Being on Your Feet All Day: Painful Consequences and Solutions to Combat Them

November 17, 2010

General Information

Standing on your feet all day can cause tired, sore, and swollen feet.  Whether it be for work, weekends, or a vacation if you’re standing on your feet for most hours of the day, you will probably suffer from these symptoms.  Beyond just foot pain, standing for prolonged periods, especially for an occupation, can also be a risk factor for low back pain, plantar fasciitis, and osteoarthritis.  One occupation requiring prolonged standing is surgical technician.  When I’ve observed surgeries, I’ve noticed all employees are standing for the duration of the procedure.  Depending on the number of surgeries scheduled, they could be standing for several hours.  As I was talking with a surgeon recently, it takes a physical toll on them as well.  In a study of surgical technicians in the Netherlands, tired and fatigued feet as well as joint pain and low back disorders were listed as common complaints.  Incidence of low back pain in surgical technicians was similar to professions including steel workers and forklift operators![1] Physical therapists can be contacted to consult in workplace safety to ensure the best possible working conditions to reduce pain and strain associated with physical demands of a job.  At some companies, like Bucyrus that contracts with HealthReach Rehab, PTs and OTs are always on staff for workplace safety and injury-prevention.

Can anything be done for tired, sore feet after a long day of standing?  The key is prevention.  Research has shown that having a softer surface to stand on, such as anti-fatigue mats and cushioned shoe insoles can reduce fatigue and discomfort associated with standing prolonged periods.   Researchers from Milwaukee, WI tested three different flooring conditions for assembly line workers.  After an 8 hour shift, workers filled out a questionnaire rating comfort and fatigue.  The general response was less fatigue and improved comfort with softer flooring such as a anti-fatigue mat and cushioned shoe insole. [2]

When I know I’m going to be on my feet for a long time, say at a football game,  observing art at MAM, meandering the festival grounds, or while on vacation walking 24,910 steps in Rome, I try to be prepared.  Here are a few more suggestions to combat foot pain and fatigue:

  1. I wear GOOD shoes.  This is on the top of my list of things to invest your hard-earned money in (as well as mattresses and pillows).  Don’t go cheap, because your body will be able to tell the difference sooner or later.  Though most good shoes are expensive, not all expensive shoes are good ones.  Good shoes for prolonged standing have good cushioning and arch support and are slightly bigger to accommodate for foot swelling.  You may even need 1/2 size bigger than your regular shoe.
  2. When I go on vacation I buy a cushioned gel insert for my boots.
  3. I wear knee high socks with light compression.  This helps to combat swelling.  You could wear stockings to combat swelling as well.
  4. Alternate standing with walking and periods of sitting.  Whenever possible, take a load off and elevate your feet up, even before fatigue has set in.  If you’re in the workplace and are in the same place for a prolonged period, try to use a stool to relieve the pressure periodically.
  5. Do a few calf raises.  To get the blood pumping out of my feet and legs and circulating back to my heart I do a few calf raises periodically in the day.
  6. As soon as I get home, I elevate my feet, pump my ankles back and forth,  and then give them a good rest.
  7. As mentioned previously, anti-fatigue mats are a good solution if you stand in one place for a long time.  I’ve seen people buy them for their kitchens and I have to say they are very comfortable.
  8. Of course, you could also ask for a good foot rub from your spouse

  1. (Meijsen, P & Hanneke, J. (2007).  Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of Perioperative Personnel in the Netherlands. AORN J 86: 193-208. []
  2. Orlando, AR & King, PM. (2004). Relationship of Demographic Variables on Perception of Fatigue and Discomfort Following Prolonged Standing Under Various Flooring Conditions. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, Vol. 14, No. 1, 63-76). []

My name is Monique Serpas, PT, DPT, OCS. I am a physical therapist and board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist practicing at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, LA. I realize how difficult it can be to overcome an injury or manage a chronic condition and am focused on helping my clients achieve wellness through a physically active lifestyle. I treat orthopaedic, balance, and vestibular disorders and practice using a combination of hands-on manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and education. This enables my patients to assist in their own recovery and injury prevention. I also have developed fall prevention and golf-related rehab programs in the past. I hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Concordia University Wisconsin (2008) and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Louisiana State University (2004). I am a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Louisiana Physical Therapy Association (LPTA), and the Orthopaedic and Neurology sections of the APTA.

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Physical Therapist at New Orleans' Touro Infirmary. I give my patients the information they need to live well.
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