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Nurses spend countless hours on their feet. And it can cause them to hurt—a lot. So we consulted with a professional to find out how you can treat your feet right and avoid pain whenever possible. Dr. Grace Torres-Hodges, DPM, is a board-certified podiatrist in private practice in Pensacola, Florida, as well as a member and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

She took time to answer questions about how nurses can treat their feet.

What can nurses do to treat their feet well while they are actually on them? Walk/stand a certain way? Rest them if possible?

Nurses should consider themselves as athletes and that their job—especially on the hospital floor—is like playing a sport. It can be a true workout, especially as miles can accumulate walking the floors, and there is regular demand on the joints with bending, squatting, reaching, and lifting.  The amount of pressure that puts on the feet is taxing. 

So first off, eating healthy is important; stay hydrated, and avoid salty foods that can cause swelling. Wear compression socks and/or compression sleeves to reduce the degree of swelling of the skin in the legs. Meditate and stretch daily before and after a shift, as it is so important to take care of yourself before taking care of others. Wear wicking socks to draw the moisture away from the skin as with all that activity, feet will sweat.

What should nurses look for in a shoe/sneaker to wear while working? Should they have more than one pair to rotate them out?

Wearing comfortable shoes is key! Again, like an athlete, it’s part of their gear/equipment. Make sure that when buying shoes:

  • Try on shoes at the end of the day, as that is when the foot is the largest.
  • Make sure that the shoe bends where the toes bend (don’t just go by size)—try on both shoes.
  • Make sure that there is a sturdy heel counter (squeeze the back of the shoe, and it should be firm. If it is a clog/mule, it should have a sturdy strap so that the heel doesn’t shift from side to side).
  • Make sure that the sole of the shoe is made of a material that is non-slip and water-resistant.
  • Look for a cushioned shoe to accommodate shock (recommend using sneakers as it has a cushioned inner sole, a shock absorbing midsole, and a protective, tractioned rubber outer sole. 
  • And don’t forget to rotate your shoes. With that much mileage on your feet, you treat them like your tires.

What nurses can do to soothe or treat their feet after a long day?

Soaking at the end of the day is therapeutic—not only for hygiene, but to soothe the musculature. Many times, contrast baths can be quite effective, as going from warm to cold and warm again allow for the musculature to contract and expand. Massage is effective as well whether it is manual or with some device like a ball or roller. Also, it is important to protect the skin, as it is the body’s natural deterrent from infection. Avoid skin that is too dry or too wet. Inspect your feet regularly. Dry well between your toes and use a daily moisturizer.  

What would readers be surprised to know about treating their feet right?

Pay attention to your nails; they can indicate a health history. The color, texture, and growth rate of the nails can be an indicator of disease, diet, infection, or injury. 

Be cautious at nail salons, and don’t let your guard down. You are doing your best at work to take care of your feet, and you would not want a moment of relaxation to result in pain, ingrown toenails, and/or infection. There are some great pedicure pointers from the APMA.

Is there anything else that is important for our readers to know?

Nurses need to remember to take care of their feet! Nurses are such a vital part of any health care team. For all the compassion and care that they provide to those they tend to, nurses often put their needs above others. They need to remember to take care of themselves—and especially their feet—to help keep them going.

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