Heel pain leads to heightened absenteeism and lower productivity for busy businesses. Discover how to combat and prevent heel pain that could be caused by being on your feet for long periods of time at work.
Is heel pain a big issue for today’s employees?
Did you know that thousands of people in the UK need to take time off from work every year simply because they’re suffering from heel pain and other foot-related conditions?
Heel pain is particularly common in employees who are on their feet all day. Trades people, retail workers and those in the hospitality industry are often standing or walking for long periods of time as they go about their duties – and as you can imagine, all this activity will eventually start to take its toll on their lower limbs.
Busy workers will commonly suffer from sore, aching feet and heels. Over time, the tendons that connect their heel to their toes may thicken, leading to plantar fasciitis (otherwise known as Policeman’s Heel); they are also at extra risk of developing Achilles tendonitis, heel spurs, and other unpleasant conditions that will make standing and walking for hours at a time almost unbearable.
Those with poor posture, unusual walking gait and overpronation or super pronation may also find that they begin to additional discomfort in their ankles, knees and lower back.
The problem is, when the pain eventually becomes unbearable, the employee will need to take time off work to recover – and this inevitably affects the company’s bottom line.
How to prevent heel pain at work
When it comes to work, the show must go on. But there are plenty of things employees can do to prevent heel pain from ruining their working day.
Here are five of our top tips for workers who are struggling to manage heel pain on and off duty.
- Invest in supportive footwear.
Weak, flimsy footwear will not be providing your poor feet with the support they need. Flip flops, sandals and other inadequate footwear may even be the root cause of foot fatigue.
To keep heel pain at bay, make sure your shoes are adequately cushioned. They also need to fit well; make sure they don’t slip or rub against your skin while you’re walking.
- Take regular breaks.
It can be tricky to schedule in regular downtime when you’re working in a demanding role – but an extra 10 or 15 minutes of rest every day could dramatically reduce your discomfort.
If it won’t be possible to sit down for an extended period of time, try to take what’s called a circulation break. This involves adjusting your posture from time to time to make sure your feet don’t succumb to the strain of repetition, and that you avoid the headaches and fatigue that can often accompanying circulatory sluggishness.
- Keep your posture in check.
If your body is out of alignment, you’re at a higher risk of developing heel pain. When standing or walking, make sure that the balls of your feet are bearing most of your weight and that your knees are slightly bent. If your feet are getting sore from lots of activity, consciously shift your weight from your heels to your toes, or from foot to foot, to re-distribute the pressure.
- Exercise your feet regularly.
Stretching is key to maintaining great foot health (and, of course, preventing heel pain). There are plenty of quick, easy foot exercises out there that can help you improve the condition of your muscles.
Try rolling a tennis ball under your feet to loosen your hamstrings, and rotating your ankles clockwise and anticlockwise to keep your muscles and tendons loose and flexible.
- Use orthotic insoles.
Orthotic insoles are an essential piece of kit when it comes to stopping heel pain in its tracks. These inserts, which can be easily slotted into any kind of footwear, automatically provide better support for your foot arch and metatarsal bones. When used on a regular basis, the right pair of insoles will lead to better foot stability, better weight distribution and reduced muscle strain – and they’ll help you reduce, and even eliminate, the pain you’re experiencing in your heel.
Is your company doing enough to help fight heel pain?
Most company decision-makers now understand the importance of keeping their staff fit and healthy. Responsible organisations will do everything in their power to ensure their team members are comfortable at work, because they recognise that unnecessary absenteeism means lower productivity, low staff morale, and ultimately, lower profits.
However, if you feel you’re not being given the tools and the resources you need in order to reduce your heel pain at work, or your concerns aren’t being heard by management, it could be time to speak up. Your employer has a legal obligation to ensure your health and safety while you’re in their care, and combatting the various conditions associated with foot fatigue should certainly be high on their list of priorities if they want to promote a happy, healthy working environment.