Working from home causing an increase in foot pain, injuries, experts say

TORONTO — Some doctors say they have seen an increase in Canadians reporting foot pain and injuries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people staying home and not wearing shoes.

Dr. Howard Green, president of the B.C. Podiatric Medical Association, told CTVNews.ca that the increase in foot pain he has seen in patients has come from a variety of sources, including not wearing prescriptive insoles or custom orthotics.

“People are working from home, not going to the office, and in that situation, a lot of times they’re not wearing shoes and the not wearing of shoes can flare up some symptoms or some pains that the shoes were taking care of before,” Green explained in a telephone interview from Surrey, B.C. on Friday.

“It’s also because people are running around their house barefoot while they’re at home and they’ve whacked their toes into a bed leg or a table leg and get injured,” he added.

With more Canadians staying home due to COVID-19 restrictions, Green said some people may go days without putting on footwear, which can cause pain to develop.

“Without the support of the shoe, then people can develop pains in their arches, heels, ankles, knees back, hips, and what normally would routinely seem like an easy task to do, now all of a sudden they have pain and discomfort with it,” Green said.

He added that not wearing footwear for a long period of time exposes people’s feet to hazards they may not have previously encountered.

“If they don’t have the shoes to provide cushioning for their feet, they could develop sores or calluses on the soles of their feet and without the protection of a shoe and they could step on something sharp or something irregular on the floor,” Green said.

“Bumps, bruises and even the incidence of fractures have been noted to be on the rise due to more people than usual stubbing unprotected toes,” he added.

However, the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program told CTVNews.ca that it has not seen an increase in Canadians visiting emergency rooms for foot injuries.

Green recommends those with foot pain try wearing shoes indoors for a portion of the day. He says even slippers may help, depending on the style of slipper and whether an insole will fit inside them.

“Some slippers have an actual sole to them that would give you an element of protection, as well as warmth and comfort. So there is a benefit to wearing slippers and then if someone has a prescription insole or orthotic, whether a slipper can accommodate it or not again depends on the style,” Green said.

However, he noted that wearing some form of shoe or sock on one’s feet “is still better than nothing.”

Dr. S.A. Schumacher, founder and director of the Achilles Foot Health Centre in B.C., said he has seen fewer “work-related complaints of arch and heel pain caused by being on one’s feet all day” amid COVID-19, but says more people are contacting him about at-home injuries.

“This might include injuries like breaking a toe on a table or chair leg, stepping on a foreign body like a carpet tack, catching the foot on the edge of a tile or step, or tripping in tight spaces,” Schumacher told CTVNews.ca in an email on Friday.

Schumacher said that getting care for these injuries can also be difficult during the pandemic.

“With many physicians not working or working through telemedicine, injuries are getting missed or under treated,” he said.

Dr. Amandeep Randhawa, a podiatrist and founder of Metro Vancouver Podiatry, says she has also seen an increase in foot problems amid the pandemic.

Randhawa told CTVNews.ca on Thursday that she has mostly seen a rise in stress fractures and ankle sprains. She suspects much of these injuries are because Canadians have taken to exercising at home, with gyms either being closed or offering limited hours and capacity.

“A lot of people seem to be doing aerobic exercise, Zumba-type classes at home and doing so barefoot. Unfortunately this puts people at an increased risk for stress fractures,” Randhawa said in an email.

Randhawa suggests people wear “supportive shoes” while exercising, even if doing so indoors. She also recommends getting properly fit for athletic shoes at a sporting goods store.

“Getting a pair of supportive running/walking shoes for example reduces the strain your feet are under and decreases the chance of injuries,” Randhawa said.

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