Our feet work hard. And hairdressers, like chefs, retail sales people and all professionals who stand for several hours a day, put the strength and structural resiliency of the human foot to the extreme test.
Most quadrupeds-- dogs, cats, rabbits, deer, horses – can walk within an hour or so of being born. Some animals can literally run when they’re only a day old. Keep this in mind when you watch a human child creep and crawl in early babyhood, then rise to a wobbly biped posture as a toddler. Learning balance and upright gait takes many months (and tearful falls) to acquire and master. Standing is not anatomically easy for human beings. In fact, simply standing for prolonged periods is technically more difficult than walking or running, from a body-mechanics point of view.
So as a hairdresser, it is no wonder that your feet ache at the end of a long day, and that, after a decade or more of working in a salon, your ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, elbows and wrists all begin to feel the cumulative effects of this work which is so strenuous in spite of its comparatively small range of motion.
I view the human foot as an undervalued masterpiece of engineering. Once you begin to see your feet this way, you may feel a bit more compassion for these complex, fragile and sensitive structures which are the foundation of our posture and our primary means of locomotion.
Our feet are an exquisite network of various muscles and muscle sheaths, 26 bones, several tendons and more than 100 ligaments which hold the bones and tendons in place. Given the rather precarious dynamics of our erect posture and movement, these structures are easily injured. And, we often make it worse as the result of our own habits.
- FOOTWEAR IS KEY:
Many, many hairdressers are women, and they are all fashionistas! And this almost universally means wearing sexy designer heels on the job, on the floor, behind the chair, for hours every day. Ouch.
Of course your clients look to you as a fashion icon, and you must epitomize chic as an important aspect of your professionalism. Insoles for those stilettos can help. Stretching the feet first thing in the morning, and throughout the day if possible, also can help. Also, vary your heel-height, day to day, to reduce the shortening of the calf-muscle and other perils of killer heels. Switch from a 4-inch to a 2-inch mid-week, for example.
And just to put it in perspective: flats, flip-flops and soft sheepskin slipper-boots are not ideal for those 10-hour shifts, either, since they do not support your feet. Both men and women should take note: your feet will be happiest in a structured shoe which stabilizes the heel, keeps your weight centered, and supports the arch. Affordable insoles are now made for both women’s and men’s dress shoes, as well as for athletic shoes.
- SURFACE MANAGEMENT:
Most likely, your salon has cement floors. If you’re lucky, a more forgiving surface has been laid over a cement base. Even hardwoods yield more to your weight than ubiquitous concrete. In any case, create a foot-friendly surface around your work-station with supportive gel-pads. These are available in many thicknesses, colors, sizes, and price-points.
- FEEL YOUR OWN BODY:
Of course, hairdressers love a full appointment-book, so you’re probably delighted when your day is packed. But do yourself a huge favor: as often as possible, step into the break room or parking lot and stretch. Allow your shoulders and back to open up. Bend your knees, soften your muscles, and slowly touch your toes, roll up gently, repeat a few times. Breathe slowly and deeply. Granted, this is not a foot exercise per se, but helping your overall posture means less pain and lowers the chance of injury.
- LOVE YOUR FEET!
Because you work in a salon or spa, chances are there is someone on your team who is a skilled massage therapist. This is good news for your feet! Why not barter with other professionals in your spa, and trade services: warm soak, pressure-point massage, and aromatherapy reflexology for your feet in exchange for blow-out, root touch-up, gloss treatment, etc.
Dr. Robert Joseph, DPM, a native of Boston, received his degrees from University of Massachusetts, and Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine, and has been a practicing foot and ankle surgeon in Los Angeles since 1999. Dr. Joseph specializes in treating injuries of ligaments, tendons and bones using minimal incision techniques. His specialties include the prevention and treatment of common sports injuries, Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendon tears, as well as bunions and corns. In November, 2013, Dr. Joseph was named Director of Podiatry at Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, CA. He is also the founder of DoctorInsole (doctorinsole.com), the first over-the-counter corrective orthotic with patent pending technology.