Ditch uncomfortable shoes for ones that are contoured to the shape of your feet and offer cushioned support every step of the way. Image Credit: Shutterstock

They take us everywhere, help us sit and stand, crouch and jump. But we often forget about our feet, and the fact that they need care and consideration too.

People who stand for long hours, whether for their jobs or because the situation requires it, know the value of proper footwear. The right kind of shoes can provide comfort, cushioning and relief, even if you haven’t sat down in hours.

We spoke with Michelle Champlin, chief podiatrist at Dubai Podiatry Centre, who has over 24 years of experience in the field. She commended the hard work it takes to simply stay vertical: “Standing for long periods of time takes great strength and endurance, and every day you have accomplished a great achievement. We sometimes take ourselves for granted, so give yourself and your feet credit.”

If you’ve been experiencing aches and pains from long hours of standing, and are looking for some relief, our expert shared some advice: “If your feet are swollen at the end of the day, then putting them in warm water for one minute, then in cool water for another minute, and repeating the process five times, is incredible for circulation and reducing swelling of the feet and legs. Warm water provides circulation and cold water takes it away. So alternative minutes helps the [blood] flow.”

Scroll down to read more advice and exercise tips that can make an enormous difference. Our expert also shared recommendations for the best footwear, which we curated below, to help people who are on their feet all day. Buy your next pair of shoes with Amazon Prime, for free, fast delivery.

1. Best Overall (Women): Hush Puppies Heaven Loafers 

When you think of comfortable shoes, you don’t have to automatically opt for sneakers. A pair that’s perfect for work, Hush Puppies Heaven Loafers are both elegant and practical, and come recommended by Champlin for all-day comfort. They’re constructed with a cushioned triangle footbed, and eco-friendly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sole. The slip-on style is easy to wear in a hurry, and its memory foam and supportive ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) footbed ensure your feet are cushioned and protected. Women in customer service attest to the value of this pair of Hush Puppies’ shoes, in the comments, with many saying their quality of life has changed after making the switch.

2. Best Overall (Men): Clarks Men’s Whiddon Pace Oxford 

For professionals who often attend stand-up meetings, events and presentations, Clarks’ Whiddon Pace is a classic dress shoe that both looks good and feels great. In full-grain, dark tan leather, it’s stylish and perfect to wear with smart casuals or suits. Inside, it features targeted padding, with an OrthoLite footbed that offers support and reduces impact with each step, even as it wicks away moisture. The synthetic sole is soft, flexible and durable, and reviewers say the fit is true to size, as expected.

3. Best Memory Foam: Skechers Ultra Flex 3.0 Slip-in Loafers

Do away with laces – Skechers Ultra Flex 3.0 offers a touchless fit. You can step right into it, and walk away in comfort. Recommended by Champlin for its cushioned, air-cooled memory foam insole, the shoe also has a heel pillow that securely holds your foot in place. Reviewers love its Stretch Fit design, with many saying it feels like they’re putting on a sock, and the fact that it’s crafted with 100 per cent vegan materials. When the shoes become dirty, you can throw them into the washing machine for a quick wash, too, so they are incredibly easy to wear and maintain. Check out the Ultra Flex 3.0 for women. 

4. Best Sneakers: Nike Air Force 1 

You might not be surprised to learn that one of the most popular sneakers in the world is also built to offer peak comfort. Nike’s Air Force 1 is over 40 years old, but it’s a classic for a reason. It was originally designed for performance hoops in basketball, but its hidden air cushioning offers lasting comfort, no matter what you’re wearing it for. The padded low cut delivers cushioning around the heels, and the rubber outsole adds traction and durability. Reviewers say it's their go-to shoe for travelling, since they remain comfortable even when standing in long queues at airport security. Check out the women’s Air Force 1 selection.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh110.87 for 12 months with select banks.

5. Best for Healthcare Workers: Asics Gel-Mission 3 

A solid pair of shoes for people who don’t just stand but work on their feet all day, Asics’ Gel-Mission 3 is ready to go whenever you are. It combines a rubber outsole with rearfoot GEL technology, which is based on a special kind of silicone that offers excellent shock absorption and helps cushion the foot from impact. Its EVA midsole adds stability, while its mesh insole helps bring in airflow and improves ventilation. For extra support and flexibility, there’s a removable EVA sockliner, as well.

6. Best Cushioning: ON Cloudswift Trainers 

Althought designed for fast paced sports. ON Cloudswift’s running trainers are growing in popularity for daily wear, and it’s no wonder why, when you see the amount of cushioning in this shoe. Re-positioned CloudTec in Swiss-engineered superfoam offers increased forefoot cushioning and enlarged Clouds in the rear area to dampen heel strikes. Its eye-catching outsole is constructed to optimise a natural rolling motion that helps propel the user forward in a smooth and effortless stride. Made for use in urban areas, the Cloudswift is light, but absorbs heavy impacts, and is easy to slip on, with a fit like a sock. What’s not to love?

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh649 for 12 months with select banks.

