Feet are often forgotten about until there is a problem such as being tired and achy at the end of the working day. Tired aching feet are reported more commonly in people that have to stand or walk long distances on hard ground for hours on end. Trades people are often coming into the clinic with sore feet. Those elastic sided boots and cemented grounds are doing your feet no favours. Other reasons why feet can get tired and achy include:
- Overuse to muscles, ligaments and bones
- The wrong shoes or new shoes
- Excessive weight
- Injury/trauma- new or old
- Flat feet and other biomechanical abnormalities
- Warts, ulcers, corns
- Bunions, hammer toes and other bony abnormalities
- Poor circulation
- Arthritis, gout
- Nerve impingement
- Tumours and inflammation
This list is long and it only covers the most common causes. It is recommended to see a health professional if your symptoms are chronic or if the area is swollen, has skin discolouration- red, blue, black or if the skin is broken and painful or ulcered. An accurate diagnosis will determine which of the twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, or the more than 100 muscles, ligaments, tendons, arteries, veins or lymphatics are the problem. By finding the cause, a plan can be put in place in reduce or resolve the symptoms.
Learning how to soothe achy feet at home or with treatment through a health professional will make your job and evening much more comfortable. The rest of this article will cover:
- What to do at home when your have tired aching feet
- Are there boot features that are best to wear to work?
- What exercises to do to the relieve your tired aching feet
- Who to see when the pain won’t go away
Tip 1: Elevate Your Feet
This tip is no excuse to not do the chores when you get home. After the chores are done, you can then put your tired aching feet up. Being on your feet all day means the veins/blood vessels that return your blood back to your heat have to work against gravity to do their job. In the hotter months your body gets rid of its extra heat through the bloodstream to the extremities (feet, hands, head).
Your feet get more blood in the hotter weather, which means more blood that your veins will struggle to return to your heart. If the veins can’t do their job properly, fluid pools resulting in swelling in your feet and legs.
Swelling can be reduced by elevating your legs, particularly if you lie with your feet above your heart level. Graduated compression stockings and gentle calf exercises such as calf raises can also promote return blood supply. Swelling is not just a sign that there is a problem but it is a problem itself. Swelling can cause discomfort by adding additional pressure on the circulatory system and skin.
Tip 2: Massage Tired Aching Feet
If you massage in the direction of the heart you can help your veins out by encouraging blood flow back to the heart. Massage also helps to relieve tight points within the multiple muscles or fascia (muscle coat) of the foot. Adding an anti-inflammatory cream to the massage can assist in reducing your discomfort. Fisiocrem is a safe and natural anti-inflammatory cream.
If you are super lucky you could get someone at home to do the massage, alternatively, massage your own feet with your hands or a trigger point ball. These spiky balls can be rolled under your arch in up and down motions and circular motions. Avoid excessive pressure to the heel and ball of the foot; concentrate on the arch. If you are at your local hardware, sometimes taking small steps over 19mm dowel is enough. It is recommended you purchase the dowel rather than rolling away in store.
Tip 3: Soak ‘Em – Foot Spa for Tired Aching Feet
Having a foot spa can feel as good as it looks for your tired aching feet. Soaking your feet in warm water with or without additives can help those tight muscles to relax and relieve discomfort. There is no consensus on what to add to the water, so I recommend finding something that works for you. As tradies are at greater risk of fungal infections because their feet are trapped inside a moist, warm shoe, I recommended killing two birds with one stone.
Using a product such as potassium permanganate (condy’s crystals) will help to address the fungal spores, while the heat of the bath will help the muscles relax. Other possible antifungal options are Nizoral Shampoo and lavender oil. Tea tree oil is better with bacterial infections. Products suggested to relax muscles are radox bath salts and EPSOM salts. Soaking your tired aching feet for even 5 minutes can be long enough to get the benefit of the antifungal or relaxation properties of the ingredients because even after drying your feet residual chemicals remain on your feet.
Tip 4: Stretching Your Legs
In addition to massaging your tired aching feet which will help to stretch out muscles and fascia (muscle coat), do some calf stretches. These can be performed with shoes on or off.
Tip 5: Strengthen Your Arches
Stronger feet and legs means more resilient muscles to fatigue. Muscles help to absorb weightbearing pressure; the bigger the muscle, the more shock that is absorbed. Muscles tell you when they are tired by causing an achy pain, burning pain or even by cramping.
