How to Reduce Heel Pain at Work

Aug 18, 2020

Heel pain at work is a huge problem for America’s workers—both before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now in the middle of it.

That’s obviously true for “essential workers” who tend to be in jobs that require a lot of standing, walking, and physically demanding activity. But it’s also true if you’re spending most of your 9-to-5 in your jammies, working your desk job from home.

The point is that, regardless of what you do for a living, persistent heel pain will keep you from doing it to the best of your ability. It’s tough to concentrate on work tasks when all you can think about is how much your feet hurt! And if you end your workday in agony, it’s hard to imagine you’ll get much enjoyment or rejuvenation from recreational activities you used to love, either.

Fortunately, there are often many simple tips you can follow to greatly reduce, or sometimes even eliminate, daily foot pain in the workplace—depending on what’s causing it, of course. While we always recommend making an appointment with our team if you’re experiencing pain that limits your lifestyle, you can also employ these strategies right away to see if they benefit you.

heel pain at work

For Those Who Work on Their Feet

Service industry workers, healthcare workers, factory workers, and other people who are on their feet all day are at the highest risk for job-related heel pain, for obvious reasons.

If you fall into this category, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • The right shoes are essential. The difference between working an 8-hour shift in comfortable shoes vs. an 8-hour shift in poor or even mediocre shoes is massive. If you’re currently wearing sub-par shoes at work, this is probably the single most important thing you can do for yourself. Choose comfortable, well-fitting shoes that offer good arch support, good cushioning, and elevate the heel slightly (around a quarter of an inch or so, if not slightly larger). Totally flat shoes are actually a bad idea for prolonged standing.
  • Consider orthotics. If you’re having trouble finding any shoes that can get you through the day comfortably, you might need to replace the default insoles with a prefabricated or custom orthotic that better fits the unique needs of your feet. We strongly recommend you come to us first so we can use our expertise to get you the right fit the first time, rather than take your chances at a pharmacy kiosk.
  • Take regular breaks to stretch and rest. Prolonged standing can really stress out not only your heels, but the tissues that attach to them and pull on them (such as the Achilles). Take time at least once per hour to do some foot, ankle, and calf stretches. Use your break and lunch times to get off your feet and enjoy a well-deserved sit.
  • Modify your workstation. If you spend a lot of your day standing in one specific spot, are there any ways you could make it more comfortable? If you can do your work seated on a stool, that would be a great option—even if you only used it for a few minutes at a time, here and there. An anti-fatigue mat on the floor where you stand is also a smart choice.
  • Take care of your feet at home. When you get back home from your shift, make sure you give your feet a little attention when you get home. A quick foot massage, some additional stretching, or even 10-15 minutes of icing can help counteract some of the swelling associated with prolonged standing and give your heels the “second wind” they need to accomplish your evening tasks.
heel pain at work

For Those Who Work at a Desk (at Home or Elsewhere)

As we said, desk workers are not immune to heel pain, and can easily lose focus and productivity due to their daily discomfort. If that sounds like you, we have some tips for you as well.

  • Don’t be so quick to ditch your shoes. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who’ve switched primarily to working from home, you may not be wearing shoes at all for most of the day. While you might not do as much standing and walking as people in more active jobs, losing the support and cushioning you’d normally get from a good pair of shoes can make the steps you do take much more stressful. Consider wearing your comfortable shoes at least part of the workday.
  • Shoe quality still matters! Again, just because you’re standing less frequently than in certain other jobs doesn’t give you free license to spend the entire day in flip flops, ballet flats, or other shoes that don’t offer the long-term support or comfort you need. If you’re working and want to stay comfortable and focused, it’s always worth it to choose shoes that support those goals—along with any orthotics you’ve been prescribed.
  • Take regular breaks to stretch and move. Just like prolonged standing, prolonged sitting can indirectly result in heel pain, especially if the tissues that connect to it become tight or weakened. At least once per hour, take a minute to stand up, do some stretches, or go for a short walk (5 minutes) around the office or around the home.
  • Don’t sit on your heels! You might not even really notice yourself doing it, but a lot of people sit at their office desks cross-legged, with one foot under the knee or thigh. This posture can actually lead to some pain and discomfort, in your feet or elsewhere. If you do this, it’s usually a sign that your chair is too low, so you may need to adjust the seat height, as well as the height of your monitor, to facilitate better posture. An adjustable standing desk that can help you cycle between sitting and standing is also a good choice.

Don’t Let Heel Pain at Work Hound You

Whoever you are and whatever you do, you should never tolerate heel pain at work when it’s affecting the quality of your daily life!

Most of these above tips you can start work on right away, but also understand that heel pain should also be examined by an expert. Heel pain can be a complicated problem, with a lot of contributing causes, and no two cases are exactly alike. By following up with a podiatrist, you can get a clearer picture of what’s causing your heel pain and a comprehensive treatment pain that’s targeted to your specific needs.

To schedule an appointment with one of our foot doctors, please request an appointment online or call one of our two conveniently located offices: