Canadian Certified Pedorthist Kelly Robb answers questions about how to maintain the health and comfort of your feet during the COVID-19 lockdown, whether you’re WFM or physical distancing at home.

Why is it a good idea to wear footwear inside the house during lockdown?

The quick and easy answer – is because your feet are used to wearing shoes! Consider the idea that you would normally be working all day. Your feet are generally happy and contained within a structured environment. They are typically supported, cushioned, and used to encountering consistent stresses. These consistent stresses will vary person to person, and may include a combination of sitting, standing, and routine walks around your office’s neighbourhood. All of a sudden your lifestyle has drastically changed. Your activity level has diminished and you’re no longer supporting those precious feet.
Secondly, without this structured environment, the small muscles of your feet have to work much harder during walking. They are not used to this demand, and you’re expecting this increased workload throughout the entire day. Above that, the flooring in your house is probably different than the flooring in your office. If you have the opportunity to keep your feet in a structured environment throughout all these changes, it can decrease the likelihood of the rapid development of new aches and pains.

What types of shoes or slippers should people wear in the house?

I would consider two things: are you simply looking for footwear to wear around the house, and/or do you have any history, or current problems with your balance?
Let’s start with the first one. If you’re looking for something around the house, a hard-soled slipper and/or running shoe are great options. Also consider adjustability. Shoes are manufactured to accommodate many feet – of all different shapes and sizes. If your slipper or shoe has adjustable features, such as laces, Velcro or buckles, these options will better match the fit of your personal feet. For example, if you have the option between a slip-on soft-soled loafer versus a hard-soled slipper – I would suggest the slipper. Better yet, if that slipper has strapping to better wrap your foot, that’s a step up. Lastly, if you’re starting to developing aches and pains in your feet, I would suggest moving to a more supportive running shoe during prolonged standing throughout your day.
Secondly, let’s briefly touch on balance. Very commonly, anyone that has balance concerns, or has a previous history of falling, is usually looking for the most comfortable shoe. Oftentimes, this comfort comes at the level of adding padding and cushioning around the foot. It’s important to realize that softer, cushioned soling of footwear can actually impair your stability. In other words, a softer shoe is not always best! If you experience balance concerns and/or have a previous history of falls, I would encourage a thinner, harder soled shoe choice when navigating around the house.

Are there foot/lower limb stretching exercises you recommend for people spending so much time inside their homes?

Stretching is wonderful if you know what muscle needs to be stretched. If you don’t, I personally encourage my patients to routinely use rollers. You may not have a traditional foam roller in your house, however a rolling pin or PVC piping are wonderful alternatives. Rolling can help your tissues in several ways, including a reduction in muscle soreness, improving blood flow to an area, and breaking down fascial adhesions. Unless you’re rolling over a bone, or getting tingling from a nerve, you can often roll the tissue or muscle that’s causing you discomfort. Specific to your feet, pain along the plantar surface (bottom) of the foot is quite common.
If this sounds familiar, try rolling the tissues under the foot! Place the foot roller (or rolling pin or even a tin can) under the heel of one foot and roll it from the ball of the foot to the back to the heel. Repeat this 10 – 15 times, then switch to the other foot. This can be done standing or sitting, and use your own discretion as the amount of pressure placed on the roller. As general rule of thumb, rolling may be a bit uncomfortable (uncomfortable, not painful!), however this discomfort should be gone immediately once rolling stops. This can be repeated several times a day.

What other footcare steps do you recommend during the lockdown?

My biggest piece of advice, especially if aches and pains are starting to set in, is to contact your local pedorthist. Even if their practice is currently closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, many clinics are assisting patients virtually. Based on any previous history and assessment details, your pedorthist is best educated to provide tailored, individual advice to help you through any challenges.