The average person walks enough miles to equal walking around the earth at least four times during their life. For nurses, this is probably a lot more. Foot pain is one of the most common pain complaints among nurses. Let’s face it; most nurses spend an awful lot of time on their feet.
What causes our feet to hurt so much? For nurses, it is usually related to the time spent on their feet. But there are many things that can cause this pain to be either minimal and occasional, or to be excruciating and almost constant.
As nurses, we know that an important factor in preventing and minimizing foot pain is good supportive shoes. Shoes need to not only made out of strong material that will last, such as leather, but they need to be able to support the structures of our feet well also.
Leather is probably one of the best materials, for nurse’s shoes because it allows the feet to breathe. This allows circulating air to keep the feet dry and prevent the overgrowth of the fungus which causes athletes foot. Many shoes specifically made for nurses and other healthcare personnel are also treated with special antimicrobial agents which can be a great benefit considering all that our feet are exposed to on a daily basis at the places we work.
Leather is also a good choice because it is usually strong enough to prevent the penetration of needles, scalpels, and other sharp objects that are present on the job.
The soles of the shoes must also be made out of strong shock absorbing materials that will protect the feet as they hit the hard floor. If you have flat feet or high arches, this is especially important.
One of the most common foot maladies affecting nurses is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a strong fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel, along the bottom of the foot, and is a part of the structures that form the arch of the foot. When this band of tissue becomes over stretched from hours of walking over a hard=d surface, tiny micro tears form along its surface. We may first notice this as a sharp pain in the heel of the foot. Later, when we go home and rest our feet, such as while sleeping overnight, these micro tears begin to heal, but not completely.
With the first step out of bed in the morning, this fibrous band is again stretched just by the act of standing and the micro tears that began to heal overnight are suddenly ripped back open. This can be as painful as it sounds. The classic sign of this happening is having to grab onto the wall to support your self with the first few steps after you wake up in the mornings. Once this has begun, it is a never ending cycle of healing and tearing that gets worse with time.
The way to prevent this from starting is with good shoes that support the arch. If it has already begun, tapping the foot in a “stretched ” position at night or wearing a brace that holds the foot in this position while you sleep is the first line of treatment. This enables the micro tears to heal in this position so that they are not retorn with stretching upon weight bearing on the morning. If this method of treatment is unsuccessful, then surgery may be necessary.
When shopping for shoes, it is important to go later in the day to shop for them. This is because gravity causes fluid to accumulate in our feet over the course of the day, (as nurses, we are all familiar with dependant edema, right?). In a normal person, this is not a large amount of edema that occurs, and is usually not noticeable to us by sight, but it can mean the difference between shoes that are comfortable throughout our whole shift, and shoes that are painful and pinching our feet by the end of the day.
This small amount of foot swelling is also partly responsible for the regular achiness that results after a long day on you feet, in addition to the pain from the constant stress on the bones, muscles, and tendons. When it comes to the remedy for everyday tired and aching feet, your grandmother’s remedy is probably the best. Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salts, and then put your feet up. The Epsom salts help to draw excess fluid out of the tissues of the feet, and outing your feet up afterwards helps gravity to redistribute the fluid, accumulated in your lower extremities, back out to the rest of your body via the circulatory and lymphatic systems.
Nurses will continue to spend hours on there feet everyday. This cannot be avoided, but with a little care and some good shoes, many of the aches and pains can be avoided or at least greatly reduced.