Your Happy Feet Part 1: Choosing The Right Work Shoes

The Right Work Shoes

Wearing the right shoes for work is not just a question of fashion or age appropriateness. It’s also a matter of taking care of your feet, posture and leg health. But what are the right shoes for your job? We’ve got five tips for helping you choose the right footwear.

We all take great care with choosing our shoes, and it’s natural to choose shoes we like the look of. But there is another side to this choice – comfort and health. Be honest – how often do you consider the former and not the latter? Shoe choice is important, and not for reasons which might be immediately obvious. Your shoes have an impact on your health like no other piece of clothing you wear every day, so it’s essential you choose the right shoes, especially for work.

Naturally your perfect shoe depends to a large extent on the kind of work you do, whether you are mostly standing or sitting, for how long and in what kind of environment. Obviously if you have officially sanctioned footwear that you must wear by law, such as metal capped shoes for toe protection in construction or workshop environments, then this choice is to a large extent taken out of your hands. But what if you do have a choice? What shoes are right for your work?

Stand up for Health

Standing for long periods can be injurious to your health over time, for your feet themselves, the ankles, the calves and knees and the hips that balance on top of your legs. The veins and arteries running through your legs are also affected by your stance. Your shoes affect your posture and this can also have a pronounced effect on your neck and shoulders resulting in pain and discomfort.

Once you stop and think about it, it’s immediately obvious that shoe choice is an important decision. Most of this will seem common sense, but how many of us put much thought into the health consequences of inappropriate footwear?

Here’s our quick guide to choosing shoes that will serve you well.

1. It’s All In The Heel

High heeled shoes look fabulous, but high heels present the foot at an attractive but stressful angle. The angle of the foot translates to stress in the ankle and calf, putting everything else under strain all the way up the leg. Wearing heels all day can cause long-term damage. If you need a heel for whatever reason, looking dressy or taller, perhaps a compromise of a short heel would be better? Heels should have a broad base rather than a point, as that will reduce strain by limiting the side to side motion of the ankle.

2. Best Fit

Above all your shoes must fit. It’s tempting, especially if you are intoxicated by the allure of a certain glossy pump, but you should always strike a balance between good looking and good for you. Shoes must fit perfectly, and they must support your foot for the punishment it takes in a day.

Choose shoes that support the arch of your foot and make sure the fit is correct, and take the advice of your shoe store to make sure this is correct. Nothing is more stressful for the muscles and bones of your feet than a having to keep your foot tense all day to keep a shoe on.

3. Get Sole

In studies with NYC police the benefits of insoles – rubber inserts that cushion the sole while standing and walking – became very clear. Adding insoles led to an immediate and significant reduction in foot conditions and soreness. Insoles basically turn any normal shoe into a training shoe. You can also get insoles that support the arch of the foot for extra comfort and strain relief.

4. Sturdier Is Healthier

The question of shoe weight is also crucial. The reason hikers and walkers have solid shoes when they walk over rough terrain all day is that a heavier shoe supports the foot. It helps avoid muscle strain and injury from the constant impacts on the ground at varying angles. These shoes also tend to lace up high providing additional ankle support. Even if your work doesn’t involve trekking across variable terrain, a sturdier, better quality shoe is healthier for your feet than a light flimsy one.

5. Socks Matter Too

And of course, we also recommend that to support your long-term leg health you invest in support socks or stockings, especially if you are standing up in your shoes all day. Calf muscles and leg veins need support throughout your working life to prevent the formation of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis. Therapeutic shoes can also be a boon, but we’ll talk about that in the next part of this article.

We hope you have enjoyed this walk through the world of good work shoes. Join us in part 2, later this week, for some tips about specially made therapeutic shoes and how they can help you stand up to your busy life.

About the Author

Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry for over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.  

Written July 2013 | Page last updated December 2021


Insider. “7 Scary Things That Can Happen When You Wear Heels Too Much” 

Home Depot. “Guide to OSHA-Approved Shoes” 

PubMed. “The Effect of Customized Insoles on the Reduction of Post Work Discomfort” 

The Conversation. “Standing Too Much at Work Can Double Your Risk of Heart Disease” 

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