The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Construction Workers and NYC Podiatrists Agree: It’s a Hazardous Job for the Feet

Posted by on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

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Construction workers are like burly, no nonsense circus performers. All day long they lift and heave, carry and climb, twisting their bodies into impossible positions to reach corners and ceilings. They scale walls to impossible heights. They work on rooftops, perched on support beams or thin ladders. These people are acrobats! They’re daredevils! They’re like Olympic gymnasts (if a little larger, and slightly less concerned with their diets.) And they definitely have more than their fair share of foot problems. I’ve written about nurses, teachers, and waitresses—people who are on their feet all day—but being on your feet and relying on your feet to keep you safe are two very different things. When a construction worker has foot pain, his safety is in jeopardy. A pang at the wrong moment can disturb his balance or focus, and when you’re walking on a thin platform 50 feet in the air, balance and focus are the things that keep you alive.

Ill-fitting boots are the construction worker’s kryptonite: Avoiding the blisters and bunions. Unless you’ve spent your life wearing feather shoes, you are probably familiar with blisters. Any ill-fitting shoe can cause them, as can thin, stiff, or otherwise inappropriate socks. When you get new work boots, make sure you break them in before you start wearing them on site. A day in ill-fitting steel-toes can really rip up even the toughest feet. Once you’ve got a blister, take good care of it. Keep it clean and bandaged. Contrary to popular opinion, giving the blister “air” doesn’t make it heal faster. Using antibiotic gel and a band-aid is your best bet.

Bunions are a bigger problem. For some people, they’re just a consequence of the anatomy of the foot: the big toe or pinky toe joint just naturally protrudes over time. For most people, however, they’re a self-inflicted injury. If your boots are too tight in the toe, you’re putting pressure on your outer toe joints. Eventually your foot might look like this:

Avoid bunions by investing in wide-toed boots with ample room for the full width of your forefoot. This is a painful and persistent problem that requires surgery and can lead to a host of other foot maladies over time.

Sprains, strains, bruises, and breaks. The big toe takes 40-60% of your body’s weight when maximum force is applied. Add the weight of a two-by-four and you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Literally. But the rest of your foot is a tender and delicate thing too, and steel toes can’t protect you from every construction-related debacle. As a result, these common foot injuries are probably unavoidable for a construction worker. A twisted ankle here, a kicked cinderblock there… Fortunately, in many cases (aside from breaks, of course) you can treat these injuries on your own, with rest, ice, and some action movies. Severe strains may involve torn ligaments or tendons, something that may require surgery. And, of course, if you drop an anvil on your foot, a cast and a lollipop are the only remedies. Visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). You’ll be glad you did.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.