How to Choose The Best Shoes for Standing All Day

Almost everyone is aware of how sitting at work deteriorates your health and your body, and many employers are taking steps to make sure that their office jobs are less sedentary. However, recent studies show that standing at work all day can be as bad for your health, your feet, your spine, and even your heart, as sitting all day. Standing exposes you to a variety of health risks and hazards when compared to jobs with more mobility, or even desk jobs where you sit all day.

Since so many professions require standing all day, it’s a widespread health risk for workers of all kinds. And it may mean that workers who have switched from seated desks to standing desks aren’t actually any better off than they were before. We’re examining the science and the health risks, and then exploring ways for you to reduce those risks at work, including choosing the best shoes for standing all day.

Best Men’s Shoes for Standing All Day

Health Risks of Standing All Day

While a number of studies in recent years have explored the health hazards of occupational sitting, we are only now starting to evaluate the health risks of occupational standing. And yet, according to a large study in Ontario Canada, standing at work nearly doubles the risk of heart disease over sitting. According to researchers who followed over 7,000 people for a 12-year period, standing at work doubles the cardiovascular risk, as well as other health problems like musculoskeletal pain.

In fact, jobs that involve more than 60% of the time standing still, like retail, bartending, cashiering, assembly line workers, security staff, hair stylists, and others, are at elevated risk for a number of health problems. Some of these problems include:

  • Slouching and Poor Posture

The skeleton is designed to be upright, with the pelvis directly beneath and supporting the spine, and the spine directly beneath and supporting the head. When we stand for extended periods, of time, we tend to throw our skeletons off balance, either by rounding the upper body and sagging the shoulders into a slouch or by tilting the pelvis and keeping our weight on one foot. In the short term, this compresses the lungs and other internal organs, keeping them from functioning as well as they could. In the long term, the supporting and stabilizing muscles of the body weaken, further keeping the body out of alignment and leading to joint and muscle pain.

  • Varicose Veins

The body uses the exertion of the leg muscles to help return blood from the lower body back up to the heart against the pull of gravity. If the legs are not in motion for long periods, leg veins can become enlarged and twisted, due to the weakening of the valves. Varicose veins are unsightly, and often not a health risk. However, in severe cases, varicose veins can be painful and associated with swelling, skin thickening, even eczema, and ulceration.

  • Cardiovascular Disease

Standing forces the heart to work harder to fight the forces of gravity to return blood to the heart and upper body, changing the distribution of blood (and therefore oxygen and nutrients) in the body. Multiple studies have shown that prolonged occupational standing is associated with atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries. While atherosclerosis itself is not a disease, it is strongly associated with a range of heart diseases, including coronary artery disease, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and even aneurysms and strokes.

  • Joint Compression

The prolonged downward pressure of gravity can exacerbate joint compression in the spine and knees, degenerating cartilage and causing pain and inflammation.

  • Muscle Fatigue

It may seem surprising that simply standing in one place can cause muscle fatigue, but in fact holding the body in one place is as tiring for the muscles as any other prolonged exertion. Muscle fatigue leads to painful soreness, can cause night cramps and weakness, and can also lead to workplace injuries and illnesses.

How to Protect Yourself If You Have a Standing Job

Growing awareness of these health risks and problems is leading many employers and workplace safety experts to reassess many of these occupations, and studies have shown that sit-stand workspaces do not reduce productivity. But the reality is that this kind of change is likely to happen slowly and perhaps be impossible in some occupations.

If you have a job that requires you to stand all day, it’s important to protect your own health and make the changes you can to reduce the problems of standing. Here are some practices that will help offset the problems of standing all day at work.

  • Exercise for Balance and Posture

Incorporating 20 minutes a day of yoga, Pilates, or tai chi promotes stability, flexibility, balance, and posture. These kinds of exercises improve your overall blood flow and cardiovascular health, as well as strengthening the muscles that hold you upright and support the spine. For standing occupations, these fluid exercises are more helpful than repetitive motions like running or lifting.

  • Practice Your Alignment

Practice standing with your weight evenly balanced between both legs, and your weight directly over your feet, with your shoulders back and head upright. Check your alignment and balance several times a day, and try to make it a habit of standing in this way.

  • Incorporate Movement Into Your Breaks

It’s natural, due to pain and fatigue, to want to spend breaks and lunches sitting down. However, a quick period of exercise during a break can help energize you and reduce fatigue, as well as protecting your long-term health. A brisk walk around the building, a set of jumping jacks, or just a minute or two of marching with high knees will relieve muscle stress and help your heart.

