Heel Pain While at Work? It Might Be an Overuse Injury

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You job is a major aspect of your everyday life. It’s where you spend much of your time, it’s how you pay your bills, and sometimes it’s even a big part of your social life. But what happens when heel pain becomes one of your “diligent coworkers”?

Well, we can tell you right now that painful heels will easily make productive workdays miserable and, at times, even impossible. Many paychecks are lost every year due to employees suffering from heel pain (something that can often be traced back to how we stand, sit, walk and many other contributing factors – but more on that later).

And since this more-than-inconvenient condition can potentially force you off your feet and away from work, preventing it from happening in the first place is really quite important.

There is good news, however:

Though working on your feet can do a number on your heels, it doesn’t mean that you should suffer just because your job is an active one. Making some adjustments to your routine (along with professional treatment, if necessary) can help you get through your day with less pain and more energy to do the things you really love after you get home!

Is Your Heel Pain Caused by an Overuse Injury?

There is good chance that it is.

The truth is that heel pain can develop in several different ways and for many different reasons. However, the most common contributing factor is overuse and excessive pressure on the lower limbs. All those hours you’ve spent on your feet, all those times you’ve spent crouching, every step you’ve taken in ill-fitting shoes, they will all contribute to wear and tear of your heels.

Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis are the most common overuse injuries experienced in the heel. The extra pressure and stress on the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon can lead to tiny tears and thickening of the tissue due to scarring over time. And this all translates to that pain you may already know so well.

What’s more, when the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles become worn out and injured, your risk of developing instability in the ankles and experiencing sprains increases. Not to mention stress fractures – repeated force applied over time can lead to minor cracks which, when left untreated, can turn into bigger and more serious breaks in the future.

But What Caused This Overuse Injury?

Ok. So maybe you have developed an overuse injury – whether it be plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. But what caused it? (Other than being on your feet at work all day, of course).

Here are some things to take into consideration regarding heel pain at work.

Do you wear high heels at work?

Some jobs require employees to wear high heels as part of the dress code. But the higher the heel, the more pressure will be placed on the forefoot, which can lead to thickened tendons and shortened calf muscles.

We suggest you avoid wearing these types of footwear for long periods of time, as well as stretching your calf muscles before and after putting on these shoes and limiting the heel height to about 2 inches.

Are you wearing the right shoes for the job?

Heel pain may actually be your feet’s way of telling you that your shoes don’t fit properly or that they don’t provide the support and cushion you need. Whether you’re working on a building site, in a factory or on a shop floor, poorly fitting shoes will cause problems. Many employers will provide appropriate shoes based on job roles and safety standards. But all footwear must provide enough arch support and heel cushion.

What surfaces do you stand on most often? 

Concrete? Hardwood? Tile? Every step you take – especially on hard surfaces – is like a hammer being driven into the heel. Don’t forget the slippery floors, though, where falls may happen and twisted and sprained ankles (even possible fractured bones) can easily occur. When surfaces in the workplace are slippery, companies should provide non-slip footwear for their employees. (Yet again, footwear comes as a huge benefit.)

Do you stand for long hours while at work?

Maybe you are a teacher, a hairdresser, a factory worker or a retail associate, and your job requires you to spend many hours standing every day. Though our feet were made for walking and standing, if you throw the wrong shoes into the mix, heel pain will likely become a constant companion.

So What Can You Do About Your Heel Pain?

You may have noticed a common thread in the above contributing factors for heel pain. If you guessed “wearing the wrong shoes” then you guessed right!

However, there are many other ways you can prevent heel pain as you go about earning a living. Here are a few things you can try:

Wear the right shoes.

We cannot stress this enough – cushioned, supportive footwear that helps reduce stress on the back of the foot is absolutely crucial. Skip the high heels or uncomfortable dress shoes and stick to styles that help your feet absorb pressure and hard impacts.

Do some stretching.

Take time to stretch your calves, roll your ankles, wiggle your toes, and keep those leg and foot muscles as relaxed as possible. A few minutes of stretching every hour or so can really make a big difference.

Take regular breaks.

If you stand for most of the day, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to sit during your break time. The more you can alternate sitting and standing, the happier your heels will be.

Get a padded mat.

If you stand in one place a lot, ask for a padded mat to stand on. This softens the ground and reduces the pressure against the soles of your feet.

Consider wearing custom orthotics.

Sometimes, biomechanical inefficiencies in the way you stand or walk can cause heels to wear down faster, even if you’re wearing the right shoes. Custom-made orthotics can complement shoes by adding the extra support you need.

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