I can't feel my toes...
September 23, 2008 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Do you stand for long periods at your job? If so, how do you handle it?

My new job entails a lot of standing up, for periods of over 1 hour at a time. My upper body is getting plenty of exercise and movement, but my legs are pretty stationary.

I'm looking for things I can do or wear or use to a] help prevent varicose veins (which run in the family), b] keep my feet from aching and c] generally help me be more comfortable standing for such long periods.

Sitting down is an option, but not really a practical one, as I have to turn around, walk two steps, turn around and walk back again every 5 minutes or so. Getting in an out of a chair that much would only irritate me.

Any general ideas how how best to handle this situation welcome.
posted by Solomon to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I work in retail. I'm on my feet 4 or 5 hours at a time, 8+ hours 5 days a week. I'm used to it, although when I started my feet were killing me. They still do from time to time.

The Merrill brand of shoes is amazing. Half of my department swears by them. My mom also works retail and she loves Thorlos socks.
posted by jschu at 3:49 PM on September 23, 2008

If the area you are working in doesn't have some sort of a shock absorbing mat or carpeting, see if your employer can accommodate you. It makes a huge difference.
posted by kimdog at 3:59 PM on September 23, 2008

I work in a laboratory, and unless I'm crunching my data at the computer, I'm standing up and working at the benches for many hours at a time, sometimes with no breaks at all. It was pretty bad at first, but after several weeks I got used to it to the point of being able to wear high heels at work (yes, I know I'm not supposed to, but they look great with my lab coat). It gets better, I promise.

Also, have you considered getting a chair on wheels? On occasion, I've been able to sit on a higher chair when working in the fume hood, then turn around and get something 2 meters down the bench, still sitting in my chair.
posted by halogen at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2008

Dansko clogs. Enthusiastically endorsed by nurses the world over.
posted by arnicae at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2008

Bring a box about 5" high and put it on the floor where you'll be standing, to keep one or the other foot raised on, and be sure to switch feet regularly. This is the origin of the brass rail that runs along the bottom of some old bars -- it kept the patrons' feet and legs from hurting while they drank their pints. I've worked retail before, and this really helps. An old cigar box (strong) is about the right size.
posted by jfwlucy at 4:55 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

You do have a squishy pad to stand on, right? That's important. I think even wal*mart has them, so they're probably required by law.
I asked this question before, but I really didn't have to. I tried wearing better shoes but after working for a few weeks I just got used to it. It probably wasn't good for my back, but oh well. You'll be in excruciating pain for the next few days, then you should start to get better. It is a real shock to go from sit down work to stand-up. In the mean time, see if your boss will let you wear comfy sneakers or sports shoes.
posted by Citizen Premier at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2008

My mom also works retail and she loves Thorlos socks.

+++. Thorlos utterly rock.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 PM on September 23, 2008

As a restaurant manager who never, ever gets to sit down (the customers know! they freaking know when you get a free minute!), there are really only two things that are going to help you out.

1. Time. Keep doing it, it'll stop hurting. Give it a couple of weeks and you'll be fine. Those couple of weeks are going to be unmitigated hell, though.

2. Comfortable shoes! Sneakers or nursing shoes or any of the ones listed above are almost necessary. If your boss won't let you wear comfy shoes, wear them anyway and tell him he's a dick.
posted by billybunny at 5:29 PM on September 23, 2008

People hate on 'em but I always wore Crocks when I worked my shifts at the bookstore - I was on our feet almost all day (re-)shelving, organizing and schlepping medical text books.

They're like anti-fatigue mats (squishy mats) that move with you.
posted by oreonax at 5:32 PM on September 23, 2008

I work in a coffee shop, and stand/walk around for an average of 6 hours a shift; sometimes 8. Due to the layout of the "bar" area, I've gotten the pivot to an artful science. I find that having good shoes (I use Dickies made for working in an a slick environment) helps a lot.
Even with great shoes, you'll need to replace them more often than you think. Admittedly I am pretty hard on shoes, and don't clean the ick off them when I should, but I can go four months with a pair of shoes, then I add insoles for a few months, then I buy a new pair of shoes. A lot of the people I work with use the crocs made for cooks. They all seem to like them a lot, and the raised heel is helpful to prevent stepping out of your shoes. If you're not limited by dress code requirements, these might also be awesome.
The advice about propping one foot at a time is really helpful, please do that. Also, nthing the floor mats if possible.
I just learned a new pose in my yoga class that is supposed to help with Varicose veins. Basically you sit on the floor facing a wall, scoot up as close as you can and lie down, with your feet propped on the wall. You want your butt touching the wall. Straighten your legs and flex your feet towards you. Your supposed to sit this way, maintaining the flexed position (not straining, just not pointy-toed) for about five minutes. My teacher said you should try to do this once a day. I'm trying, but so far have only managed three times a week.
posted by purpletangerine at 5:42 PM on September 23, 2008

