You’re on your feet for 90 percent of your shift, right? I don’t have to tell you how important well-fitting shoes are. But for those who are new to nursing, I'll say this: poorly fitted shoes will slow you down, and they also expose you to a laundry list of foot maladies. Over time, these afflictions add up, further hampering your ability to flit from patient to patient. You know that nurse who's always complaining about their feet? Follow this concise guide to avoid that path.
Avoid These Foot Conditions with Proper Footwear
Poorly fitting shoes can cause or contribute to the following conditions:
- Athletes foot. Caused by minute fungi, athlete's foot can thrive in too-small shoes. Guess what? T. mentagrophytes—along with Candida, the cause of thrush—also thrives in hospitals. Athlete's foot presents with intense burning, stinging, itching and scaling. The scaling, a thin white layer atop the skin, is fungus buildup. Athlete's foot is also prevalent in locker rooms and especially showers.
- Blisters. Shoes that are too big or too small can cause blisters. All it takes is a rough spot that grates against the skin. A blister—a sack of liquid—protects the delicate tissues below. Any further contact with irritants will cause intense pain—duh.
- Callouses. The body has another trick up its sleeve to deal with friction. If a small area of the body is rubbed repeatedly, the body will add layers of skin cells like a bricklayer trying to fortify a wall. Fun fact: guitar players build up thick callouses on their fingers. Callouses can be relatively flat, but when the body builds them high, they’re known as “corns.” Corns are common on the toes and the sole of the foot. Corns can be an issue when you shop for shoes because they take up precious space. Therefore, corns—which are typically yellow— can contribute to blisters.
- Bunions. A bunion is a painful bulge on the edge of a toe—doctors most commonly see them on the big toe. Bunions are typically the result of too-small shoes. When your shoes are too small, they can force the toes out of position. When the big toe is thus afflicted, it will point toward the other toes, not straight ahead.
- Hammertoes. I can imagine this being a hit dance from the early '90s. But no, a hammertoe is a serious condition caused by misaligned toe joints. Shoes that are too short most often cause hammertoes. However, the condition can also be caused by muscular dystrophy and nerve damage. Consequently, individuals with diabetes should keep a close on this condition. Hammertoes come in two varieties: flexible and rigid. If you can move the toe at the joint, you have a flexible hammertoe. Great, you caught it early! If, however, the toe is rigid, the joint is out of alignment and you’ll need surgery.
- Pain in the heel. The plantar fascia is one of the main ligaments servicing the foot. This ligament can be damaged through vigorous physical activity. If you have flat foot or high arches, you have a higher chance of damaging this ligament. You’ll feel pain from a torn plantar fascia in the heel and the ball of your foot. This irritation, known as plantar fasciitis, presents a day or two after the injury. Repeated episodes can lead to heel spurs—basically calcium deposits. Ill-fitting shoes can cause both planar fasciitis and heel spurs.
If you are diabetic, you should inspect your feet often for any of these conditions. Nerve damage may prevent your brain from receiving pain signals and poor circulation leads to slow healing.
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Traits of a Stellar Shoe
It’s always a good idea to buy your shoes from a medical supply company. Dansko and NurseMates are reliable brands. Wherever you get source your shoes from, look for these traits:
- A thick sole with a minimal incline. A shallow incline promotes arch support.
- Nonslip soles that will keep you upright on a wet floor.
- Solid colors to keep you on the right side of the dress code.
- Washable, but durable, materials, such as rubber.
Solid Shoe Choices
The following is a shortlist of practical shoe choices.
Good Ol’ Tennis Shoes
Quality tennis shoes can provide you with day-long support. The trap here is buying cheap shoes. If you go cheap, you’re putting your foot health at risk. Put away some cash each month for a quality pair. You won’t regret it. The following brands are solid options:
- New Balance
Crocs don’t win beauty contests. They’re bulky and ungainly, but they’re very comfortable and leave your toes with plenty of wriggle room. But Crocs with holes in them are a no-no. Protect your toes from falling liquids—you know the liquids we mean.
Nursing clogs are always a solid choice. Clogs are simple shoes with plenty of toe room. One caveat though: always go for non-slip, and always size these shoes carefully. If they’re even a bit too big, they can go flying off your foot.
Beware Fancy Shoes
There are a myriad of fancy or high-tech shoes out there. Shoes with springs. Shoes with airflow chambers. Shoes with special arches. These additions only complicate matters. When it comes to shoes for nursing, follow the time-tested—if cliché—advice: Keep It Simple.
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