  • Move Around During Your Shift

While you may not be able to leave your station, you may be able to incorporate a few seconds of bends and stretches here and there throughout the day. Help your heart with some quick pliés, squats, or lunges to promote circulation in your lower body, or just shake and flex your legs and feet from time to time.

  • Check Your Surface

Standing on a hard floor is the worst-case scenario for your long-term health. If your employer won’t provide a cork or rubber mat for you, it may be worth investing in buying one for yourself. Anti-Fatigue floor mats reduce stress and strain on feet and knees.

  • Choose The Right Footwear

If you stand all day at work, it’s critical to have the right footwear to protect your joints and your overall health. Good shoes will support your spine, relieve pressure points, and protect your health.

What to Look for in Shoes for Standing All Day?

When looking for the best shoes to wear for extended standing, there are several important features to consider.

  • Fit

You would be surprised how many people habitually wear shoes that don’t fit correctly. Fit doesn’t just refer to the length and width of the feet, but also to the height of the arches and stretch across the top of the foot. If necessary, have your feet professionally measured to make sure your work shoes fit properly and pay more for the right fit. A pair of shoes may be expertly designed and have all the features that you need, but if they don’t fit correctly they will not be comfortable, and not provide the support and protection you need.

For those who work while standing, remember that your feet are likely to swell over the course of the day, and be larger in the evening than they were in the morning. It’s a good idea to test the fit of new shoes after work rather than before.

  • Toes

Properly fitting shoes will give you ½-1 inch of room above your longest toe because your foot naturally slides forward and back a bit inside the shoe as you step. Your toes should have some freedom of movement within the shoe and not bind or constrict.

  • Heel

Properly fitting shoes should gently cradle your heel. If you put the shoe on loosely, without tying or lacing it, and lift your foot straight up, the shoe should rise with your foot, loosely held on to your heel, but not feel grippy or tight.

  • Arch

When standing in the shoe, you should feel the whole surface of your foot in contact with the inside of the shoe. You shouldn’t feel a gap of air between the shoe and the arch of your foot.

  • Top of The Foot

When the shoe is laced or zipped, you shouldn’t feel any binding or constriction across the top of your foot.

  • Support

The arch of your foot is a slender, delicate part of the body, but essential for balance and stability when standing. If you have high arches, you may require additional support inside the shoe to withstand the strain of standing all day, either by finding a shoe that naturally fits your arch, finding a shoe with additional arch support built in, or adding insoles or other supportive accessories.

  • Cushioning

When standing all day, cushioning is more important than shock absorption, because the foot doesn’t deal with frequent hard impacts, but instead it has to manage prolonged compression. Cushioning provides comfort, protects the foot from hard surfaces, and conforms to the foot to accommodate shifts in weight and balance. The shoe should be rigid enough to provide support and structure, but soft enough to provide balance and comfort.

  • Heel Height

While women’s high-heeled shoes are a source of a number of foot problems, studies have actually shown that a slightly increasing heel height provides more pain relief than flat shoes. Lifting the heel slightly shifts load bearing in the body and reduces compression. A heel height from 2-3 cm is ideal for preventing pain in the feet and lower back in both men and women.

How to Take Care of Shoes When You Stand All Day at Work

Remember that your shoes will compress over time, just like your feet do, and the cushioning and support will degrade over time. If you stand all day at work, you should replace your shoes every six months in order to continue to get all the benefits and the most protection from your shoes.

Also, it’s best to not wear the same pair of shoes every single day. Once you have the work shoes you like best for standing all day, get a second pair and alternate. Shoes should be allowed to thoroughly dry and air out in between wearing, in order to prolong the life of the shoes and prevent unwanted moisture and odor.

Conclusion

If you stand in one place all day at work, it can expose you to an elevated risk of heart disease, joint compression, and pain. It’s more dangerous than people think, and more dangerous than jobs that require you to sit all day, so people who think that standing desks are a better way to protect their health may be mistaken; in the long run, the risks may be even greater. The real danger isn’t standing or sitting, it’s being sedentary and going without movement for prolonged periods of time.

However, there are ways to reduce your risk. By wearing the right shoes, incorporating movement into your routine, and practicing healthier habits, you can reduce your risk for health problems related to standing all day. And the best shoes for standing all day will also keep you more comfortable, which can improve focus and productivity as well as health.

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