When I was a camera operator I was on my feet all day. My personal trick was big, roomy sneakers and TWO pairs of foam inserts. And yes, the old school foam ones were WAY more comfortable than the newfangled gel ones!
posted by Me, The Snake at 5:55 PM on September 23, 2008

http://www.solesupports.com/ I've had the same pair for like five years now.
posted by zeek321 at 6:56 PM on September 23, 2008

I've been a flagger and traffic control supervisor for about 5 years now. Standing in one spot for 10-12 hours with no breaks. It's all about the footwear and the Gold Toe brand socks.
posted by docmccoy at 11:27 PM on September 23, 2008

I hate and despise Crocs (why would *anyone* choose to wear them?), but a bartender friend of mine who I trust absolutely wears a 'commercial' version of them when he's working, and swears by them. (He still looks ridiculous in them, but at least his feet don't hurt...)
posted by littleme at 1:29 AM on September 24, 2008

I worked standing up for 9 hrs/day for about a year. I have one word for you: DANSKO. My Dansko clogs changed my life. They took a few weeks to break in, but after that, my feet/shins never ached in the same way. Of course, my legs would still get tired by the end of the day, but not at all in the same HURTY way as before. Look for shoes marketed to chefs - they're on their feet all day every day. If you need to wear any sort of uniform, you can probably find a pair of Danskos that match. I had to specifically wear black leather shoes and I was able to find professional looking clogs, no problem. The only drawback is they're a bit pricey, but if you're working on your feet it's the best investment you'll ever make.

Support hose/socks will help prevent varicose veins, though there's not too much else you can do. From your profile, I'm gathering you're a dude, in which case the pantyhose probably aren't your best option. Try getting socks that are recommended for airplane travel - they'll be the most supportive and protect your veins the best.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:45 AM on September 24, 2008

When I was in Las Vegas a few months ago, I noticed that all the doormen and bellhops wore these weird-ass looking shoes with springs built into the heels, like these. I'll bet they're comfy.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:14 AM on September 24, 2008

I managed restaurants for a decade and can testify in favour of the Dansko clog - but I do also have some problems with them. They aren't particularly grippy shoes, so they aren't terribly appropriate for working in a slick environment. I also tend to walk on the side of my feet, which can equal a lot of ankle twisting in the clogs (because they are slightly elevated). They are pricey, but worth it because they do last a long time, but breaking them in is painful (although I've been told that covering them in rubbing alcohol does help loosen up the leather a bit. I've never tried it).

Crocs gave me achilles tendonitis in both my ankles last year, so I don't personally reccommend them for any extended use.

I've just returned to the world of working on my feet for 8 to 9 hours a day after about 5 years of desk jockeying. The first two weeks were really hard but my legs got used to it again after that time. I have very recently felt this pain!

Air travel socks are great, but expensive. I've been using an Ace-bandage style wrap on both my legs that I pull on like very high socks (worn over some Smartwool hiking socks) which has helped with lower leg fatigue immensely and is a cheaper alternative to the travel sock suggestion.

One other thing I'd strongly suggest - even if it seems a bit girly to do - is to have a professional pedicure every couple of months. This may seem like an odd thing to do, but regular removal of the calluses that happen to people who are on their feet a lot is important, and helps prevent pitted keratalitis and other foot yuck that happens. This doesn't mean you have to have your toenails painted! Your pedicurist will remove the dead skin, soak your feet, sometimes dip them in Paraffin wax (which feels amazing) and give you a foot and calf massage. If money is an issue, try a cosmetologist's college - they often do them for very reduced rates because a certain number of hours are required for students in order to get their certificates, and you are supervised by instructors so there's very little risk of them doing too much damage.

If your'e going to wear trainers, get two pairs so that you can alternate between them - giving one pair a chance to air out (with shoe powder in it while it does air out) while you're wearing the other pair.

If you're on an even tighter budget than that, I can testify to the success of dipping your feet alternately in very hot and then very cold water and rubbing Tiger Balm into them before you go to bed at night. You might still walk like Frankenstein when you get up in the morning, but until you adjust this might help a bit.

I can't stress enough how important it is to take great care of your feet and legs. Do spoil yourself when it comes to this part of your work uniform. In ten years you'll regret not having done so.
posted by Princess Valium at 10:38 AM on September 24, 2008

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