Barefoot shoes at work (nurse)
I run with vibrams and soon after getting used to those I changed my work shoes to Merell Barefoot Pace Glove. Being a nurse, I am on my feet the whole time at work. When wearing 'conventional' sensible nursing shoes with a bit of a heel I noticed I would get a bit of lower back pain. The change to barefoot eliminated the back pain but with the thin sole I find that the soles of my feet ache more, my knees ache at the end of a shift too.
This week I began working on a 12 hour roster and did three 12 hour shifts in a row. My feet were throbbing at the end of the days and this morning on my first day off I got out of bed and my feet were sore on hitting the ground. Knees are a little achey too.
I was talking about this to a couple of workmates and they of course advised I wear a more supportive shoe like a birkenstock clog. They rave about how comfy they are.
Now I'm wondering if there's something wrong with my barefoot walking technique? Surely the natural way should be the least painful and better for my body.
Does anyone have advice on why my feet are so achey, if I'm doing the right thing going 'barefoot' style for a 12 hour shift on my feet, or any posture/technique flaws that might be causing my problems?
I'd love to hear what other primal nurses do..
i'm not a nurse, but i am used to spending whole workdays on my feet at a stand up desk. i wear minimalist shoes too--usually water shoes to the merrell barefoots, and i just picked up a pair of slipper shoes to try out (thick sole, but zero heel drop, good flexibility and to box, and warm). my feet and legs would get a little sore when i first switched to standing all day. periodic sitting is helpful, as is keeping moving (which i'm' sure you do plenty). i also try to sort of stretch my feet from time to time...curl my toes under, bend them backwards, do some dorsiflection (Achilles stretch), etc.
as for barefoot style or technique, it's hard to say if you're doing anything wrong unless you can share how you are standing and moving. are you heel striking? standing unevenly? staying on your toes the whole day?
and, are you new to spending the whole day in minimalist shoes? if so, it takes some adjustment. that might mean finding a cheap nearly minimalist option (maybe crocs, converse...those slipper shoes are great), or just trying to find some more time off your feet.
You may need to strengthen your leg tendons and harden your feet.
Basically: run barefoot on soft ground a bit, tap your toes and rock on your toes and heels when standing still or sitting (encourages the tendons and muscles in the front of your lower-leg to strengthen: they help support the knee), clench and unclench toes and spend as much of your time barefoot as possible (but ease yourself into rocks and tarmack, as abrasions, blisters and the likes can happen if your feet aren't strong enough yet!) Also, see if you can master "locking" your legs. If you're standing and not toe-tapping, try and tense your quadriceps and hamstrings. Then, slowly let them relax until, effortlessly, your legs are "locked" in one position. This helps to ease any excess weight put on the joints whilst standing still.
PS: another trick is to sometimes walk a bit on your toes, sometimes more on the side of your foot and ALWAYS place your foot down and lean your weight into it when walking. Too many people, due to always walking on cushioned ground/shoes, seem to think it's appropriate to basically throw/drop your weight into one leg by springing off the other. Not healthy. Make sure you don't do it.
Last edited by Kochin; 11-12-2012 at 12:25 PM.
same problem here
Hi Bern, I have the SAME problem like you. I started working in an ED, work 3x12hr shifts and I can not make it thru the shift without wearing Dansko clogs. When I wear Birkenstock clogs, which have no heal, I hurt! I can normally wear Vibrams all day and not have any issues or pain. I have read some of the advice and I plan to implement that slowly while I work. I will also try to put back the Birkenstock for perhaps one shift a week to get used to it.
I just wanted to say hi and commiserate with you.
from Colorado USA
Originally Posted by Bern
Ah, I may have the solution to your problem. It sounds like you might not be appropriately stretching your feet. The tendons get short and when you put your weight on your feet, it could be that you force them to stretch out and cause some tearing. I had that once and it started out with the throbbing, until it progressed to feeling like stepping on a needle.
You could check this easily. Put your fingers in the space between your toes, pull your toes up with your hand and massage the muscles/tendons of your sole, and stand with your toes on a stair and drop your heal down slightly to stretch the achilles tendon. If you feel discomfort doing any of this, then chances are you need to implement a daily foot massage into your workout routine
EDIT PS: If this really IS your problem, then I'll have to oppose Kochin and tell you to NOT walk on the sides of your feet. It will put weight on them incorrectly, some muscles will tense in funny ways and they'll get too short, while others get an unnatural workload. Not saying it's terrible thing to walk on the sides or toes of your feet, but doing so consciously could give you some bad habits that will be tricky to drop.