7. Best Sandals: Birkenstock Boston Eva Clogs 

Perfect for summer holidays, Birkenstock’s Boston sandals are ultra-lightweight and made from water-friendly materials. But the best part is their contoured footbed, with a design that’s focused on promoting comfort and support every step of the way. The heel cup, for instance, features deep moulding to support the foot tissue and hold the heel bone firmly in its natural position. Reviewers say they don’t feel like their feet are slipping out – a feeling that’s common when you wear sandals – rather, it has the fit of a closed shoe. Interior and exterior longitudinal arch supports surround the tarsal bones and offer stability, while the support that runs through the middle of the footbed stabilises the metatarsal bone, helping your foot stay naturally straight. There are also raised indentations at the front of the footbed, allowing your toes to remain loose and spread out, while supporting their natural rolling motion when you move. The only downside is that there’s no ankle support.

How does standing impact our bodies?

People in healthcare, food service and other industries are always on their feet, and likely need a comfortable pair of shoes that will see them through hours of hard work. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Despite any aches and pains you feel from standing for a long time, the practice is actually good for you.

Champlin said: “Standing with strength is very good for overall health and fitness, and even digestion. It’s good for keeping the mind active, as the body is constantly working to keep the body upright and muscles active. It provides better balance and reduces premature frailty. The body uses more calories to keep you standing, compared to sitting.”

It’s possible to stand for as long as you need to, quite comfortably, when you’re barefoot or have the appropriate shoes on. For the latter, our expert recommends accommodative shoes with comfortable insoles.

Moreover, the construction of the shoe is important. Champlin said: “If standing for a long time, a strong rubber sole and strong upper of the shoe is recommended. If the person has to walk a lot for their job, then it’s the opposite. We would want a shoe that can easily flex with a softer sole.”

Why is it painful to stand for a long time?

Despite wearing the right footwear, however, if you still feel pain, there’s likely a medical explanation for it.

Champlin said: “It depends on the foot and ankle structure; any leg length discrepancy issues can cause problems with the foot, knee and lower back. The fatty-padding in our feet act as natural pillows to cushion and support the weight of the body through the bony structure of the foot. Some humans have more fatty-padding than others and those with a very little amount of fibrofatty padding on the soles of the feet may find it very uncomfortable to stand for long durations, as they will feel the bones in their feet sooner whilst standing, compared to more padded feet.”

In such cases, memory foam insoles, available at most pharmacies, can help mimic fatty-padding in the feet and provide relief.

Champlin added: “If there is severe pain in the feet, it may be that that person may require corrective insoles to be placed inside the shoes, to align the structure of the joints spreading the load throughout the entire surface of the sole of the foot, rather than to high-pressure points that lead to painful corns and callouses.”

What kind of footwear is best for standing?

The best kind of footwear for the average user, who has relatively well-structured feet, must feature a flexible sole, with a foam insole, according to our expert. Most brands, like Hush Puppies, Skechers and Clarks, offer such footwear, as highlighted in our list above. You can also include a supportive insole for added comfort and reinforcement.

However, do make sure your footwear is the right size. Champlin said: “Standing for long durations can lead to feet swelling if the shoes start to feel tight. A good tip from many cabin crew members is to buy shoes one size bigger, and use a foot pillow sole that has cushioning up and around the heel area. This keeps the foot snug in the shoe, and as the foot swells, it allows for expansion into the memory foam without pressing into the leather of the shoe, which ultimately leads to corns and callouses.”

Tips and exercises to ease leg pain from standing

While the best and most comfortable footwear can see you successfully through your day, when you finally remove your shoes, a few stretches and exercises can go a long way in providing relief and comfort. Our expert shared a few worth practising, the next time you’ve spent the whole day on your feet:

1. Activate the arch muscle

Champlin explained: “First, put a little extra pressure on the sole of the foot towards the outside border. Take care not to exaggerate this and lean too far over. The aim is just to shift the weight to the outer part of the foot. Then, keeping the toes straight, press only the big toe into the ground. Make sure to maintain a straight big toe; you are trying to press the padding of the toe, the part directly beneath the big toenail, into the ground. This will activate the arch muscle and increase circulation to the feet.”

2. Engage your calf muscles

Another exercise is to try raising your heels from the ground a little. Champlin said: “This engages the calf muscles and can help pump more blood to and from the feet, resulting in less swelling of the feet from standing still. The better your balance becomes, the higher you can raise your heels. You can balance yourself with a wall or table as you do this, if you feel unstable.”

3. Bridge foot exercise

Something you can do while both sitting and standing, the bridge foot exercise involves keeping all your toes as straight as possible, then pressing them into the ground while trying to lift the arch of your foot. Champlin said: “Imagine a toy car is going to drive under your foot arch – you would try to lift your arch by pressing your toes into the ground and the activation of the muscles to do this lifts the arches of your feet. It is important to maintain straight toes for this exercise. If you scrunch or grip the toes, it activates different muscles, and can rub the top of the toes on the roof of the shoes, leading to corns and callouses. So, scrunching of the toes should be done barefoot, when there is space for the toes to move more freely.”

When you stand, you can also play games that help with foot strength. Champlin explained how to do so: “For example, see if you can press both pinky toes gently into the ground, then make it more complicated and press the left third toe and right second toe into the ground at the same time. This helps to keep your proprioception and brain active, and connected to your feet. Sometimes we can completely forget about our feet and push all our weight through them without giving them a second thought. By thinking about each toe and each part of the foot, it can help the strength and positioning of the foot. Imagine wiggling your toes in the sand or in waves at the beach. Or imagine standing on a spongy, mossy forest floor. This should give you deep relaxation and enjoyment while standing.”

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