We’ve always been a “shoes off at the door” household. Not tracking outdoor dirt into our home reduces our exposure to germs, allergens, and environmental toxins–and it saves time on sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming!
The downside is that standing for long periods on bare feet or sock feet can cause aching in the feet, legs, or back, or a more generalized sense of exhaustion.
It took me a long time to make this connection. I grew up in a house with concrete floors (underneath the carpet or vinyl flooring of each room) and never noticed a problem with walking/standing around barefoot. Since I was 21, I’ve lived in older homes with wood floors, which are more resilient than concrete. But aging causes gradual changes in feet….
I was about 33 when I experienced a sudden, profound fatigue at the end of a long session supervising Girl Scouts washing dishes in a camp lodge. I’d been standing for about an hour, cheering on their scrubbing and advising on how often to drain the greasy water and start fresh, occasionally walking around to put away dry dishes and bring in more dirty ones . . . and then I felt faint and had shooting pains in my calves. I was relieved that it was “sit by the fireplace” time, but I worried aloud about why I felt so bad. Another leader pointed out that I’d been standing in sock feet on a floor that was not only bare concrete but also cold!
That experience made me more wary of hard floors, but I was having no trouble in my kitchen at home, with its resilient linoleum tile over wood floor. I was often on my feet there for an hour at a stretch, cooking or washing dishes, and it seemed fine.
Just before my fortieth birthday, I was diagnosed with arthritis at the base of both big toes. The podiatrist advised better arch support in all my shoes to reduce stress on that joint, and it helped a lot. He also advised wearing shoes around the house so I’d have that support all the time . . . but it took me 7 years to heed that part of his advice!
In the first month of the coronavirus pandemic, my family made all of our own food at home. We’d always done a lot more cooking than some people do, but we used to go to a restaurant at least once a week, and the kids were eating lunch at school; in March, we replaced all of those meals with homemade food. We were really enjoying roasted vegetables and baked fish, so there were lots of baking pans to scrub!
It all led to a lot of time on my feet, while I was hobbling through repeated relapses of some mystery illness. (It probably wasn’t COVID-19, but it really motivated us to shut down contact with the outside world so we wouldn’t spread my illness or catch COVID-19 when I was already sick!) Although we began ordering takeout once in a while after evidence indicated nobody was catching the virus that way, we’re still cooking more than before.
Once I was back to full health, I began questioning why I still felt so wiped-out after cooking or doing dishes. I remembered the podiatrist’s advice, but I didn’t want to start wearing my regular shoes around the house because they get dirty outside. Receiving a birthday discount offer from DSW inspired me to buy a pair of shoes to wear only in the kitchen!
I got slip-on shoes so that I could get in and out of them without messing up my clean hands or needing to sit down. They’re a sort of mesh fabric that was cool enough over bare feet in the summertime but is comfortable over socks, too. They’re washable, in case I spill something on my feet! I added some drugstore arch supports.
(I recommend DSW as a store for in-person shopping during the pandemic, at least at the Homestead Waterfront location just outside Pittsburgh: excellent social-distancing markings and high ceilings so there’s plenty of air around you! You can shop DSW online, too, but I really need to try on shoes before I buy unless I’m replacing a familiar style.)
Note that these are shoes, not slippers: They’re not loose and floppy, and they have grippy soles. Wearing slippers or socks around the house is correlated with an increased risk of falling for older people.
Wearing my kitchen shoes, I not only have less foot pain but find that it’s easier to stand up straight, reducing strain on my back. I’m one of those people to whom good posture just doesn’t come naturally, so unconscious slouching can really crimp me up!
I still need some rest after an enormous muffin-baking binge, but it doesn’t ruin the whole rest of my day!
I keep the shoes just outside the kitchen when not in use, in the “command center” corner of the dining room seen in tip #2 here. It’s taken some time to get into the habit of stepping into my shoes every time I’m starting a kitchen task, but I’m better at remembering now that I’ve felt what a difference it makes!
Visit Hearth & Soul for more great tips on improving the little things in life! Stay home, take good care of yourself, and let that vicious virus die of loneliness!