Last edited by Reindeer; 04-09-2013 at 08:51 AM.
I also wear Vibrams and barefoot shoes, usually quite comfortably. However, I have wondered about walking for exercise in them--my walking route is of necessity mostly paved. I have been trying for a more midfoot stride, which I think helps. My feet are pretty strong, as I do a lot of vigorous (Afro-Brazilian) dancing barefoot--I'm sure exercises and stretches might help, but I don't think it's a central issue.
Mostly, it seems unlikely to me that our bodies are designed to walk long distances on extremely hard surfaces. There is no way that my minimal daily walk covers the kind of mileage you are doing during a 12 hour shift, and last I checked, hospital floors are just tiled-over concrete. I wonder if it would help to get one of the semi-barefoot shoes--zero drop, no arch, but maybe with a more cushiony sole? Or you might be able to find a flat insole to put in your current shoes, just to give yourself a little more shock absorption.
Originally Posted by SuBee
We didn't evolve to stand and walk all day on tile, concrete, wood, or asphalt.
When I know I'm going to be on my feet all day on a hard surface, I wear my Saucony Virratas. They're zero-drop, lightweight, flexible, and have enough cushioning to keep my feet and legs comfortable. I think of the cushioning as being my own personal layer of soft dirt under my feet (plus it's clean and portable!)
There are more and more choices of zero-drop shoes; do a interwebs search and then try some on.
I wear the old NB minimus for a shift, and don't have any problems. Before that, I wore the flat alegrias....the sole is squishy but not much heel drop.
I don't see what's wrong with a thin insole, if it helps, as I think others said in the thread.
Originally Posted by Bern
Nobody mentioned what you'd said about your knees, but I wondered about that. Of course, once you make a change anywhere there are knock-on effects everywhere else: heels on shoes immediately have an effect on knees, hips, and, of course, back ... and probably further up all the way to the head/neck relation, too.
You don't say what you're experiencing in the knees. Is it muscular aches around them?
One habit you may have is leaning forwards or backwards -- a lot of people do. Have a look at people while waiting on a railway platform or something some time, and you'll see. Now, once you do that, the only way you can stop yourself falling over is by tightening muscles in the legs. But you should stand by balance, not tension.
Some time when you're not tired and have got time, you can try this. Stand barefoot and allow yourself to become really quiet. Let any tension you're aware of go. Think of the muscles in your neck releasing -- don't try to do that; just think it -- and of your head floating gently forwards and up. You can also think of your heels releasing into the floor. You should now be reasonably balanced and upright -- you'll have some imbalances you're not aware of (everyone does), but it's a start. Trying to stand upright -- in the military way -- is a great mistake, and actually pulls you down. You have to release into it.
Now, having down that, deliberately lean a fair way forwards or backwards. Why not try both in turn? You should feel the muscles tightening to stop you falling over. See if you can be aware of where that tightening is happening. It's an interesting thing to do.
The point of that activity is that many people have imbalanced ways of standing, in particular leaning forwards or backwards. That leads to tightening of those muscles -- if you didn't you'd fall over. But one's not consciously aware of doing that. Leaning backwards can be an effect of heels -- because the heels tip you forwards. Take the heels away and you would probably still retain the habit, but all the adjustments would be different. Perhaps a muscular ache might be something to do with that ...
But i don't know. You didn't say much about how your knees hurt.
When I would be on my feet for 16+ hours a day for work, one trick we used was to have 2 pairs of shoes and change them out on one of our breaks... doesn't matter if it's the same exact shoe, a fresh pair of shoes felt like magic. Now, that was with non-minimalist shoes, and I question if the "fresh" feeling was that the padding hadn't been compressed by my weight for 8-12 hours?
I actually used to LOVE birkenstocks (haven't worn mine in awhile, but not because I don't like 'em)... they're zero drop, so as long as they fit your feet (no hot spots - these are common) I don't see them as a bad option?
Also, if you're not truly used to being "barefoot" your legs will be sore until you build those muscles. That's why the fivefingers instructions say not to wear them for more than an hour or two the first time, otherwise you'll be in pain and hate the shoes. (though that's not actually the case if you were already walking around barefoot, but shhhhh....
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