For certain types of jobs, it’s difficult to exaggerate the importance of the right shoe. It’ll protect your feet from falling objects, and from any hazards that might have fallen onto the floor. But just about every job that involves standing up and walking around is made easier when it’s done in a pair of shoes that are appropriate for the task.
Of course, not all jobs are the same, and neither are shoes. What works in a building site might not be so effective in, say, a hospital. Let’s take a look at the often-neglected topic of workplace footwear.
How shoe choice has a big impact on health
Your feet play a critical role in absorbing the impact of your working day. If you’re standing for long periods of time in footwear that isn’t appropriate, then they’ll begin to suffer. The arches might ache after a long day, or your toes might start to creak after being forced together.
An imbalance in your feet can spread up to affect your legs and lower back. Moreover, if you’re not sure on your feet, you’ll be more vulnerable to slips and falls.
In some cases, your employer might have a legal duty to provide the right footwear. According to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1999, risks which have been identified must be controlled for, sometimes via PPE. This might include footwear. If footwear of this kind is necessary for you to do your job, then it must be provided for free.
What to look for in footwear
The most important quality of a shoe is its size. If your shoe is slightly too small or slightly too big, then you’re almost guaranteed to run into problems in the long-term. Measure both of your feet and try on both shoes. Make sure that your toes have enough room to flex – if they don’t, then you won’t be walking properly. It’s better to go for cheap shoes that fit properly than expensive ones that don’t.
Make sure that the shoes have grip enough for the environment you’re going to be working in, so you can avoid slipping. The sole should be flexible enough to cushion every step, and the heel should be low to the ground, especially if you’re standing for long periods. Your heel should not move around in the shoe when you take a step.
The top of the shoe should be breathable, but it should still be water-resistant, especially if you’re going to be working outdoors. Your company’s dress code should not prevent you from wearing footwear that is comfortable and safe.
Prolonged standing can be just as dangerous as prolonged sitting, no matter what kind of shoe is worn. According to a report from the Trades Union Congress: “It is normally recommended that workers should spend no more than 30 percent of their working day standing.”
While this isn’t an achievable target for everyone, it’s still worth thinking about reducing your time on your feet, wherever you catch a break.