Construction work often keeps Laborers on their feet all day long. Unfortunately, this can also increase their risk of developing a painful foot condition called plantar fasciitis.
“Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain and it can sideline construction laborers and others who spend most of the workday standing,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Wearing well-fitting, high-quality footwear on and off the job can reduce the likelihood for developing this condition.”
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick and stretchy band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. As with any body part, overuse can cause problems. Activities like excessive running, jumping and dancing can cause the plantar fascia to become inflamed. So can prolonged standing on asphalt, sidewalks and concrete flooring where construction work often takes place. Standing on these hard, unyielding surfaces for an entire shift subjects the feet to an impact akin to repeated pounding by a hammer. This daily battering is even more intense when someone is overweight or middle aged. By the time most people reach 50, their feet will have logged about 75,000 miles and will have lost up to half of their fat pads. Fat pads protect the plantar fascia from the aftershocks of walking and from the pressure of standing.
Plantar fasciitis causes sharp, stabbing pain on the sole of the foot near the heel. This pain is frequently:
- Strongest first thing in the morning
- Worse after standing for a long time or after getting up from sitting
- Worse after physical activity than during it
Do not ignore or attempt to “push through” the pain. This can lead to a chronic problem that is more difficult to treat successfully. Heel pain can make you walk incorrectly. Over time, this can lead to other related knee, hip and back problems.
Employers: Keep feet in mind when designing the workday.
• If possible, rotate jobs so workers can change positions throughout their shift.
• Implement frequent, short rest breaks if job rotation is not practical.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis involves resting the foot and may also include:
- Applying ice to the sole of the foot
- Over the counter pain medications including acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen
- Physical therapy to stretch the plantar fascia
- Taping the foot and ankle to provide adequate support and alignment
- Wearing night splints
Well-fitted and supportive shoes can help prevent plantar fasciitis.
On the job, if you wear steel toe work boots, make sure they:
- Have thick, shock-absorbing insoles
- Provide freedom of movement for the toes
- Grip the heel
Off the clock, it is important to wear shoes that provide cushioning, firm soles and flexibility at the ball of the foot.
“Recovering from plantar fasciitis can take weeks, creating hardship for construction laborers and others who are on their feet most of the day,” says Borck.” A construction laborer who is unable to stand because of foot pain is a construction laborer who cannot work. Add cushioned insoles to your work boots and buy new footwear when your current pair is worn out. Doing so can reduce your risk for this debilitating condition and keep you on your feet physically and financially.”
Shopping for Work Boots
• Have both feet measured when buying shoes, as feet normally differ in size. Buy shoes to fit the bigger foot.
• Buy shoes late in the afternoon when feet are likely to be swollen to their maximum size.
• Buy shoes with shock-absorbing insoles or add insoles when the job requires walking or standing on hard floors.
• Do not expect footwear that is too tight to stretch with wear.
• Get a doctor’s advice if you are having problems finding properly fitting shoes.
Also, make sure your socks fit. Tight socks can cramp the toes as much as poorly fitting shoes. Socks that are too large, too small or wrinkled can cause blisters.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]