foot care tips to help keep your tootsies out of misery:
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1. Learn some shoe hacks.
Of course, you shouldn’t buy Nursing shoes that are too small for you unless you want to end up getting blisters.
Another great tip: Get the exact measurements of your feet, preferably at the end of your working day when they’re usually swollen. It might sound silly, but you should ideally pick shoes that can fit even when your feet swell, which is normally the case for nurses.
If possible, buy from stores that specialize in Nursing shoes. Or, you can browse through this list of shoes (under Footwear/Occupational) that has been reviewed and given the seal of approval by the American Podiatric Medical Association.
The best Nursing shoes provide firm grip for the heels but give enough wiggle room for the toes. The heel should also be elevated by at least 1/4 inch; go higher and you might only torture your feet. Laced shoes are optional, but a lot of nurses enjoy shoes with laces as they give more control over how the shoe fits.
Podiatrists also recommend rotating the shoes you use every few days. Using the same pair day in and day out will only stress the same pressure points on your feet. Having at least two pairs of Nursing shoes will give those pain points some breathing space, allowing your sore feet to heal.
2. Get the right socks.
As we get older, the fat pads on our feet get thinner and thinner. It’s even worse for nurses because walking and standing all day expedite this process, ultimately causing pain to the ball and heel of the feet.
If you’ve been in this career for a while, chances are your feet need extra cushion. You can get these by wearing either thicker socks or compression socks. The latter are designed to improve blood circulation in your calves. They push the “old blood” from your feet and calves back towards the heart, replacing them with fresh, nutrient-rich blood necessary for healing.
As with Nursing shoes, choosing the best socks that perfectly fit you involves a little bit of trial and error. To help you get started, the American Podiatric Medical Association has provided a list of socks that have been awarded their seal of approval.
3. Avoid prolonged standing.
Let’s accept it: Nursing requires a lot of standing and walking. But between the two, standing is more detrimental to your health. Too much standing in your shift not only causes the blood to pool in your legs, but also puts more stress on your feet. To alleviate the pain and prevent varicose veins, avoid standing in the same place or position for a long time. If possible, alternate standing with walking or sitting.
Sitting allows your lower back to relax while walking keeps the blood on your feet and legs pumping. When standing is almost unavoidable, look for a 6-inch stool where you can alternately rest your legs. This simple strategy will relax and enhance blood flow on your feet without interfering with your work.
4. Talk to a foot doctor.
Foot pain indicates that something is wrong. But when even the best Nursing shoes or compression socks can’t address the problem, it’s probably time to make an appointment with your doctor or podiatrist.
A podiatrist can assess your feet and identify any underlying problem that might be causing the pain. If you’re experiencing persistent foot pain, numbness, stinging or tingling sensation on your feet, get professional help as soon as possible.
It’s highly likely that you might be suffering from bone spurs, fallen arches or plantar fasciitis, a common condition that happens when there’s a tear or damage on the connective tissue supporting the feet. A podiatrist can suggest the best footwear and any extra support needed to help you cope with any of these foot ailments.
5. Stay hydrated.
Faced with an overwhelming list of tasks to be accomplished, nurses rarely have the time to get hydrated, much less drink the recommended 8-10 glasses of water a day.
However, dehydration is one of the leading causes of foot cramps especially for people who are always on their feet. Water supports different metabolic processes in the body; without it, cellular repair is next to impossible. Lack of potassium in the diet is another culprit that causes foot pain among nurses.
Therefore, the next time you go to work, make sure you bring enough water and potassium-rich foods such as papaya or banana with you.
6. “Warm up” like an athlete.
Nursing is a physically demanding job, and surviving it requires you to think and act like an athlete. In addition to a healthy diet, you should also do some light exercises before and after work to help strengthen your feet.
Warm-up exercises may include stretches that target your back, shoulders, neck and legs. For the feet, simply stretch your foot forward, backward and from side to side using a twisting motion. You can also walk on your toes and heels for a few seconds each.
Repeat the same exercises after getting home from work. Remember, you don’t need a full-body workout; even a few minutes of stretches while you’re watching TV are already enough.
7. Consider shoe inserts.
The foot is composed of 26 bones, connected to each other through 33 joints. When the shoe isn’t properly cushioned or doesn’t offer proper support, you run the risk of not only having foot pain but also suffering from strain injuries on your legs and back.
