Numerous occupations require employees to spend a prolonged amount of time working in a standing posture. Occupations related to sales, retail, education, nursing or healthcare, and even manufacturing jobs require employees to constantly stand at their workstations during working hours. This prolonged-standing does not only affect your foot health but can also have detrimental health impacts such as musculoskeletal disorders.
It can cause lower back pain, limb discomfort, joint aches, vascular disorders, and much more. Even health conditions such as muscle co-activation, blood pooling, and fatigue, are associated with prolonged standing. Furthermore, uncomfortable work shoes such as safety shoes and heels, not only cause discomfort and muscle fatigue but can even result in occupational injuries that can affect your health in the long term.
Despite the number of potentially serious health outcomes of prolonged standing, employees are required to stand for long periods of time because of their job requirements. This is why it is imperative to adopt the best foot exercises to improve your foot health.
How Prolonged Standing Affects Your Foot Health
Prolonged standing at work significantly affects your foot health due to various reasons. Such as:
1) Blood Pooling
One reason is that while constantly standing the blood pools in your lower limbs causing stiffness in the legs and feet. Not only does the blood pooling affect your foot health and cause significant pain, but it can also cause damage to your cardiovascular system because your body has to drastically increase your heart rate to get the pooled blood moving.
2) Pain From Footwear
Standing for extended periods wearing work shoes, heels or other types of footwear related to your work may not be comfortable for your feet. At the end of the day, these uncomfortable work shoes or safety shoes will leave your feet sore, swollen, and numb. These conditions can result in foot disorders such as plantar fasciitis or edema.
3) Varicose Veins
In addition to affecting your foot health, prolonged standing can even lead to varicose veins. This is a common issue, specifically in the lower extremities of your body. Varicose veins are a result of weakened or damaged walls in your veins that can cause blood to pool and even flow backward. This causes the veins to grow much larger than the usual size and becomes distorted, causing tremendous pain. Standing all day at work can increase the risk of varicose veins and make blood circulation even worse.
4) Lower Limb Fatigue
Standing for a prolonged time can also weaken your lower limbs resulting in lower limb fatigue or muscle fatigue. The main cause of this fatigue is because your feet and legs are constantly carrying the weight of your upper body while standing. This makes your lower limbs get tired more quickly and feel heavy. Lower limb fatigue or muscle fatigue can cause painful cramps in your legs and even spread to your back, resulting in lower back pain.
Best Exercises To Improve Your Foot Health
Keeping your feet healthy, strong, and flexible with the help of exercises is a great way to eliminate musculoskeletal disorders. Exercise can enhance blood circulation and also promote strong bones, supple muscles as well as soft tissues. These foot exercises can be done at home or even at your workplace while standing.
1) Toe raise, point, and curl
This is a simple exercise that you can do at work or home. It is an effective way to get your toes and feet moving after standing for a prolonged time.
Step 1: Sit straight on a chair with both your feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Place both your toes firmly on the ground.
Step 3: Raise your heels slowly off the ground until only the balls of your feet and toes touch the ground. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Step 4: Now point the toes on both your feet down so that the tip of your big and second toes touch the ground. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Step 5: Lift your heel off the ground and roll both your toes under your feet in such a way that the top of your toes touches the ground.
Hold each position for 5 seconds and repeat each position at least 10 times.
2) Standing Quad Stretch
This is a standing exercise that can improve blood circulation to your feet and keep the quadriceps muscles loose and flexible. The quad muscles are critical for foot health as it is imperative in movement, such as walking, jogging, standing, etc.
Step 1: Hold on to the wall or any strong surface to balance your body.
Step 2: Extend your left foot backward till it touches your buttocks.
Step 3: Hold on to the top of your left ankle or foot and pull it toward your buttocks.
Step 4: Push the hip forward till you feel a stretch along the left quad.
Step 5: Brace your abdominals to stabilise your pelvis and make sure that you stand straight without an arch.
Hold the position for at least 10 seconds and repeat the same steps for your other leg.
3) Toe extension
This is also another stretching exercise that is effective in preventing or treating plantar fasciitis. It is one of the most common causes of heel pain and can be triggered by prolonged standing.
Step 1: Sit straight on a chair with both your feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Lift your right foot and place it on your left thigh.
Step 3: Hold the toes of your right foot and slowly pull them back toward your right ankle. Make sure you feel a stretch along the bottom of your foot and in your heel cord.
Step 4: While pulling back, use your other hand to massage the arch of your foot.
Hold the feet and massage the arch for ten seconds. Repeat the toe extension exercise ten times on each foot.
4) Toe Yoga
Toe yoga is a great way to improve your foot strength and muscular activity. It can be done even while standing at work or sitting at home.
Step 1: Start by spreading apart your toes as wide as you can. Hold the position for at least 6–10 seconds, so that your muscles get used to it.
Step 2: After performing the stretch, place your foot and toes firmly on the ground.
Step 3: Slowly lift only the big toe as high as you can while holding the rest four little toes on the ground. Step 4: Now bring your big toe back to the floor and lift the other four toes off the ground. Make sure to keep the full ball of your foot flat on the ground. (Lifting the four toes alone without the big toe can be difficult at first, therefore you may have to reach down and hold your big toes firmly on the ground and lift the little toes with your hand. This will cue the muscle activation, such that you will slowly be able to do it without the help of your hands).
Once you are capable of isolating the big toe, practice lifting and holding it for a few seconds.
Exercises are a great way to improve your foot health and eliminate any risk of injuries during your everyday life. If you’re constantly living with foot pain and see no form of improvement even after trying different exercises, you should visit a clinic providing physiotherapy in Etobicoke. Physical therapists are experts in exercise and treatment methods and can offer the best professional service for improving your foot health.