Help me help my feet.
August 12, 2019 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I work 50-60 hours on my feet and its wrecking my body. I'm sick of buying >$50 shoes that I wear for a month only to discover that they just make my body wonky in new and exciting ways. Yes I've tried danskos. Yes, I've tried pretty much everything in the Superfeet and Sole lines of inserts. Yes, my place of work has those squishy mats, and I am always sure to use them. What's my next step? I'm sick of hurting.

Extra info:
I am not looking for shoe recommendations.

I'm in my late 20's.

My primary care doctor suggested a physical therapist, and thought an orthopedist wasn't necessary, but I didn't do a very good job explaining to her the extent of my discomfort, and didn't press the issue.

Sitting down, even sometimes, is not even remotely possible.
I'm not doing a huge amount of walking, but nor am I stationary.

You know when you have a knot in your back and it's so tight and tender that even the lightest back rub feels really painful? That's how the muscles in my feet feel all the time.

My current system is lots of ibuprofen and massaging at knots with a tennis ball for as long as I can stand it, which isn't long enough get my feet anywhere close to normal.

I just want to go to the right doctor who pokes around at my feet and says "this is the kind of support you need" and I get insoles that work and I don't hurt anymore. Or something
posted by Grandysaur to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Did you go to the physical therapist? If not, why not?
posted by brainmouse at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2019

Response by poster: Just chatted with my PCP Friday, and am making an appointment with a physical therapist at her recommendation. I just feel like I didn't ask her the right question, so I'm not sure I got the right answer.

(done threadsitting)
posted by Grandysaur at 9:20 AM on August 12, 2019

I would suggest you ignore your primary care MD And find an orthopedist. I generally recommend Dr. Scholl's shoes which is what I wore both when I worked in fast food and at hospital (Many years ago.) If you know any nurses or interns, ask them what they wear. But this sounds like you may have something going on other than just on-your-feet-too-much foot pain. An orthopedist can tell you if you have fallen arches, or tendonitis, early-onset arthritis or any number of other foot/ ankle/ musculature issues.

I am not a doctor, but you might want to switch from Ibuprofen to Naproxyn (Aleve) until you get it figured out.

The other common quick fix for someone who Stands a lot (even if not entrirely stationary) is to have a solid box or even a couple of thick phone books, that you can rest one foot at time on (such as behind a standing desk) which can help with some pressure sensitive conditions, just because it changes the angle of both your feet.
posted by allandsome at 9:23 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just want to go to the right doctor who pokes around at my feet and says "this is the kind of support you need"...

If you can find a good podiatrist, this is exactly the kind of recommendation they make.
posted by ubiquity at 9:24 AM on August 12, 2019 [13 favorites]

If your feet hurt, you should see a health care practitioner who specializes in feet, either a chiropodist or podiatrist, depending on where you live
posted by kate4914 at 9:25 AM on August 12, 2019

I had my feet scanned at a shoestore by Aetrex iScan and it was helpful to me to learn my particular problems.

I don't know where in Montana you are but it looks like Lethbridge or Spokane are the closest places to western Montana.
posted by Duffington at 9:27 AM on August 12, 2019

Have you been assessed for orthotics? Not stood on ‘a machine in a drugstore telling you which off the shelf insoles to pick’ but seen by a trained human being assessing your needs, taking specific measurements of your feet, pressure points etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:35 AM on August 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I worked a retail job for about five years that required standing on concrete floors (no mats though I think that's illegal) and it sounds like my feet were in as much pain as you are feeling now — I'm so sorry you're hurting like that. I have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and suspect you might have it, too, though my suggestions aren't specific to that. Here's what helped me quite a bit in those days and now if I start having similar problems, hopefully they'll get you some relief until you get in to see a specialist:

This foot massage ball, which is much harder than a tennis ball. I know, that sounds awful, doesn't it, when your feet hurt so much? But this one $8 ball did more for my relief than anything else. My friend's podiatrist, who was also her friend, actually recommended it to me at dinner once and it did so much to help that I never did see a podiatrist myself during those years. The tennis ball actually isn't doing enough because it's so squishy, even though it hurts. I can sit down in the morning and rub my feet over this ball (for awhile I kept it in the shower since then I wouldn't forget to do it while standing around in the morning, it works great there too but you have more control sitting down) and roll slowly and increase the pressure without being in too much pain. It gets into the fascia and helps immensely. It would be helpful during a break at work too and small enough to bring with you.

