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How to Design a Strategy and Save Your Feet

How to Design a Strategy and Save Your Feet

If you think standing up on your feet is always better than sitting, then you may be surprised to discover that you’ve been mislead. The truth is that  your occupation can contribute to foot problems. For example, constant walking on hard, inflexible surfaces can exacerbate joint damage. You need to design a strategy and save your feet.

tips on checking for damaged joint
Checking for damaged joint

But it’s not your fault if you’ve been believing that standing is always better than sitting. Or perhaps even making the assumption that the negative  effects of sitting means that there can only be positive  results from standing. That’s because all over the internet you can catch the trending buzz phrase “ Sitting is the new cancer”. I, myself, have written about how bloggers are damaging their  backs by spending too much time sitting.

Looking at The Broader Picture

Have I changed my mind about the ill effects of too much sitting?

No. A strong core will alleviate back and foot pain, and constant sitting for long hours will over time weaken the core and thus increase the occurrence  of back and running related pain. That said, there are some occupations where extensive standing is a danger  to one’s health. Perhaps you are a recreation runner who has just gotten a job as a nurse. This will apply to you.

The good news is that it’s not too late to repair the damage when it comes, turn things around, and start getting better results with better information.

It  starts right here, right now, since you’re about to discover how to apply knowledge  about running injury prevention to remedy your foot pain at work.

Let’s get started…

Runner’s Training Error and it’s Relationship to Nurse’s Long Shifts

If you have read my previous posts, then you know that one of the biggest causes of running related injury is training error. This is a situation when a runner pushes herself or himself too hard and doesn’t allow time for muscle recovery. This can result in a set back in any gains made by training because of damage caused by such stress to the feet or knee.

Now take a look at what a study on nurses shift reveals:

A 2006 study of 2,273 nurses showed that more than half of those sampled reported they typically worked 12 or more hours per day, some over 13 hours. A third reported working more than 40 hours per week, and/or six or more consecutive days, periodically. Many reported working extra shifts on scheduled days off and vacation days, working through scheduled breaks, working more than one job, and working rotating shifts that interfered with sleep schedules. Many nurses reported working 50 to 60 hours per week and up to 15 hours per day with insufficient time for rest and recuperation between shifts.(1)


tips on nurse's long hours
nurse’s long hours

The essence of running error is that if your body is not repairing itself then most likely it is breaking down. Thus it’s not a big leap to realize that nurses who work long hours on their feet also put their  body through a lot of stress. This makes them vulnerable  to “substantially more injuries to lower extremities”  (2) ( Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter October 2008 Edition).

We are Talking About Things Like Pain in The Legs, Knees, and Ankles

tips on aching feet
checking for aching feet

Thus  one of the things that you’ll have to include in your strategy to safe your feet from pain is to adjust your shifts so that they  don’t interfere  with sleep schedule. This may mean saying no to working extra shifts on scheduled days off or vacation days. Yes, this may mean less money. However, in the long run your health may be worth  a  lot more.

Repetitive Walking on Concrete-like Surfaces Will Cause Plantar Fasciitis

As I reported in previous  posts, the type of  surfaces has a big impact on the intensity of running related injury. A runner who runs on concrete is far more likely  to put stress on his or her feet than one who runs on grass and thus suffer more heel pain.  We can make a similar observation  when we note that constant walking on hard, inflexible surfaces can exacerbate joint damage and often result in plantar fasciitis.

A good question that you’ll need to ask yourself  is this: what is the percentage of nursing time you will walk on non-carpeted surfaces?

Remember  that the longer you walk on non-carpeted surfaces, the more likely you are to experience plantar fasciitis. One nurse put it this way:

“ I love nursing but after  a twelve hour shift my feet hurt. After night#2 my feet and ankles hurt and by  night # 3 I just want to cry…”

If you don’t want to cry or give up the job, your strategy should include reducing the percentage  of time you  work on non-carpeted surfaces. So let’s  say you presently work on non-carpeted surfaces 90%—100% of the time. You’ll now want to reduce the percentage to get it closer to 0%.

