Wellness Wednesday: Watch Your Steps
We spend a good portion of our lives on our feet, so it behooves us to take good care of them. Foot pain compounds, racking up painful dividends for the rest of your body. A good pair of well-cared for shoes is just the start; there are other things you can do to keep the pressure off while you’re stepping out into the world.
On Your Feet
Spending most of the day standing on your feet can create complications for your health over time. Studies have found that standing five or more hours a day can contribute to lower-limb muscle fatigue, which can put you at risk for developing long-term back pain, leg cramps, and musculoskeletal disorders.
There are things you can do to mitigate these risks, to varying degrees:
- Alternate between standing, sitting, and walking (Cornell University recommends a ratio of 20 minutes sitting/8 minutes standing/2 minutes moving)
- Switch-up the way you stand (shifting weight to different parts of your body can help keep any one part from getting too impacted)
- If allowed by your work, use a foot stool or floor mat to take some of the pressure off your legs
- Wear footwear with proper arch and sole support (sneakers, cushioned running shoes, professional clogs)
- Take regular stretching intervals to keep your muscles loose and limber
- Enhance the comfort of your footwear with shoe inserts/insoles and/or compression hosiery
We recently explored the importance of good posture. When it comes to your feet, proper posture can go a long way toward keeping you healthy when you’re on your feet. Bad posture can strain and damage your muscles, joints, and ligaments over time. Good posture keeps your spine properly aligned and evenly disperses tension and energy throughout the body.
Some rules of thumb when it comes to achieving good posture:
- Keep your spine straight (no flexing/arching)
- Hips and shoulders should be even
- Your chin should be parallel to the floor
- Keep your abdominal muscles braced
- Evenly distribute body weight between both feet
The Benefits of Going Barefoot
Researchers have found that people who walk or run in “minimal shoes” (i.e. thin-soled shoes that mimic your bare feet) tend to have stronger, stiffer feet than people who wear more conventional shoes. A stiff foot might sound like a bad thing but experts say that’s not the case. A stiff foot is stronger and less likely to develop problems like flat feet, which can lead to further health problems like knee pain, back pain, and cartilage damage. Cultures where people are frequently barefoot or wear minimal shoes have much lower rates of flat feet than ones where people wear thicker soles all the time.
If you wear shoes all the time, it may be a good time to go barefoot more often at home and/or switch to a minimal shoe on occasion. The exception to this rule is that if you have a nerve condition like neuropathy; in that case, you’ll want the added protection of a thicker soled shoe.
To Standing Desk Or Not To Standing Desk
If you’re working from home you may want to consider investing in a standing desk. A standing desk can help you counter the sedentary aspects of work. You'll burn more calories on your feet, lower your blood pressure, and could help you mitigate back pain. There are combination sitting/standing desks that can be raised and lowered, which can be an ideal way to alternate and keep yourself from sitting or standing on your feet for too long.
The downside to standing desks is that many modern offices are not equipped with them and your workplace may not necessarily provide them for you. Even if that’s the case, there is very affordable and compact ergonomic technology available that can help you put pressure off your feet, improve your posture, and help combat the risk of developing arthritis.