You can also roll a frozen water bottle under the soles of your feet for relief. I'd do this nightly and then get your feet up for a bit, I like The Legs Up the Wall pose, lots of benefits to it beyond the feet for folks that are on their feet all day.

Lastly, have you tried wearing compression sleeves or socks to work or even just to bed? You may not be able to wear them the entire day/night but they offer a lot of relief. Something like these sleeves are what I wear when traveling and it's even more helpful than supportive shoes.

I won't offer specific shoe advice since you're not asking for it, but I will say that the most important thing to me on that front has always been varying the footwear that I wear day to day, and to make sure the support I have in those shoes are hard, not squishy. Hard support, as any podiatrist will let you know, is essential and squishy insoles actually make the problem worse.

Good luck! The frozen water bottle thing might be the first thing to do since it will give more immediate relief, the other suggestions are what made a difference for me long-term though.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:36 AM on August 12, 2019 [12 favorites]

Hi, responding as a person with lifelong foot issues. You do want a podiatrist, *and* would be helped by a physical therapist as well.

The podiatrist can advise you about the right support for your particular feet, that will give you the best possible alignment. You may be able to get that with over the counter products (either shoes or arch support you put in your shoes) or you may be better off with custom orthotics. For people who need custom orthotics they tend to be worth every penny.

The physical therapist can help you with dealing with your musculature. It is very likely there are some parts of your body that are underworked, and others that are overtaxed as a result. The PT will give you exercises to help balance those things out. I visited a PT for the first time about three years ago, in my late 40s, after a literal lifetime of foot/alignment issues and good God do I wish I'd seen one in my 20s.

Good luck--sounds like you're really having a hard time and I hope it gets resolved soon.
posted by Sublimity at 9:36 AM on August 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

As someone who stands and walks alot on cement floors I strongly suggest wearing compression calf sleeves and/or combined with ankle support sleeves. They made a huge difference in addition to insoles. At the end of day I also rest with my feet elevated above my head. I use the wall as support or a tall stack of pillows.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 9:37 AM on August 12, 2019

Just a note of caution- I've known a couple of people that have successfully fixed foot pain from standing all day via insoles, better padded shoes etc, but then started to get pain and imbalances in the rest of their lower half: knees, ankles, hips, lower back, etc. This is something that a good PT will help you avoid. So keep an eye out for this stuff if you do find some magic cloud shoes that help your feet.
posted by Jobst at 9:38 AM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's kind of controversial, and every body and foot is different, so feel free to take this with many grains of salt! But I personally was never able to be free of foot pain (I know exactly the kind you're talking about!) until I made the switch to minimalist shoes--basically, limited padding, wide toe box, and a flexible sole. I saw specialists, was told I had plantar fasciitis and metatarsaglia, had cortisone injections, did the whole ibuprofin and specialized orthotics route, and nothing helped except strengthening my feet and making the switch to minimalist shoes. There are some good resources by The Foot Collective about what traditional shoes do to our feet and how to start transitioning into minimalist shoes, including recommendations for shoe brands that meet this criteria.

Remember if you decide to go this route that you need to ease into it. I'd start with the exercises listed here to strengthen your feet and increase your range of motion; a lot of foot pain is caused by foot inflexibility and instability, as well as hip instability. Work on these exercises and then plan to wear minimalist shoes a little bit more each day (are you able to switch shoes at work?) until you've successfully transitioned to fully minimalist. A good PT can help with these, too, but if you're rural like I am it might take a while to find a good one and in the meantime you can start doing these yourself at home.

Honestly this switch was the best thing I ever did for my health and well-being, right up there with starting therapy! Like I said it's controversial but I'm a true convert now and am happy to talk over memail if you'd like to hear more about my experience. Whichever route you pursue, I wish you luck--foot pain is the absolute worst.
posted by stellaluna at 9:41 AM on August 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

The things that helped me most with plantar fasciitis (which I know isn't your situation):

- (very painful) massage with a small hard ball (I used hard rubber bouncing balls)
- strength exercises for my feet (I go back to this every time my feet start acting up again)
- stretching exercises and tennis ball massages for posture (on the days I was able to do enough that I felt I was standing noticeably straighter, I noticed my feet also hurt less)
- rotating through a variety of shoes with wide toeboxes (ymmv, I have wide feet)

Sometimes massaging up the calf also helped.

