Four ways your choice of work footwear could be impacting your health

Are the shoes or boots you wear to work harming your health? Discover four risks of impractical footwear and how to find the right type for you.

Many employees are now lucky enough to benefit from a flexible approach to their work and life balance. Household brands like Zoom, Amazon and Disney are among the companies offering tailored working arrangements or a structured hybrid approach that suits their staff members’ individual needs.

With many employees keen to take advantage of the chance to work from the office on a more frequent basis to interact with their colleagues face-to-face, ensuring they are wearing comfortable and practical footwear may be the last thing on their mind. 

However, experts have cautioned that the choice of shoes one selects for commuting and spending a day at the office could potentially hinder work productivity and even lead to health concerns down the line. In this context, it’s worth delving deeper into understanding your foot pain.

A comprehensive foot pain chart, like the one provided by Kloudstep, can be a valuable resource. It sheds light on how different footwear choices can impact various parts of the foot, leading to discomfort or more severe conditions. Making informed decisions about your shoes can ensure both comfort and health, allowing you to perform at your best in any setting.

With this in mind, John Johnston, Head of E-Commerce at Workwear Express, the UK’s leading provider of Workwear clothing, outlines why sensible footwear is so important, regardless of your workplace, and four ways the wrong work footwear could impact your health.

What are the risks associated with wearing impractical footwear to work?

The average construction worker walks a reported 1,600 steps an hour on-site, with nurses walking more than 4 miles in a typical 12-hour shift. So it cannot be underestimated how important the need for comfortable and practical footwear in the workplace is, as it can bring all sorts of associated risks to employees’ health and wellbeing.

What many may not realise is that these podiatry risks apply to every kind of job, including office workers, or even those jobs that don’t require workers to do a lot of walking in a typical day.

Here are just some of the potential risks associated with wearing impractical footwear at work

1) They can cause painful foot problems such as bunions, blisters and corns

In some circumstances, impractical shoes such as heels, tight or pointy shoes can cause blisters, corns and bunions.

While in the majority of cases, these will clear up on their own and only cause discomfort and possible pain, bunions carry the risk of longer-term medical complications, and can continue to worsen the longer you wear shoes that aren’t appropriate for your feet.

According to the Royal College of Podiatry, bunions are more common in women, with 15% across the UK suffering due to the more restrictive footwear they typically wear. Bunions can cause joints to bend, as your muscles get pushed out of position, leading to pain in the foot and surgery in a lot of cases needed to correct them.

2) They can cause lower back pain, leg fatigue and muscle stiffness

Uncomfortable or impractical footwear can also cause an employee to suffer with lower back pain, especially if their job requires them to be on their feet for a significant part of the day.

As feet are the foundation of our body, when we wear shoes to work that don’t support them properly, it can cause an imbalance to the way that our body absorbs the energy that is generated when you walk or run, causing your spine to become misaligned. When these misalignments happen it can cause muscle spasms, stiffness and fatigue, reducing our range of motion.

Jobs that require you to wear heels, are a specific cause of lower back pain or muscle stiffness, due to their style and shape, and the fact that you are placing an extreme amount of pressure onto the front part of your foot when standing or walking. When you do this it causes your lower back to move forward slightly, meaning that your posture changes completely, and the natural curve of your spine shifts.

3) It can hinder productivity and cause distraction

Alongside the risk of possible short and longer-term injuries, wearing shoes that prove uncomfortable or impractical for a role can actually reduce employee efficiency. This is because when we are weighed down by shoes that are heavy or painful, you will navigate around your workspace more slowly and less efficiently than usual.

As well as this, when you wear painful footwear your stamina and energy can decrease, meaning that you are productive for shorter periods of time, and distracted by any pain or discomfort that you may be experiencing.

4) They can increase the chances of injury or falls in the workplace

Impractical footwear can also increase your chances of being injured during an accident at work. For example, wearing shoes that do not have sufficient grip on them may mean that you slip, trip or fall more easily, while open-toe shoes may mean that you are more likely to sustain an injury if something were to fall or land on your feet. 

Safety shoes are designed to address these specific risks in the workplace. They provide the necessary grip to prevent slips and falls, and their reinforced toe caps offer protection from falling objects.

Choosing practical safety shoes that meet the safety standards of your industry is essential to reduce the risk of workplace injuries. Prioritizing safety footwear can significantly contribute to a safer work environment.

Four tips for choosing practical footwear for work

Here are four tips to help you choose the right footwear for work.

1) Consider comfort

First and foremost when picking shoes for work, you should consider whether they are comfortable or not, especially if you have to be on your feet for long periods of the day. Try to choose shoes that are cushioned well so that your feet are comfortable all day, and so that they can help absorb the shock of energy that you get when you walk or exercise.  

2) Think about the fit

As well as comfort you also would want to think about the fit of your shoes. Make sure to avoid tight shoes where possible in this scenario, as they can increase the pressure on your feet, which affects the alignment of your spine.

To check this when buying shoes make sure there is wiggle room for your toes, or if you’re really unsure ask a shoe salesperson to measure your feet and help you find the right fit of shoe. 

3) Make sure you know what level of protection you need for your job

While this will vary from person to person, it is important when picking shoes for work that you consider what kind of protection you need for the kind of work. For example, do you need shoes that will prevent you from getting an electric shock in high-voltage electricity areas?

4) Wear footwear that has durability

You might also want to think about how durable your shoes will be for the job that you do. If you work in an industry where your shoes will get a lot of wear and tear or you are moving around a lot, consider shoes that will stand the test of time, as broken shoes can also lead to workers sustaining injuries more easily. 

If you are looking for work footwear options that are durable, comfortable and will help to prevent any work-related injuries, you can visit Workwear Express to scope out footwear offerings.