Although relatively small in size, the human foot is a complex mechanism containing 26 bones (the two feet contain a quarter of all the bones in the body), 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments. Add to that the fact that the foot suffers so much abuse on a daily basis and it’s not surprising that the feet are subject to more injury than any other part of the body.1
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), most Americans are affected by foot problems at some point in their lives. And many workers, such as those in the manufacturing, construction, healthcare and retail industries, spend long hours standing, walking and engaging in other activities that put added stress on their feet. Workers should take steps to head off foot problems before they strike.
Common foot ailments such as corns, calluses, blisters, bunions, ingrown toenails, hammer toes, fallen arches, arthritis, neuromas, heel pain, heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can be caused or aggravated by inappropriate or ill-fitting footwear. For this reason, one of the most important steps workers can take to prevent foot-related disorders is to wear shoes that are appropriate for their job and that fit well. To ensure a proper fit, shoes should be purchased later in the day when feet are at their largest. Shoes should be comfortable and have good arch support and cushioning and adequate room around the ball of your foot and toe. Shoes that are damaged or worn out should be replaced as soon as possible.
OSHA standard 1910.136(a) requires employers to provide protective footwear for workers at risk of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, objects piercing the sole, or electrical hazards. (For more information on purchasing proper work footwear, see sidebar Seek out safety features.)
Additional tips from the experts:1,2
- Pay attention to foot pain. If pain persists, see a podiatrist.
- Inspect feet regularly. Possible indications of a problem could include changes in the color and temperature of your feet, thick or discolored nails, cracks or cuts in the skin, peeling or scaling on the soles of the feet, and a growth on the foot.
- Avoid narrow-toed shoes and high heels.
- Wash feet regularly and dry them thoroughly.
- Warm up before exercise, cool down after exercise, and stretch adequately.
- Increase your amount of exercise slowly over time to avoid putting excessive strain on your feet.
- Lose weight if you need to.
- Learn exercises to strengthen your feet and avoid pain.
- Trim toenails straight across but not too short.
- Avoid walking barefoot, which can increase the risk of foot injury or infection.
- Be cautious when using home remedies for foot ailments; self-treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one.
- People with diabetes, poor circulation, or heart problems should not treat their own feet because they are more prone to infection, and diabetics should visit a podiatrist at least once a year.
By following these tips, and wearing the right footwear on the job, workers can help keep their feet healthy and pain-free.
1. American Podiatric Medical Association, Inc. (2010), General Foot Health, www.apma.org/MainMenu/Foot-Health/Foot-Health-Brochures-category/General-Foot-.aspx. November 26, 2010.
2. Medline Plus, A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Foot Pain (November 2010), www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003183.htm. November 26, 2010.
SIDEBAR: Seek out safety features
When purchasing safety shoes, it is of paramount importance to look for products that have been created exclusively for working professionals who need the best comfort, durability and foot protection on the job. The best footwear is the footwear that is specifically engineered to meet worksite demands and feature the latest and best technology for workers to get the job done. Be sure to choose your shoes carefully, selecting those with safety features that meet industry standards while providing maximum comfort. Find footwear that is built to last, built for comfort and built for work. Choose a brand that uses the finest, most durable materials for longer wear and greater comfort over the lifetime of your footwear.
Important safety features to consider when selecting your footwear include:
- Abrasion-resistant rubber
- Midsole technology that absorbs shock and returns energy at key zones of the foot to deliver long-lasting, all-day comfort
- A puncture-resistant plate to protect your foot
- Outsoles that are slip-, heat-, oil- and abrasion-resistant
- Insulation to keep your feet warm and dry in the harshest conditions
- A waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry
- Traction lugs that supply superior grip
- Electric hazard protection
- Safety toes to protect the foot
Contributed by Timberland PRO, www.timberlandpro.com.