Foot problems are common for anyone who stands for long periods of time throughout the day.
This is especially true for nurses who often work 12-hour shifts.
Those extended hours standing can lead to tired, achy feet.
There are many things nurses can do to prevent such problems from occurring.
How do nurses take care of their feet? Nurses can do several things to take care of their feet. They can start by wearing supportive footwear or shoe inserts. Once foot problems start, certain stretches or exercises can be performed to relieve pain. Finally, seeing a specialist for foot pain can often solve the problem.
*Disclosure: This article on nurse feet may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. This article shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. See your primary care provider before making any changes. For more info, please see my disclaimer.
How to Take Care of Your Feet as a Nurse
It’s important to address problems with the feet right away to keep them from getting worse.
The quicker the problems are addressed, the easier it is to reverse any damage that has been done.
1. Make Sure You’re Wearing the Right Shoes
Why are the right shoes so important?
Wearing the appropriate footwear for a nursing shift is important for many reasons- safety and comfort being the top reasons.
Nurses encounter many challenging situations during their shift, including slippery floors.
Non-slip footwear helps nurses avoid painful slips and falls that can occur on hard surfaces.
The best option for non-slip footwear is a pair with rubber outsoles.
Rubber offers the most traction on hard surfaces and keeps the feet from sliding on even the most slippery floors.
You can also add non-slip grips, spray, or tape to the bottom of shoes to provide more traction.
Shoes that are comfortable and supportive help prevent aches and pains from developing in the feet.
The right shoes should hug the heel and allow you to freely wiggle your toes.
Since shoe sizes can change with weight gain, weight loss, and other factors, you should have your feet measured by a professional at least once or twice a year. → (See our list of the best shoes for nurses on feet all day)
What kind of foot problems can develop from wearing ill-fitting shoes?
Shoes that are too big or small or the wrong shape can lead to some pretty significant foot problems.
Some of these foot problems may need to be treated by a physician while others can be solved by simply wearing better shoes.
Foot problems that can develop from wearing the wrong shoes include:
- Bunions– A bony knob that forms at the base of the big toe.
- Corns– Skin that calluses over and forms hard lumps on the toes.
- Hammer Toe– A toe that curls up or bends when shoes are too tight.
- Crossover Toe– A toe that crosses over the one next to it due to a too-tight toe box.
- Ingrown Toenail– A toe that is pressed up against another toe for too long, causing inflammation and pain in the toenail.
- Plantar Fasciitis– Strain on the plantar fascia due to inadequate foot support can cause tears, resulting in heel pain. → (see our list of recommended shoes for nurses with plantar fasciitis)
2. STOP Wearing Worn-Out Shoes
When should you replace your nursing shoes?
I like to save money as much as the next nurse, but there are times when not spending that money can end up costing you more in the long run.
When it comes to shoes I’ve had to learn that the hard way.
I’ll save you the long drawn out story. The point is your nursing shoes should be replaced about 2x a year.
I go into more detail on when nurses should replace their work shoes in the linked article.
3. Establish Good Habits Before, During, and After Your Shift
What can be done before, during, and after a shift to keep feet healthy?
Establishing a good foot care routine on work days can lead to healthier feet overall.
There are several things nurses can do, from the shoes they wear to the exercises they perform, to keep feet feeling their best during and after a long shift.
Before the start of any shift, make sure the proper footwear is being worn.
Shoes should hug the foot comfortably and allow the toes to wiggle freely, but should not slide up and down while walking.
Also, place any shoe inserts into the shoe prior to putting them on.
During a shift, perform foot and ankle exercises to alleviate any tension that can cause aches and pains.
Simple stretches, such as ankle rolls or calve raises, get the blood flowing to the feet.
More in-depth exercises, such as a toe extension, can help prevent or relieve pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
After a shift, reduce swelling by elevating your feet above your heart.
You can also soak your feet in warm water that has been infused with Epsom salt and essential oils for 10 to 15 minutes to relieve swelling and pain.
Gentle massage, either by hand or with a foot massager (like this one on Amazon), can also help.
4. Wear Good Shoe Inserts/Insoles
How can shoe inserts help relieve foot pain?
