Foot Pain After Standing At Work: Causes & Treatment

Foot Pain After Standing At Work: Causes & Treatment

Whether you’re on your feet all day at the hospital or a tradie constantly on the go, standing for long periods can be extremely tiresome – and even painful. The act of standing comes so naturally to us that it feels like it should be effortless, but the reality is that the incredible nature of the body means that to keep you standing with stability, many muscles through your feet, legs, hips, core and back must stay constantly engaged, while your feet bear your full body weight over and over. There’s no ‘break’ or downtime for your muscles like you get when alternating from one leg to the other during walking – and your body is also having to constantly work against gravity to keep blood moving up and away from your feet.

Simply put, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes when you stand – our bodies are expected to do this effortlessly and tirelessly – and it doesn’t always work out that way. Today, our podiatrists are talking about the causes of foot pain when standing for long periods and how it can be treated – and importantly – prevented?

Foot Pain When Standing Is Not Normal

First, it’s important to clarify that foot and leg pain after standing for long periods is common these days – but that doesn’t make it normal. We live in a world where many people shrug off pain and equate it to being “part of the job”, an occupational hazard. In reality, pain in any form is never ‘normal’ – it’s our body’s way of warning us that something is going wrong – or about to.

Why Do Aches & Pains Occur During Or After Standing? 

While the only definitive way to answer this for you specifically is to assess your unique circumstances and lower limb biomechanics, common reasons we see contributing to this pain include:

Uneven foot pressure

Ideally, when you stand, the pressure your body places on the ground should be distributed evenly between both feet. In our clinic, however, we often observe that alignment or biomechanical issues leave one foot bearing significantly more weight than the other, with certain joints taking on much more stress and pressure than they were designed to. This is a quick road to foot pain – and even long-standing injury. 

Furthermore, the pressure distribution within the foot can also be uneven and problematic, for example, it may overload the ball of the foot or the big toe, making the person a high risk for ulcers. Aside from biomechanics, studies show that age can affect our pressure distribution too – with older adults tending to bear more weight on the outside of their feet.

You stand on hard, unforgiving ground

It is true that some occupations have a higher injury risk than others, particularly those that spend their days on hard, unforgiving ground like concrete slabs for some builders. These firm surfaces naturally create ground reaction forces back through your feet that are much more intense than the forces you experience from walking on carpet, for example.  

Your feet aren’t well supported

We have natural variations in the shape and function of our feet, meaning that some feet – like those with a flat foot type – may have to work harder at every step than those with a neutral foot type. This makes some people more vulnerable to pain and injury than others. This is one area where custom foot orthotics can make a big difference to your foot pain and comfort levels on a daily basis. We have the ability to prescribe all of their features from the level of control they provide to the materials they are made of, giving you the unique prescription for your feet. 

Blood flow

Your body has to work hard to move blood and fluids up your legs and back to your heart when you’re standing all day, as it must work against gravity. This can create problems with circulation, resulting in swelling in the feet and legs, as well as varicose veins and other vein problems. This can leave your feet and legs feeling heavy and tired.

Wrong shoe choices

Our shoes become the new ground under our feet – and this ground can either help our feet or hinder them. Good shoes can support and control the function of the feet, helping to prevent overuse. Often when we see workers with achy feet, their shoes are either too heavy for their feet, offer little to no support, or are completely worn down.

Muscle imbalances

Having tight or weak muscles can cause muscle imbalances. Having a muscle imbalance means that other muscles and parts of our body have to work harder to compensate, and this compensation all day, every day, can definitely be a cause of tired and achy legs and feet. Common examples we see include tight Achilles, and weak glutes.

Existing foot or leg dysfunction

When you already have a foot or leg problem, it’s likely that this area is problematic or weakened in some way, and not up to full functional capacity. In this case, you risk aggravating the problem and making it worse, while your body compensates using other muscles (see above) to help keep you standing all day.

Will Tired, Achy Legs Get Better On Their Own?

In most cases we see, honestly no. Or at least not for a long time – usually when they stop working or have a long break. The thing about foot pain when you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day is that you keep using the injured or tired muscles, joints or bones all day, every day. It’s like asking a basketball player to keep playing all day, every day, while expecting their wrist injury to get better. It’s just not an environment that is helpful for healing and repair.

Treating & Preventing Foot Pain After Standing

Treating and preventing foot pain starts with a detailed biomechanical assessment and gait analysis to understand exactly what is happening with your lower limbs and why. This will help us identify any imbalances, deficiencies, alignment or postural issues, and any other problems. Then we’ll discuss our range of treatment options which may include:

  • Custom foot orthotics to better support the feet and alter their alignment for improved function
  • Changing shoes to ones that are more supportive, comfortable and/or lighter
  • A rehab plan with exercises or dry needling to address any muscle imbalances – weakness, tightness
  • Gait retraining
  • Shockwave treatment to help repair existing injuries

Often, it can be very simple and easy changes that can set you on a new path for better foot health. Many find using orthotics to be very beneficial as they are able to insert them into their existing footwear and reap the benefits any time that they are on their feet.

If you’re ready to address your foot pain and feel better on your feet, book your appointment with our experienced podiatry team by calling us on (03) 972 2927.

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