First thing in the morning or a few hours after getting home from work, do this exercise to make your arches stronger.
It’s not just about strengthening feet, more research is coming out saying you need to strengthen the entire leg (gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves) to help absorb shock. So do some calf raises, squats and hamstring curls.
Tip 6: The Right Shoes
The way I see it, if you work on your feet all day, good shoes are an investment into your health and career. Over the last few years I’m seeing less and less people come in wearing elastic sided work boots. With some helpful podiatry advice my cousin’s heel pain dramatically reduced by switching from elastic sided work boots to lace ups. There are even lace up, zip up boots for easy removal when you need to go into a client’s home shoeless. Try to remember to relace every few days if you keep using the zipper.
Other important features are a thick sole, nothing too twisty and soft and appropriate toe protection such as steel or composite caps. Composite is a lighter material than steel but some employers request you wear steel.
Make sure you get fitted well, practice walking up and down a slope in the shoes to make sure no shoe edges bother you.
Remember to regularly replace your boots. The internal cushioning built into the shoes wears down. This cushioning helps to absorb shock when walking. On cemented grounds this is particularly important. Boots last for approximately 800-1000kms, even less if you are quite heavy.
For the female tradies, keep watching our blog, a new boot is going to be release later this year that meets the requirements of the female body, is light and supportive.
Tip 7: Lose Weight if Required
The foot carries 2-3 times your body weight when walking. Yes the foot is designed to be able to manage this but only to a certain limit. Excess weight means more pressure that the foot has to absorb, transfer and generate. In particular, bones and joints suffer from this increased load, stress fractures and heel spurs can result. Generalised muscle soreness is another common foot symptom of obesity and being overweight. Seeing that tradies are on their feet for long periods of time this means even more forces for the feet to cope with. Losing weight in a healthy way, by eating well, you will be giving your muscles and bones the nutrients required to stay healthy and resilient and should help you avoid tired aching feet.
Tip 8: See a Podiatrist
If you are unable to relieve your tired aching feet at home, seeing a podiatrist is a good idea. Podiatrists are health professionals that specialise in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of foot, ankle and lower extremity disorders.
Our practical hands consult people of all ages, we treat:
- Musculoskeletal foot pain: heel pain, bunion pain and pain around the ball of the feet. Sports and exercise related injuries: e.g. ankle injuries, achilles tendonitis and stress fractures.
- Problem toenails and skin: e.g. ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, thickened toenails, corns, calluses, warts, blisters, cracked heels and wounds.
- People with diabetes: to perform a foot risk assessment and provide advice on a daily care routine to reduce the risk of injuries and complications.
- Children’s feet: e.g. flat feet, toe walking, in-toed gait, out-toed gait, tired legs, constant tripping, knock knees, bow legs, excessive shoe wear and generalised flexible joints. Foot and ankle dysfunction in children can lead to more complex foot and leg problems later in life.
So what should you expect from a consultation with a podiatrist?
- Background information should be collected to understand your medical conditions
- Questions about your pain will be asked to help with the diagnosis
- Physical examination of the skin, toenails, pulses, muscles, joints and ligaments
- A standing, walking and/or running analysis
- A treatment plan will be discussed. A podiatrist can offer conservative approaches to your foot pain including ‘hands on’ techniques such as mobilization, massage and dry needling. Foot orthoses, taping or braces may be requires to assist your biomechanics.
- Advice on the best possible footwear for your work, home and physical activities.
Some conditions that podiatrists see:
Tip 9: See Your General Practitioner
Your GP can help to rule out more sinister causes of your foot pain such as underlying systemic problems including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis or local conditions including infection and fractures. A referral for an x-ray, bone scans, ultrasound imaging, MRI, CT scans or blood series may be warranted. Podiatrists can also refer for medical imaging but Medicare rebates may only apply for x-rays and ultrasound imaging. Your GP may recommend pharmacological pain management such as ibuprofen or a codeine based drug.
So remember, as mentioned above see a health professional if your symptoms are long standing or if the area is swollen, has skin discolouration- red, blue, black or if the skin is broken and painful or ulcered. These are signs and symptoms that indicate that the cause of your foot pain may not go away by itself and that you need professional advice.