Shoe inserts are an easy, over-the-counter solution to many common foot ailments.
They’re soft and provide much-needed cushion for foot pain caused by standing on your feet for extended periods of time.
Orthotics are different from inserts in that they’re prescription-only and must be ordered through a physician’s office.
Orthotics are usually made from a rigid material that provides hard, structured support for people with flat feet, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, bursitis, and even diabetes.
While shoe inserts can help avoid and even relieve foot pain, they can’t solve severe foot problems.
In some cases, orthotics can prolong the need for surgery or even avoid it entirely.
If foot problems, like flat feet, are treated early enough with orthotics, it can prevent things like bunions from forming which may otherwise require surgery.
5. Wear Compression Socks
What else can be worn to help nurses take care of their feet?
Compression socks are an often overlooked tool that nurses can wear to prevent foot pain and other health problems.
They work by lightly applying pressure to the legs, ankles, and feet to keep blood flowing towards your heart.
When blood pools in the feet and lower leg area, it can cause swelling, pain, and even permanent problems like varicose veins.
Compression socks help avoid this. Most nurses only need non-medical support socks which are sold over-the-counter.
Nurses who travel for work should consider wearing compression socks during long trips where walking and stretching is not an option.
As with any new item, watch for any skin redness or irritation while wearing compression socks as this could be a sign that they don’t fit properly. →(see our list of the best compression socks for nurses)
6. Manage Your Body-Weight
Does diet and exercise play a role in foot health?
Diet and exercise affects every part of your body, including the feet. → (see weight loss tips for nurses)
Being overweight can cause excess pressure to be applied to the lower body, increasing the likeliness of pain, swelling, and problems like plantar fasciitis.
In addition, a diet high in sodium can lead to increased swelling in the feet and ankles.
Avoiding processed foods and foods high in sodium can help reduce the chances of this happening.
Staying hydrated with plenty of water is another good way to keep your feet healthy.
Proper hydration flushes toxins out of the body and also keeps blood flowing properly. →(see best water bottles for nurses)
Your skin, including the skin on your feet, will also be moisturized and supple.
Even if you’re on your feet for long periods of time, regular exercise is an important part of overall health.
Gentle exercise, such as yoga, is a great option for busy nurses.
You can even do it before your shift to warm up your body or after your shift to stretch out any aches and pains.
7. Treat Yourself to Pedicures
How important are pedicures?
You should really consider treating yourself to a pedicure more often.
For starters it has some great health benefits such as:
Personally, the mental health part is the most important because a pedicure really can be very relaxing.
8. Cut Your Toe Nails Often
Why cutting your toe nail is important?
If you’ve ever worn shoes with toenails that are really long, then you know how uncomfortable and painful it quickly becomes.
For those reasons make sure to keep your toe nails cut.
You should also avoid cutting your toenails too short as that can cause ingrown toenails which isn’t fun either.
9. Stay Off Your Feet During Your Shift When Possible
Even if you can’t find time to workout…
I know it’s hard.
I know many of you are going to think it’s impossible.
For some of you it might be really hard, but you need do find some time somewhere during your shift besides lunch (if you get one) to sit down and get off your feet.
A couple minutes every hour of just sitting down can make a difference on your feet.
10. Soak Your Feet
Why soaking your feet is beneficial.
First and foremost, foot soaks are very relaxing.
Secondly are the health benefits associated with them (these probably should be the #1 reasons)
Here are some of the health benefits of epsom salt foot soaks according to healthline.com.
Taking care of your feet is an important thing for nurses to do.
Foot pain can not only make you feel miserable, but it can also lead to further foot problems down the road.
Keeping your feet healthy with these lifestyle changes can make for an easier shift and happier feet.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Wear the Right Nurse Shoes
2. Stop Wearing Old Nurse Shoes
3. Establish Good Habits
4. Wear Good Inserts
5. Wear Compression Socks
6. Manage Your Body Weight
7. Get Pedicures
8. Cut Your Toe Nails
9. Stay Off Your Feet
10. Soak Your Feet
For nurses, taking care of your feet starts by making sure you have proper fitting shoes, inserts, and wearing compression socks. For continued problems make sure to see your primary care provider.