Work can be tedious and demanding. When you have to be on your feet all day, shoe comfort is a must. Nurses, first responders, highway road crews, restaurant waitstaff, teachers and mail carriers are just some of the professions that require a whole lot of "foot time." Footwear is as much a part of your work equipment as any other. When your feet hurt, it isn't easy to be at your best.
Certain jobs require specific shoes or boots -- in terms of color, style or special features, such as steel toes -- but there is usually some choice, so don't just choose your footwear based on what a co-worker is wearing. Your feet are unique to you, and though the exterior style might be limited, different manufacturers offer different arch supports, cushioning, materials and construction, so be sure to look around.
First responders and construction workers need to keep the dangers they work with in mind when choosing features. Anyone working on urban sidewalks or pavement should look toward high-traction work boots with small tread for a safe grip on the streets. In warm climates, choose a material that is breathable. Choose reinforced toes (steel, composite or aluminum) if there is any possibility of heavy objects falling on your feet. Select footwear with puncture plates and electrical resistance for safety in construction areas. Also, be sure to pick boots that comply with the requirements outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Some of the most common shoes in the nursing field are clogs, Crocs and athletic shoes. Although nursing shoes normally feature sturdy construction, they also tend to be made from lightweight materials to reduce the strain of walking around all day. The upper material of the shoe should be easy to clean and resistant to the spills nurses normally encounter. Keep your arch in mind when choosing your shoe to reduce fatigue and back pain.
Over-the-counter shoe inserts and custom-made orthotics can help, too. Common shoe inserts are arch supports, insoles, heel liners and foot cushions. If you have serious foot discomfort, consider visiting a podiatrist for prescription orthotics that are completely customized for your feet and health.
*What to Do When Choosing Comfortable Shoes
--Look for sturdy construction. Push in at the heel section. If it collapses to the inner sole, it won't provide enough support. The arch should be sturdy. If you have high arches, a small lift -- in pumps and wedges, for example -- can offer more arch support. If you're wearing pumps, the heel should be directly under the center of your heel.
--Press on the insole at the ball of the foot to see whether there is any cushioning. If you are able, choose shoes with leather or suede insoles. They are breathable and pliable, help prevent chafing and blistering, and mold to the feet.
--The toe area should be wide enough to fit the ball of your foot. Look for rounded toes, false fronts in pointed shoes (the toe area needs to be longer than your foot so toes won't get squeezed) and enough cushioned area in sandals or open-toed shoes for the widest part of your foot.
--The shoe selected should offer good grip, slip resistance and traction, especially when outside or indoors where spills could be commonplace.
--First responders should choose footwear that's waterproof and resistant to blood-borne pathogens. Boots should fit comfortably and provide ankle support. Run your hands inside the boot, feeling for any seams that might chafe. A good choice for urban wildland work is sturdy leather uppers that are 8 to 10 inches high and have lug soles and breathable vapor barrier linings.
--Always try the footwear on. Don't just choose size or width based on other shoes. Make sure you're wearing appropriate socks or stockings. Choose a fit that is snug, but not tight, and holds to your foot to prevent slipping and blisters. Get fitted for shoes at the end of a typical workday to allow for the swelling that occurs.