• Jennifer Wong

How to look after your feet when you're working from home

On video calls, no-one can see your feet.

So wearing proper shoes might be low on your list of priorities (or something your culture doesn't do).

But does it matter if you're spending long periods of time in slippers or bare foot?

Like shoes, there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to foot health.

"There's a lot of things happening in people's lives at the moment, so if you can not worry about it, that's great," says Glen Whittaker, podiatrist and lecturer at La Trobe University.

Basically, if you're not experiencing any pain and aren't in an at-risk group (like people with diabetes), then it doesn't really matter what you wear around the house.

"As long as you're not causing any increase in stress or load on any tissues in your foot, and as long as you're keeping your feet warm and protected, then you probably don't have to wear any specific shoes," Dr Whittaker says.

Above all, listen to your feet, says Katrina Richards, podiatrist and Australian Podiatry Association Board president.

"I always say to people, your feet shouldn't hurt. And yet we're more likely to put up with foot pain more than pain in other parts of our body," she says.

When to wear shoes at home

For long periods spent on your feet

"If you know you're going to be sitting at your desk for a few hours … then it probably doesn't matter so much what you're wearing as long as you feel warm," says Dr Whittaker.

"But if you know you're going to be standing up for the next few hours cooking a spag bowl or doing the vacuuming, then you might want to consider not wearing your Ugg boots to do that and putting some runners on."

If you have diabetes

If you have diabetes (or other conditions where you can't feel your feet), you should also wear shoes at home because it offers protection from, say, stepping on a piece of Lego and not knowing it.

If you're prone to cold feet

If you're sitting at your desk for long periods of time without shoes, the cold temperature can cause problems such as chilblains.

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to chilblains, says Dr Whittaker.

"The damage occurs when people go, 'My feet are cold, I'm going to have a hot shower to warm them up' and then a chemical process occurs when you heat your feet up too quickly and you end up damaging that tissue and over an extended period of time," he says.

Instead, it's better to gradually warm up the affected area by wearing warm shoes and socks.

Finally, if you're elderly, or looking out for someone who is, shoes — not slippers — are recommended at home.

According to Dr Whittaker, studies have shown that slippers are the most common type of shoe worn during a fall by elderly people.

Taking care of your feet when going outside

Working from home means many of us are more sedentary now compared to pre-COVID times.

"There's a lot of incidental activity that people do when they are going to a workplace, like getting the tram or going out to get lunch or coffee, and that just isn't occurring for people now," explains Dr Whittaker.

With outdoor exercise limited to one hour a day in Victoria, many people are going from being quite inactive to doing strenuous exercise. Being mindful of this sudden change in activity levels is important, says Dr Whittaker.

"Take it easy and do it slowly to give your tissues time to adapt to that change," he says.

Ms Richards agrees.

"Everyone seems to have just sort of gone from zero to hero in the athletic stakes these days, and I think probably running's one of the main culprits, leading to a lot of Achilles tendon soreness," she says.

"When you start training, you really need to just take it slowly and build up sensibly and incrementally, and not just go flat out thinking that you can run like the wind to make the most of your hour of exercise."

It helps if your sneakers are in good shape. Ms Richards says the main indicator for whether your sneakers are still fit for purpose is how much support they give and how comfortable they feel, and not whether the grip has worn through at the bottom of the shoe.

"We tend to wear these things until they literally are falling apart. By that time, they've probably lost a lot of that cushioning and nice integrity of what you want the shoe to do, which is to support your foot while you're running."

Here's to you putting your best foot forward.

Article from ABC Life

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