Choosing The Right Gear

As I have mentioned in a previous  post, When the foot strikes the ground during running the ground produces a force back against the foot. This force is focused mainly on the foot and ankle then continues through out the leg and body. This means that a runner needs shoes that can act as shock absorbers.

Let’s Connect This To Nursing And Shoe choice

wearing the right nurse's shoes
nurse’s shoes

Most runners are advised to change their shoes every six months.  If they are heavy, even sooner. It turns out that this is the same advise given to nurses. Shoes should be changed every 500 miles or 800 kilometers. For a healthcare professional working 40 hours per week on her feet, this equates to about a couple of times a year (every six months). Those who are heavier or who are struggling with pain or injury might need to change their shoes even more often (every three or four months).

Dr. Peggy Malone is a chiropractor and athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their  sport. She makes the following statement:

“When a patient comes to my office with a new symptom such as knee pain, shin splints, heel pain, hip pain or back pain, one of the first things I ask about is the age and mileage of their shoes. Since shoes can appear to be in good condition but fail to provide adequate support, this is often a reason for a new injury.” (3) Miscellaneous

Moving violations: negative impacts of standing and walking in nurses’e health 10.15.2008

You thus need to understand how often you purchase new work shoes

  • About every 6 months
  • About every year
  • About every 18 months

You should set a goal of purchasing  new shoes much closer to 6 months than to 18 months.

Losing Weight to  Reduce Pain

Sudden weight gain in runners is a major reason for injury. In a previous  post I mentioned a survey by the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS). It found that foot and ankle problems can be linked to an individual’s weight and body mass index (BMI).  More than 6000 individuals responded to the survey, which was conducted on the Society’s public education website,(4 )  Here’s what you need to know. A conclusion of the study states: “Increased BMI has also been found to increase foot pressures with standing and walking, and is no doubt a precursor to  foot and ankle pain.”

If you are offered a job an a nurse, you should include such low impact activities  such as swimming to safely help you reduce the pounds. This is the same advice I would give a heavy runner.


You just learned how to design a strategy and save your feet if you are a runner about to get a job as a nurse. And that means you can now take measures to ensure that the job  you love won’t leave you with lasting foot pain.

To that end, let’s quickly  recap what you learned in this post:

  • You learned how to stop your body from breaking down.
  • You found out how knowing the age and mileage of your shoes can help you prevent knee pain, shin splints, hip pain , and heel pain.
  • Plus you have discovered how foot and ankle problems can be linked to an individual’s weight and body mass index (BMI).

If you haven’t already  done so, go ahead and construct a chart that compares how hard you worked your feet before and how hard you are working them as a nurse. For example, what is the percentage of the time you spent working on non-carpeted surfaces before  versus now. How often did you purchase shoes versus now?  Making this chart, it doesn’t have to be , and shouldn’t be, complex. Just something that enables you to track your level of pain to any new changes in your routine. Then give yourself  a pat on the back, because you’re now all set to lessen your foot pain.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.



(2) Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter October 2008 Edition

(3) Miscellaneous

Moving violations: negative impacts of standing and walking in nurses’e health 10.15.2008


12 thoughts on “How to Design a Strategy and Save Your Feet

  1. Hi there, thankyou for your great article , I found it really helpful and interesting. I have a sister who is a nurse and I know that she comes home most days with aching feet. She is quite young at the moment and can get away with it, but over time I could see how being on your feet all day will lead to problems as you get older. Thanks again

    1. Hi Joanne,

      People like your sister are what inspired me to write the post. I wanted them to have a plan that  they can put to use  to delay or  lessen the impact of foot pain. One thing that your sister can do to stop problems in the future is make sure she changes her shoes or rotates them every six months if she is working a 40 hour week  or more. This may seem extreme, but lots of nurses have reported that doing this one thing went a big way in managing any foot pain.

      For now, she can just elevate her feet on a stack of pillows to relieve  any discomfort that comes from swollen feet—should that happen.