Hope some of this is helpful to you. As someone said above, you want a physical therapist who will pay attention to your whole body, not just your feet.
posted by trig at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I had foot and knee pain and plantar fasciitis from being on my feet for 11 hours a day 20 days in a row every month. Custom orthopedic inserts designed and fitted by a podiatrist completely eliminated the pain. There was a few months of adjustment where intermittently my feet hurt in different ways and I had some hip pain but that has been eliminated now for the last couple years. Even with extended wear of 8" steel toe boots.
posted by Mitheral at 11:04 AM on August 12, 2019

I have arthritis in my feet, and I will make a recommendation for Keens, which are flexible, have a wide toe box, some padding. I find the choice of shoe is far more important that any orthotics. Feet are incredibly well evolved for walking, running, dancing, etc., standing on concrete, maybe not so much. Stellaluna's recommendations are good. Strengthening your feet and legs is likely to be the most effective. Make sure any painkiller you use is anti-inflammatory.

Meanwhile, your job is damaging your body. This is illness caused by work and covered in the US by Workers' Compensation. Physical therapy and time to go to PT should be covered.
posted by theora55 at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Do you hurt all day or more at the end of the day? This is a short-term suggestion, but when working retail, I found changing my shoes halfway through the day to be very helpful. I had a few pairs of shoes that were pretty good, but none that worked all day. When I changed shoes at my mid-shift break, before my feet were aching terribly, it helped reduce my overall discomfort at the end of the day.

This sounds really tough. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Get this thing and keep it wherever you can slip off a shoe and roll on it. If you can do that at work, awesome. If not, do it assiduously when you get up and before bed and when you relax at end of day.

Do the other stuff recommended above too, but this is easy, fast, cheap, and really helps.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:44 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

One more suggestion I don't see listed here - if it is arthritis or inflammation related, check your diet. I chased foot pain for a couple of years until I eliminated some allergens from my diet and my feet were back to normal within two weeks. Now, if I eat one of those allergens, I feel it in my feet first.
posted by annathea at 1:04 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I definitely recommend a professional, podiatrist is a great start but do try to get one based on recommendation if you can.

Fyi the science behind barefoot/minimalist shoes is extremely mixed and based mostly of short trials of runners in labs. There is currently no solid evidence that it reduces injuries (and some mixed evidence it may increase them). There's a reason you won't see a lot of medical professionals recommending them.
posted by smoke at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2019

I've worked a physically demanding job for similar hours on cement floors for the past 11 years and I can and have felt your pain. There are excellent suggestions above. I have seen a podiatrist and was directed toward exercises and specific insoles which helped amazingly. Even at the most painful times I could make it through 7-8 hours ok, but it was the daily hours beyond that which seemed to contribute the most to the tightness and pain. I realize reducing hours is not always possible, but maybe negotiating a break for elevating your feet or stretching is?
For me losing some weight, (mainly by minimizing foods with added sugars) dropping my BMI from 28 to 25, was also greatly beneficial. Lower weight, happier feet and legs!
posted by tronec at 3:32 PM on August 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Get thee to a podiatrist! You may need custom orthotics to address your issues. They will also give you exercises to do.

It was an investment in my health in my mind and I can tell you it is SO SO NICE to not hobble around the house when I first wake up in the morning.
posted by latch24 at 4:42 PM on August 12, 2019

+1 to stellaluna's exercises.

They are similar to the ones I learned from a self massage class and from my Melt Method kit. Plus cold water/ice baths. Plus mixing up the shoes & using inserts. Plus twice daily robust rolling out of my feet. Plus yoga and Feldenkrais videos on youtube. Plus patience.

My one experience with a podiatrist was completely underwhelming, but I know people who found relief that way. Keep looking for a good doc; don't give up like I did. Other friends swear by the Graston Technique in conjunction with strengthening specific muscles/learning better body mechanics/core strengthening. I felt like my self massage was successful and more along the lines of Graston than just "roll your foot over the ball". You gotta really dig in there.

Good luck to you. It's tough to manage life when your feet are not your friends.
posted by heidiola at 7:22 PM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you new to this environment? It can take awhile for your body to get used to standing for that amount of time.

Squat when you can.

Compression socks, the really heavy-duty ones.

Ibuprofen and aleve, but be careful, I know too many old nurses and waitresses who pop that shit like candy.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:33 PM on August 12, 2019

If you want to see an MD, the one you want is a physiatrist (the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation).
posted by ocherdraco at 9:04 PM on August 12, 2019

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