To prevent foot-related injuries, you can either replace your old, worn-out shoes with a new pair or buy the best shoe inserts that suit your needs.
A shoe insert is a simple device that you can put inside the shoe to provide extra cushion and prevent foot abnormalities. There are two types: the insole, which is simply an extra strip of material to make your feet more comfortable; and the orthotic, a device that can be inserted into the shoe to correct different foot abnormalities.
Foot orthotics are particularly helpful for nurses whose feet tend to overpronate, which then leads to the development of flat feet or arches.
8. Indulge in yoga.
Aside from quick stretches, you can also try yoga to help your feet recover from a shift full of running, walking and standing. The good news is that you can do it at home for a few minutes with a YouTube video (like the one above) as your guide.
“Foot yoga” not only improves your flexibility, but also boosts blood flow to your feet which is essential for recovery. If you have more time, you can also incorporate yoga poses that target the back and help relieve anxiety.
Combined with healthy diet and regular exercise, yoga can cleanse your body of toxins. And the less toxins you have, the less likely your feet will get hurt.
9. Shed some weight.
As long as you’re here on Earth, gravity is always at play wherever you go. For nurses, standing on their feet throughout the entire shift also means gravity is working non-stop to put a strain on their lower back, legs and feet. Things get even worse for those who are overweight.
Although there’s no way to avoid gravity, you can reduce its effects on your body by maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy diet, exercise and the conscious decision to change your lifestyle for the better are some of the greatest gifts you can ever give to yourself. These changes will not only give you a great physique but also reduce the stress you unknowingly put on your feet.
10. Try anti-fatigue mats.
Believe it or not, the type of floor you’re stepping on may decrease or increase your likelihood of suffering from foot pain. More often than not, floors in Nursing stations have a concrete base, which is not ideal as far as giving a comfortable walking surface for your feet.
Fortunately, there are “anti-fatigue” mats which you can place on the floor to provide padding for your feet. You can also use a carpet, mat or even a simple cardboard for the same purpose.
Take note that anti-fatigue mats aren’t similar with the regular mats found in slippery areas at home such as the kitchen. Anti-fatigue mats have the right amount of softness and thickness to prevent back and leg fatigue. An ideal anti-fatigue mat also has longer life expectancy (usually up to 10 years), is very easy to clean and has sloped edges to prevent accidental trips.
11. Enjoy a soothing foot soak.
According to Lucille B. Andersen, a foot and ankle surgeon from Pleasanton, California, every minute we spend at work standing on our feet creates a “micro-damage” that our body is required to heal. One way to cope with this “invisible” injury is by immersing your feet in a bucket of water and ice for 15-20 minutes after going home from your shift.
Ice bath is totally safe as long as you don’t have any existing vascular disorder. The cool temperature will help reduce the swelling/inflammation on your feet and help them heal faster.
However, during winter when ice baths don’t make sense, you can treat your tootsies with a warm foot bath instead. Simply fill a dishpan with warm water, add some dish soap and let your feet soak in it for about 20 minutes while you’re watching TV.
For added health benefits, you can also pour Epsom salt into the solution. Also known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom salts are great deodorizers and also relieve muscle and joint pains. Others prefer adding baking soda plus a few drops of essential oils like lavender and rosemary to get dead skin off their feet.
To save time and effort, you can just choose from any of these foot spa machines available at a very affordable price . These devices automatically heat water and also come with other fancy features like bubbles, waterfalls and foot massagers to give you a foot spa experience at home.
12. Pamper your tootsies with a massage.
Nurses accomplish most of their tasks through their hard-working feet, so why not give your tootsies some TLC?
One way of doing this is through a pampering massage given by your partner or a therapist. All by yourself? No problem. Simply get a tennis ball or baseball and roll your feet over it several times. The ball stimulates and stretches your foot muscles–from the ball of your feet to the arches and heels. If you’re a gadget lover, you’ll definitely enjoy these affordable foot massagers designed to give shiatsu-style foot massage at a click of a button.
If you’re into Eastern medicine, you can also consider a reflexology foot massage. With a foot chart as a guide and with your choice of massage oil as lubricant, you can massage your own feet or let somebody else do it for you. Foot reflexology not only relieves foot pain but also helps heal your body by stimulating foot reflex points connected to different body organs.