  2. Interesting. I used to jog and I worked as a nursing assistant. I quit jogging years ago because I started getting shin splints.

    I took early retirement to take care of my parents; but also because of being on my feet so long. I used to take an extra pair of shoes and change in the middle of my shift.

    Now I have feet that hate me to be on them for very long times. I try to pick comfortable shoes; but most shoes are not particularly comfortable. You said about shoes that act as shock absorbers. Where can you find them?

    Thank you for a great article telling us how to protect our feet.


    1. Hi Jeannie,

      Brooks Addiction Walker walking shoes are recommended by doctors  for foot pain as they offer a lot of support. I would give them a try.

      I have also heard good things about Orthofeet Coral Women’s comfort Orthopedic sneakers. They are especially designed to alleviate heel and back pain.

  3. Hi Thabo,

    I am not a nurse and haven’t run in quite some time. However, my profession requires me to stand on my feet on a concrete surface 10 to 12 hours a day, up to five days a week. I often worry about developing joint and back problems because of it. Your article has given me insight on things I can do to prevent this. I’d heard of changing shoes regularly, but not the rest of it.

    Thanks so much for your help,


    1. Hi JaemiO,

      I’m glad that you found my post useful because you are precisely the type of person   it was meant to help. My website also focuses on back pain prevention. So feel free to contact me should you have any more questions.  Or just go and read some of  articles that may pertain to your question.

  4. Hi Thabo,
    Thank you for a well-written and a well-researched article. I am sure many readers will find it interesting and beneficial. Reading it was an eye-opener for me. As you discussed in the article, there are many jobs that require employees to stand long hours without a break. I think employers should be aware that standing long hours non-stop is detrimental to health and thus should allow employees to sit a few times during a shift. A healthy worker is a happy and a more productive worker.

    1. Hi Desal,

      I’m glad you liked the post. I agree with you that employers should  be more aware of the negative effects of standing for long hours. I think it would be great  for managers to explore the possibility of incorporating a “sitting break” for the sake of occupational health. 

  5. I think the biggest problem is when we stay in the same position for too long. I find it far easier to walk then to stay standing for longer periods of time.
    I drive a truck and sit for hours at a time. Sometimes this gives me problems with my knees. Fortunately the seats in modern trucks has become very good and can be adjusted so usually I don’t have back problems but staying immobile for too long can still cause problems in the back, joints and feet.
    I think when standing and walking for hours you must have very good shoes and socks. This can make all the difference and when possible, sit down for a while.
    Thanks for a very informative article.

    1. Hi Jojo,

      I used to work  as a member of  a loading crew for a big Sporting Goods store, and interacted with a lot of truck drivers. So I have an idea of what you are going through. Those long hours sitting in a truck can indeed do a number on your back and knees. You are absolutely right about how proper shoe ware and socks can go a long way in lessening back and foot pain. Also, having good support for your back is important. It was a pleasure to hear from you. keep safe and feel free to reach out to me should you  have  any questions.

  6. After spending years working a job that required me to be on my feet for 6-10 hours straight every day, I absolutely understand the value in your post. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to keep some jobs without giving into the demands of the hours they request; therefore, I think it’s imperative to know what your other options are. Shoes are very important! I think most wouldn’t realize to get a new pair of shoes so frequently, but it is necessary. Also, one of the most important things you noted was to maintain a healthy weight. I think that is vital to the health of our feet and our bodies as a whole. Great post!

    1. Yes, maintaining a healthy weight is indeed vital to the health of our feet and body. For example, overweight has serious consequences on our knee health. Overweight people suffer from more knee injuries. Think of it this way: Like a building or bridge, your body is designed to carry a certain load. When you exceed that load, you’re forcing your body to do something that it wasn’t designed to do. That’s going to compromise your foundation. The bottom line it that it’s important not to put undue stress on your body by overloading it.

      Also, having the right shoes and changing them frequently is important for your foot health. However, if you should develop pain with your new shoes that changes your form, you should see your doctor.

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