Do You Work on Your Feet All Day? Read This

waitress carrying several plates

This is for the waiters, nurses, cashiers and retail clerks, on their tired, achy feet all day.

For these folks, the thought of working at a cubicle, blissfully sedentary and seated in a comfy, ergonomic office chair might sound like utopian working conditions. (Not so fast, though: Those who earn a living seated all day are at risk for dying younger.)

Never fear, stand-up workers, or those who use a stand-up workstation: You don’t have to suffer from chronic tired feet and stiff leg muscles. Here are some helpful tips and exercises to get you through your day.

Dynamic movements in small spaces

Consider cashiers. Their workspaces are confined to a couple of square feet. In addition to standing on anti-fatigue mats, which most humane supermarket chains provide for their employees, cashiers can perform dynamic movements, even if confined to a small space.

Alternating knee flexion: Bending your knee and trying — without going beyond your natural range of motion — to touch your heel to your buttocks with one leg and then the other, will help loosen up the quadriceps, the four major muscles in front of the thighs.

Figure-8 hip rotations: Circling your hips in a figure-8 motion will prevent both hip tightness and blood stagnation in the lower extremities by shifting your balance from one side to the other.

Hacky-sack kicks: Kicking an imaginary ball with your instep will help loosen the origin connection points of your gluteus maximus (buttocks), which is the largest muscle in the body. The “glutes” can become tight, especially where they attach to your sacroiliac joint, whether you’re in a sedentary seated or standing position. Just a few kicks on each side can prevent tight glutes.

These movements, and others like them, are referred to as “dynamic flexibility” because they increase the range of motion of a particular joint or groups of joints while being in motion, unlike static stretches. Which brings us to our next tip for those who are constantly standing ...

Static stretches

As the name implies, static stretches are performed holding a particular stretch. If performed correctly, static stretches can be effective even if held for only a few seconds, perfect for a busy cashier or anybody else slammed with customers.

Hamstring stretch: Most people try to stretch their hamstrings by placing one leg fully extended on a bench or other raised surface and bending over. While you’ll definitely feel the hamstring, an even better way to activate the hamstrings and stretch them simultaneously (strengthening and lengthening) is to do an active hamstring stretch. Simply stick your booty out keeping your back flat. Rock back on your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent. Squeeze the inside of your thighs together without actually moving the knees. Reach your chin forward. You should be feeling a great stretch through the backside of your thighs. Unlike the more popular passive way to stretch, this active stretch should provide immediate relief to your hamstrings.

Calf stretch: If you can’t take a quick work break to do a downward-dog stretch, place both hands shoulder width and level on a wall, or, even at desk level. Place one foot forward and bend the knee so that the knee is directly over the ankle. The rear leg should be straight. You should feel the rear calf muscles stretching. As with the hamstring stretch, try to isometrically contract your thighs by activating the inner thighs without actually moving the knees.

The secret's in the shoes

Obviously, wearing proper shoes plays a big part in how comfortable you’ll be if you’re working on your feet all day. First rule: Do not wear flip-flops, especially those with no arch support. If your job prohibits you from wearing comfortable athletic shoes, opt for wide dress shoes that don’t scrunch the feet’s bones and auxiliary muscles. Also, never wear high heels; they shorten and thus tighten the muscles and tendons of the Achilles tendon and calves.

Every pair of shoes offers different levels and areas of support for the feet, so if you can, try switching shoes throughout the day.

Orthotics, arch supports, insoles and inserts also can provide relief to achy feet. Consult your neighborhood specialist or orthopedist to get properly fitted.

Also, and perhaps surprisingly, the type of socks you wear can make the difference between a pain-free shift and a day in hell. Certain socks are designed to help prevent blisters, while others keep feet dry (or neutralize stinky feet).

Have any other tips for people who are on their feet all day? Post a comment below.

Judd Handler is author of "Living Healthy: 10 Steps to Looking Younger, Losing Weight and Feeling Great" and can be reached at