Is Your Work Footwear Affecting Your Health?
Is it colour, style or brand you opt for when choosing your work footwear? Incorrectly fitting or unsupportive footwear can have a negative effect on your health, so bear that in mind next time you’re choosing what pair of shoes you’re going to wear to work.
Choosing the Right Footwear to Avoid Longer-Term Health Problems
From a sturdy pair of brogues to soft Italian slip-on’s, sporty trainers, knee-high boots or high-heeled dazzlers, the array of footwear available today is vast. There are so many different styles, fabrics and designs that there is something out there for everyone whatever your tastes, but what is the right footwear for you?
The fit and comfort are crucial to maintaining good foot health and to prevent longer-term health problems such as backache and joint pain. In this post, the term ‘shoe’ is going to be used to cover all types of footwear.
The fit of the shoe should allow your toes to move freely when you wiggle them, and there shouldn’t be any pressure points. Pressure points can lead to the development of corns, ingrowing toenails and fungal infections.
Corns are areas of hardened skin that form over joints caused by areas of pressure. They can be soft or hard and are often painful to touch. They can develop their own blood supply making them tricky to remove. Shoes that are too big can cause the feet to slop around in them; the sliding and rubbing action can create pressure areas which can, in turn, develop into corns.
Pressure on the top and side of the toe around the nail area can cause the nail to lift slightly allowing skin microbes on the feet to enter the nail bed or the softer underside of the nail plate. Normally these skin-dwelling organisms cause no concern, but if they are able to enter the nail bed or under the nail plate, they can thrive and cause infection. It is estimated that about 16% of all Europeans are affected by nail and fungal infections.
If the shoes are too tight and constrict the feet pins and needles or temporary numbness may be experienced. Also, shoes that restrict the movement of the toes or are made from synthetic upper materials can restrict the flow of air around the toes and reduce breathability of the shoes resulting in the feet sweating. Sweating of the feet creates a damp, moist environment perfect for fungal spores to thrive and can lead to Athlete’s Foot.
Comfort, Cushioning and Support
Shoes that have cushioning inside them can help to reduce jarring of leg joints and can help to support and protect the delicate bones of the feet.
Shoes that do not provide adequate support can lead to fallen arches, back pain and joint pain. Back pain can occur from wearing high heels over a period of time. ‘Lumbar spinal muscle action can be exacerbated, leading to overuse with eventual stiffening and resulting in postural changes. Also, possible lumbar intervertebral disc compression (as a result of poor footwear) can lead to lower back pain’ according to podiatrist M Ratcliffe[i]. It is believed that overloading of joints due to shoes not providing the correct support can lead to long-term health problems such as knee pain and arthritis.
How can the Correct Fit and Support be Incorporated into the Working Wardrobe?
Now we all have those shoes that look fabulous and are great for a night out, but sometimes it’s worth thinking about a more suitable pair of shoes for work. We spend so much of our week working that it can take a toll on our feet and our joints. Look for comfortable, supportive shoes that nurture your feet. It is recommended that shoes have a slight heel which should be broad for stability and this will help offset any tightness in the Achilles tendon. The shoe should have some form of fastening so that it can be adjusted to suit your feet.
Now if the thought of a sensible, comfortable shoe has you breaking out in panic, think about ways you can wear the shoes of your choice and look after your feet. Maybe consider comfortable shoes for commuting to work and then putting your other shoes on once you are at work. If you have to walk long distances, opt for cushioned shoes but put on your chosen ones for meetings or appointments. There are many different ways you can look after your feet, be comfortable and also be stylish or glamorous when you want. The great news is that many shoe companies are starting to create stylish, fashionable shoes that provide comfort, a good fit and support which improves the choice of work footwear available to all.