A woman experiencing foot pain while shopping.
Sports / Orthopedic

Holiday Shopping and Foot Health: How to Avoid Injuries

Dec 4 2020

With Thanksgiving behind us, the shopping season is currently kicking into high gear. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that buying your gifts online is the safer option this holiday season.

If you do decide to shop in-person this year, a long day of running from store to store can leave you exhausted. It can also have disastrous consequences on the intricate bones and supporting structures of your foot.

“You would not run or walk a marathon in flip flops. However, we do that when we shop, and it creates problems,” says Michael Sims, MD, a foot and ankle specialist at Piedmont Orthopaedic Associates.

That’s the first mistake Dr. Sims often sees – poor footwear. The most fashionable shoe choice is often not the best for foot health. And while comfort is important, it can often be misleading.

“A shoe mistake lots of people make is they go with the marketing trends for memory foam or cushion. However, that doesn’t really translate to stability, and stability is what really matters,” he explains.

Without a sturdy pair of shoes, the small bones and joints in your feet are forced to accommodate your every move without much support. This can eventually lead to injuries. Dr. Sims recommends a shoe with a wide toe box and a wide heel. The sole should also be sturdy without much bend or flexibility.

Now that you have the right footwear, it’s important to start slow and pace yourself while shopping.

“Many people are working remote right now and are home most of the day. So, you’re not doing as much walking. Therefore, if you go for a Saturday shopping spree that lasts three hours, that’s three hours more walking than you normally do. That abrupt transition from being sedentary to being active can lead to a lot of stress fractures and irritation of the joints.”

To avoid those issues, Dr. Sims encourages both planning ahead as well as taking lots of breaks.

“Shopping can equivocate to a sport. Most sports have a half time or a water break – you’re not on the field the whole day. The reason for that is because it’s exhausting, and you’ll get injured. So, take a lunch break for an hour. Or go home, and then come back.”

Sometimes, even something as simple as the right socks can go a long way to avoid aches and pains.

“When you’re up on your feet all day, gravity pulls fluid down to your feet. It’s hard to pump that fluid back up through your legs, especially in people who are older because they often have vein disease that goes unrecognized. That leads to a lot more swelling in your feet as well as aching and tightness in your shoes at the end of the day. Wearing compression socks that go up to the knee or even above the knee can help prevent that pain and swelling.”

Finally, after a long day of shopping, it’s important to put your feet up and check them over for any problems that may need to be evaluated.

“Often, I see with people who have diabetes or neuropathy that end up with wounds on their feet and they never even knew were there. When you can’t sense those subtle nerve changes, you can end up with small blisters or ulcerations on your feet that you would not notice otherwise. If untreated, they can get infected and worsen. So, it’s really important to examine your feet after a long day standing or walking.”

Following this advice from Dr. Sims will help you ensure that getting those holiday deals and discounts isn’t at the expense of your feet and ankles.

Additional Shopping Safety Tips During COVID-19:

  • Always wear a face mask when in a public place
  • Keep a distance of six feet or more from others
  • Avoid shopping during busier store hours
  • Use hand sanitizer during your trip, and wash your hands right when you get home

Learn more about the orthopedics and sports medicine services we provide at Bon Secours and find a provider near you.

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