Podiatry and Foot Health in the Workplace

Foot injuries can affect your ability to work, walk, exercise, and perform everyday tasks. A Podiatrist can help you manage these injuries.

NHS England has developed a guide to increase routes into podiatry. This includes establishing podiatry pathways from the support workforce into FCP and advanced practitioner roles. It also encourages portfolio careers, which allows employees to pursue clinical and non-clinical interests.

Prolonged Standing or Walking

Many jobs involve prolonged periods of standing or walking. This can cause a number of different foot problems including pain, swelling and even numbness in the feet or legs. These symptoms can impact a person’s ability to carry out their work and if not managed effectively, they can lead to long term injury such as arthritis.

Studies have shown that workers who are constantly on their feet are more likely to suffer from a variety of health issues including low back pain, varicose veins, and chronic foot conditions like plantar fasciitis. Managing these health risks can be done by providing adequate technical interventions such as footwear that does not change the shape of the foot, has enough space to allow the toes to move comfortably, shock-absorbing cushioning insoles, and heels no higher than 5 cm, according to the Podiatry Board of Australia.

A podiatrist in High Wycombe can provide advice and treatment for a range of workplace-related foot conditions. They can also share practical foot care tips that can help prevent problems such as corns, calluses and bunions developing in the first place. They can also advise on the best shoes for your job and recommend stretches that can improve muscle strength. They can also prescribe orthotic inserts to correct poor foot posture and gait which is often a contributing factor in workplace-related foot problems. The Standards will support NHS managers in designing services that utilise the full skills mix of the foot health workforce to meet demand.

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Physical Activity

Often people who work on their feet for long periods of time are at risk of developing a number of concerning foot problems such as stress fractures, sprains and strains, calluses, corns, chilblains, or ingrown toenails. These can also be exacerbated by ill-fitting footwear. A podiatrist can offer personalised treatment such as orthotics and posture correction to improve these problems and ease pain, discomfort and fatigue caused by prolonged standing or walking.

Many of these foot problems are related to the type of work done and people who are more likely to suffer from these conditions include those in manual or manual labouring jobs, those who have a repetitive strain injury or those with diabetes. Having a podiatrist to consult regularly can help prevent these issues and also ensure that any injuries are treated early, effectively and in a timely manner.

To future-proof its podiatry service, NHS England has developed a roadmap for FCP and advanced practitioner roles along with a set of guidelines for the development of the NHS podiatry support workforce. It recommends creating a clear path into both the FHP and the NHS podiatry support workforce through accredited development routes, including BSc (Hons) degree courses, foundation degrees and apprenticeship pathways at levels 3 and 5. The RCPod has also developed an accreditation route to enable employers to recruit and retain these existing NHS podiatry support workers.

Wearing the Wrong Shoes

If you are working on your feet for extended periods of time, it is important to wear shoes that fit well, provide proper support, and allow your feet to breathe. Ill-fitting shoes can create a number of foot problems, from minor blisters and corns to stress fractures and long-term musculoskeletal issues. Additionally, improper footwear can cause changes in posture and gait, leading to imbalance and increased risk of injury.

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Whether it’s kitten heels with cargo pants or sneakers with a floral sundress, the latest styling trend to hit social media is all about pairing seemingly counterintuitive clothing pieces together. Aptly named the “wrong shoe theory,” it was pioneered by stylist Allison Bornstein in a viral video posted to TikTok last year, where she suggested that deliberately choosing a contrasting pair of shoes can elevate an outfit.

As a podiatrist, I am a huge proponent of the Wrong Shoe Theory and believe that it can be used to elevate your workwear wardrobe. Just be sure to stay mindful of proportions when trying out this style hack, and remember that the wrong shoes can lead to a variety of complex health issues including reduced mobility and balance, chronic pain, and even severe nerve damage. Maintaining regular foot hygiene routines, such as washing your feet every night with non-irritating soap and trimming toenails, can help to reduce the risk of developing these foot problems.

Working Conditions

The environment in which a person works can have a significant impact on foot problems. For example, working in a hot or cold climate or on slippery surfaces can be dangerous to feet.

A foot injury can result in discomfort or pain and limit an individual’s ability to work effectively. Ultimately this can lead to lost productivity and impact overall job satisfaction.

Research has shown that musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace are one of the most common reasons for time off from work. Implementing ergonomic principles and providing a range of foot care products like orthotics can help to prevent and treat work-related foot injuries.

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Podiatrists working in private practice face a particular challenge when it comes to reporting foot injuries as they are often self-employed and cannot afford the luxury of taking time off work. In addition, if they are in a busy clinic, their patients may not be able to wait for a podiatrist so they will not always report foot problems or seek treatment.

A survey of podiatrists found that those who had pain in the foot, lower leg and ankle reported it having a greater impact on their daily activities than the neck, shoulders or upper back. However, this could be due to selection bias as participants who were experiencing pain were more likely to respond to the survey.