What Shoes to Choose?

As craftspeople, we spend so much time on our feet - standing at our bench, standing using tools - and that can be extremely taxing on your legs, back, and overall disposition.

There are a lot of options for people sitting at a desk all day — but a standing desk helps keep your blood flowing, which maintains alertness and helps sustain your energy. There are fewer shoe options, however, for people on their feet all day. Though it seems like a no-brainer to take the opposite approach of a standing desk, and modify your workbench so that you can sit more, lowering a work bench can negate the safety and stability needed to do much of your work. So, craftspeople must think about how they can modify themselves. Shoes, fatigue pads, and arch supports are an excellent start!

Let’s take a look at other occupations that require standing all day: nurses, construction workers and haircutters/barbers. These types of workers tend to stand all day, though each occupation’s demands vary from the other - nurses walk more in a single day than most everyone; the construction worker bares more weight; hairstylists function with the least amount of feet movement, but constantly engaged arms. All of these workers need to nurture the health of their joints and muscles or their careers are cut short by long term back and knee pain.

Most nurses wear light-weight sneakers or clogs - both designs allow for a good floor grip and an over personalized fit. Light-weight sneakers are designed to require less energy during movement; from the material to the shape, it’s all about ergonomics and comfort of movement. Clogs, which have a closed toe and heel and slip-on, provide a more spacious toe area which makes them extremely comfortable. In addition to the roominess, most clogs are designed to be broken-in by the owner so that the sole supports the contour of an individual’s foot. Though clogs might not be as stylish as sneakers, they are a great designated shop shoe - easy to change in and out of at the shop. Both types of shoes can be found for men and women, or in unisex designs.

Construction workers have safety needs regarding sharp objects, this limits their choices to include steel toes with puncture-resistant soles, which can add a bit of weight - but with the right arch support, can feel like home. And we aren’t just talking about your dad’s Caterpillars. Though that classic honey-tinted suede will never go out of style, today’s work boots are far from one-style-fits-all. Now, most classic companies offer the same quality work boot that look and feel more like a hiking shoe - these shoes are still on the heavier side, because of the thicker soles and steel toes, but you can wear them out without having to make a fashion statement. Thorogood offers a designs that surpasses even the slickness of a hiking shoe; looking more like a loafer under a jean cuff, you’re sure to wear them for any occasion. Nothing like a well broken-in pair of boots!

Most haircutters wear black shoes to go with the industry’s standard dress code, but this industry has the option of comfort and style. From clogs and Crocs, to Skechers and Vans, you can find them all standing on the salon floor - the key is arch support. Some insert companies, like Dr. Scholls, make their own line of shoes; other companies have sole and arch inserts that come with the shoe; shoes like clogs and Crocs shape to your foot, giving you a built-in, personalized arch support. You can get run-of-the-mill tennis shoes and equip them with store bought arch supports, or you can visit a podiatrist to have custom inserts made.

Whoever cuts your hair knows a thing or two about the importance of keeping feet happy. Next time you’re sitting in the chair, caped up, ready for your trim, look down. The mat underneath is a fatigue mat, used to help redirect and absorb the pressure of standing all day. Fatigue mats are a must in any shop, so if you don’t have them, get them - they come in a variety of colors and shapes! But, they aren’t all you need…

Another thing you might see floating around your favorite barber shop, and even your dentist’s office, is a height adjustable stool with what looks like a bicycle seat mounted on top. These are called saddle stools, and they are designed to help with posture. Why is posture so important? When you’re working with your hands and arms non-stop, your back muscles are doing much more work than you give them credit for - sustaining good posture through those processes actually causes less strain on back muscles, less tension, and better circulation, which results in less fatigue in your arms and hands. The adjustable height and wheels make it a great addition to any shop — did I mention they come in colors like surf green and cherry red?! (Okay, maybe those aren’t the advertised colors, but who’s going to ask to see the receipt?)