- Nurses typically walk 4-5 miles in a 12-hour shift, increasing the potential for foot and leg pain.
- Compression socks can help reduce venous insufficiency, leg fatigue, and lower back pain.
- Compression socks are just one strategy in a foot care regimen that can reduce pain and improve health.
Nurses can walk anywhere from 4-5 miles during a 12-hour shift. Research shows that nurses are ranked number four for highest average step count behind only firefighters, corrections officers, and healthcare/nursing assistants.
In short, nurses walk a lot. And all that walking can mean pain, soreness, swelling, chronic foot and leg problems, and even missed work time. Chronic foot and mobility problems can affect a nurse’s physical and mental health and are just generally distracting (not the greatest thing for a healthcare worker).
But there are answers, and they don’t require major changes. Rather, the end of your troubles could begin with the relatively humble compression sock.
Here’s how compression socks can impact your health — and which pair might be right for you.
Compression Socks: What Are They and How Do They Help?
Compression socks do more than keep your feet warm and dry. They apply gentle pressure to your feet, ankles, and legs to improve blood flow and reduce chronic venous insufficiency. This can cause pain, swelling, cramping in the legs, and varicose veins.
There are three main categories of compression socks:
These are most widely available and are the logical first choice for most nurses. Found at most pharmacies, they help bring relief to tired legs while boosting circulation, improving lymphatic drainage, and preventing blood from pooling in the legs.
Graduated Compression Socks
The degree of compression in these socks is strongest at the ankle and decreases higher up the leg. These socks generally require a physician’s prescription and a professional fitting. They are used mainly for people with peripheral edema or orthostatic hypotension.
These also have graduated compression but are used for people who are unable to walk. They also require a physician’s prescription and professional fitting.
Put on your compression socks before your shift, as they can help prevent pain but can’t stop it once it starts. Socks should be free of wrinkles in order to prevent undue pressure in one particular area.
Nurses should replace compression socks every 3-6 months so they maintain maximum support.
Compression socks are effective, but they are just one part of a larger foot care strategy for nurses on the go. Consider adding the following steps to your foot care strategy.
Keep toenails trimmed to avoid ingrown toenails or infection.
Stretch your feet regularly to reduce tight muscles, which can contribute to plantar fasciitis and muscle tension.
Replace shoes every six months. They may look fine, but their internal support system quickly wears down under a nurse’s heavy walking demands.
Moisturize feet daily to help prevent cracks, dry patches, and calluses. Massaging your feet while moisturizing can help increase blood flow and reduce fatigue.
After your shift, draw an Epsom salt bath for tired and swollen feet. The warm bath feels good and the magnesium in the Epsom salts helps reduce swelling and improve circulation.
Compression Socks Recommended for Nurses
Materials, colors, patterns, pressure level, and length: Nurses have plenty of choices when it comes to compression socks.
Knee-high compression socks are the most popular style, as they are easy to put on, tend to be more comfortable, and do not usually irritate the skin. Over-the-knee compression socks are available without a prescription and provide support for the whole leg. Ankle-length varieties also are an option.
Compression socks are also available in three compression levels ranging from mild compression (15-20 mmHg), moderate compression (20-30 mmHg), and firm compression (30-40 mmHg). You may need to try on a few pairs to better understand the amount of compression that works for you.
Compression socks for nurses should feel snugly but not constricting. The fabric should be durable, breathable, and tough enough to withstand daily wear and tear.
Figs Compression Socks
This direct-to-consumer healthcare apparel company maintains an expert advisory board to provide insight and direction to their product lines. Their compression socks come in three sizes, different colors, and different patterns. They are made with sustainably sourced materials and are available in ankle- or knee-length varieties.
Nurse Mates Compression Socks
Nurse Mates matches comfortable shoes with compression socks for a foot care strategy that can help protect nurses’ legs and feet. Anklet compression socks support just the feet, and knee-high socks come in regular or extra-wide calf sizes. These socks offer graduated seamless compression from ankle to knee and a comfortable toe and heel pocket that doesn’t pinch.
Crazy Compression Socks
These compression socks include cushioned soles and extra-wide calf options. The company uses a stay-cool technology to reduce discomfort. They’re a real bargain when purchasing more than one. For nurses looking for support beyond the routine, the company also offers running socks and compression calf sleeves.
Nurses face many challenges with each shift; foot and leg pain should not be one of them. A good pair of compression socks can help you conquer your foot pain and keep you going.