There has been a significant shift in many Canadians’ work-life over the past year and a half. As remote work becomes increasingly prevalent, and preferable for many, more and more people are working from the comfort of their homes.
In fact, at the beginning of 2021, 32% of Canadian employees aged 15-69 worked most of their hours from home, compared with 4% in 2016, according to Statistics Canada. Although remote work eliminates the need for commuting, it comes with certain lifestyle changes that affect our bodies – including our feet. For instance, sitting for long periods of time can have effects on our feet and legs.
In addition, prior to the pandemic, most of us wore shoes for the duration of the workday. Suddenly, many people are working from home and either aren’t wearing shoes or are wearing shoes less than before. This change has contributed to some people developing foot or lower leg pain.
In this article, we break down certain risk factors for working from home, as well as how to maintain healthy feet.
Barefoot at home
A major shift in the work-from-home transition is that people working remotely are likely barefoot for most of the day. Of course, the profession you work in has a direct relationship with specific foot condition risk factors, but generally, those who work from home aren’t wearing shoes like they would in the office.
While being barefoot is not inherently bad, doing too much too soon (especially on hard surfaces) can put you at risk of certain foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, or strained calves. To help reduce the risk of at-home injury, you can wear supportive footwear either all the time or on occasion to give your feet a break. In essence, you can wear them like you would wear a house slipper, but with much more support.
We recommend a sandal that you can easily slide in and out of with firm arch support and shock absorption, like Birkenstocks or Mephistos. You can also get orthopaedic slippers or orthopedic footwear. Orthopedic shoes are specially designed footwear that provide more support for the feet and ankles than basic footwear. They are essentially the gold standard of footwear, and are a great option if you have joint and muscle concerns in your lower body. Brands such as Anodyne and Portofino even carry an orthopaedic house slipper: It combines the strong supportive midsole and footbed of a regular shoe with the cozy comfort of a slipper!
Here at Toronto’s leading foot clinic, you can book a footwear assessment with a chiropodist to figure out the best footwear option for you. You can also drop-in if you already know what kind of footwear you’d like.
Stand up regularly and stretch
Compared to working in the office where you socialize, get up and walk around, commute, and collaborate with coworkers, working from home can be a lot more sedentary. It’s not just our movements, but the time we spend working as well. According to Statistics Canada, 35% of all new teleworkers and 51% of managers reported working longer hours from home.
This means we’re likely sitting (or standing) for longer periods of time than we were pre-pandemic. Think about it: how close do you get to your daily 10,000 step count now if you work from home versus when you commuted to the office? Research from Statistics Canada has shown that physical inactivity or sedentary time is associated with a higher risk for chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
Being stationary for long periods of time can also put you at risk for the following foot conditions:
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in your legs. DVT can cause leg pain or swelling. Especially when sitting, blood pools in your legs and blood flow lessens. This can lead to blood clots as your blood isn’t entering and exiting your lower extremities as quickly.
- Edema: Edema is the medical term for swelling. Have you ever noticed that your legs are more swollen later in the day, especially after sitting for long periods? This condition occurs when your blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissues.
- Varicose Veins: Varicose Veins are swollen, twisted veins that are typically visible just below the surface of the skin. The actual cause is weak or damaged vein walls and valves.
Standing up, moving around and stretching periodically helps encourage blood flow throughout your body, and can help prevent the conditions you see above. Additionally, investing in compression stockings can be beneficial. These are specialized garments that put therapeutic pressure on your legs in order to increase circulation and prevent swelling.
One major byproduct of working from home (and sitting for long periods of time) is inflammation.
Even avoiding certain foods can help prevent inflammation. For example, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, fried foods, artificial trans fats, vegetable oils, and refined carbohydrates all induce inflammation. On the other hand, there are certain foods that can fight inflammation. These include vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, kale, and collards), nuts, fatty fish, fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges), and even coffee.
Another way to reduce inflammation is to drink water. Something as simple as staying hydrated throughout the day will, by extension, force you to get up to go to the bathroom. This is a double-win: You stay hydrated and you have a reason to get up and walk around.
Understand and use your extended health benefits
If you work full-time, it’s likely that you have some sort of health insurance through your employer. Extended health insurance can cover certain services and products like massages, physiotherapy, compression stockings, and much more.
Extended health insurance may have coverage for chiropody visits and devices dispensed from the clinic. Patients should consult their insurance provider regarding coverage prior to any appointment. Our staff can also help decipher your coverage.
Medical footwear products prescribed by the chiropodist during your assessment, such as compression stockings, custom orthotics, orthopaedic shoes, modified shoes, or custom shoes, may also be covered by private health benefits in full or in part. Footwear and foot care products are usually under a separate line item than assessments and services. We recommend checking your benefits coverage or obtaining a quote if you’re unsure about your coverage.
Understanding your benefits and using them to their full extent not only maximizes their value, but also provides you helpful care if you feel sore.
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