Many of us pay attention to our mental health, to our diet, to our fitness levels, but often we ignore the needs of our feet and legs.
Your occupation may be putting additional pressure on your feet and legs; you might have to wear restrictive shoes all day long – perhaps heavy safety shoes, or elegant heels to match your work attire or easy-to-clean plastic footwear. Your job might also involve standing for long hours or climbing an incredible number of steps while carrying folders or equipment, or even dashing between customers’ tables. In any event, each day your feet will be shod for a long period of time and will be under a lot of pressure.
If this sounds all too familiar to you, here are the top tips we share at PODO clinic to look after your feet and legs to reduce end-of-day tiredness and/or that “heavy legs” feeling:
Stretches and manipulations
Your feet and legs will benefit from daily attention, such as stretching exercises and gentle manipulations. Depending on how you slept, you may need more stretches for your back, neck, and shoulders too. Listen to your body and stretch and mobilise accordingly.
As two mornings are never quite the same, adapt your morning routine accordingly, but, most importantly, keep in mind that the benefits of a good routine come from consistency so don’t stop and start, do something every day if you can. And you can do it from the comfort of your bed:
- Move your toes to activate your intrinsic muscles (those contained within your foot).
- Manipulate those toes to prevent any toe deformations (such as bunions, hammer toes, etc.) becoming unreversible, which can happen when joints are seldom manipulated.
- Move your ankles to stretch the extrinsic muscles (those outside your foot, which are connected to your lower leg and help control the foot), doing the alphabet with the point of your feet, for instance, is a good way to ensure a complete range of movement.
- You can also spread your toes wide and push your heel as far down the bed as you can, as though you are trying to elongate your body and grow a few inches!
There is no need to set an alarm earlier or disrupt your normal routine. Five minutes is enough, and I can promise it will feel like the best investment of the day when those very few minutes show short-term, mid-term and long-term benefits on your health and overall well-being.
Look after the skin and nails on your feet
Problems can come from various sources such as your own body (excessive perspiration, for example), your work environment (too warm, too cold, too wet) and the material used to make your footwear (limited space, no breathability) to name but a few.
It is, therefore, essential to remember that the skin and nails on your feet need to be nourished, moisturised, dried, kept warm and allowed to breathe.
- Use a cream that is specificality formulated for your foot skin, which is much thicker than that on your body or face.
- Talcum powder is a massive game changer. Particularly, use it in shoes when you don’t wear socks or between the toes if you don’t want to end up with athletes’ foot.
- Keep your nails short, smoothing the corners to make sure you leave no spur (which, once in your socks or/ shoes could penetrate the surrounding skin and cause ingrown toenails and subsequent pain or infection).
- If your feet tend to perspire, take a spare pair of clean, dry socks to change into in the middle of your shift. Both your skin and nails will quickly look, feel, and even smell better.
Daily shoe care
The state of your shoes gives away a lot about your personality and hygiene. Shoe care helps you both to look better and feel better.
Besides, expecting shoes to last without taking care of them is not reasonable. Sweat, rain and mud all make our shoes dirtier than a toilet seat. And a cycle in the washing machine / tumble dryer won’t help as that will negatively affect the glue and stitching, while also making the shoes shrink.
Rotating your shoes is always a good idea as, after 12 hours of abuse, they might benefit from a day off. However, if you are not a shoe shopping addict and spend your week in the same pair, then make sure you nail the following tips:
- Leave a wooden shoe tree in your shoes overnight, to avoid the leather crisping and cracking and subsequently allowing water to come in.
- Choose a hard wood shoe tree (as opposed to cast-iron or plastic) as this will absorb the humidity of your perspiration, the rain or the shoe polish you have just applied.
- Polish in the evening. Polish products can make your footwear humid, while your skin and nails would prefer a dry environment for as long as possible. So, polish your shoes in the evening, then they will be dry when you put them on in the morning.
- Check the heel and overall shape of the footwear. Surprisingly, this not only protects your feet and legs but all your joints up to your neck. This is because any shoe that is out of shape will mislead your feet – your only foundation. The consequences will impact all the joints above: ankles, knees, hips, back and neck. And even if you have orthotics, they are pointless in a pair of shoes that misleads them. You will waste time and money, and they will not correct your discomfort.
- Replace any broken part. Broken laces must be replaced, and shoes with worn down heels must be re-soled. If you want to save on buying new shoes, then keep an eye on the ones you have and make sure you know a good cobbler.
- Stop sliding your feet in and out your shoes without using their laces. Your ankle will lack support, and your heels will move around inside the shoes building up rough calluses. Plus, your shoes will get out of shape and end up misleading your foot, messing up your biomechanics, posture, balance, and gait.
Take a relaxing walk
As much as sitting for hours isn’t great, standing still or stepping around in closed spaces on hard floors with stairs here and there, is also quite damaging for your joint health, not to mention your blood and lymphatic flows.
So, for better blood flow and to fight that common heavy leg sensation, go for a walk at the end of the day – one where you are not loaded with bags or in a rush. Because walking is the best exercise for both your physical and mental health. Walk handsfree (with a backpack, if needed) to allow your arms to swing and offload the bodyweight being applied to your feet and legs.
Christophe Champs is an expert in biomechanics and the founder of Podo. Christophe corrects postural and biomechanical issues to alleviate pain and prevent injury for clients.