Standing or Walking on Concrete All Day? What Physical Therapists Want You to Know

Standing or walking on concrete all day can lead to full-body soreness and discomfort. Find relief with these treatment tips and stretches.

Published Date: Oct 17, 2023
two-workers-in-a-building

Standing or Walking on Concrete All Day? What Physical Therapists Want You to Know

Standing or walking on concrete all day can lead to full-body soreness and discomfort. Find relief with these treatment tips and stretches.

Published Date: Oct 17, 2023
two-workers-in-a-building

Standing or Walking on Concrete All Day? What Physical Therapists Want You to Know

Standing or walking on concrete all day can lead to full-body soreness and discomfort. Find relief with these treatment tips and stretches.

Published Date: Oct 17, 2023
two-workers-in-a-building

Standing or Walking on Concrete All Day? What Physical Therapists Want You to Know

Standing or walking on concrete all day can lead to full-body soreness and discomfort. Find relief with these treatment tips and stretches.

Published Date: Oct 17, 2023
two-workers-in-a-building
Table of Contents

At some point, you may have heard someone say that walking or standing on concrete all day  is bad for your joints and a primary source of sore feet, bad backs, and achy knees. But here’s the thing: While the hard material has gotten a bad rap, concrete is not the bogeyman of flooring we’ve been told to fear. 

And that’s good news, since it’s hardly something anyone can avoid, especially people — including teachers; nurses; and retail, restaurant, and factory workers — who stand and walk on concrete most of the day. 

“It’s true that jobs that require you to stand all day can be hard on your body overall, but it’s not necessarily because of what you’re standing on,” says Julianne Payton, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health. “If you did those same types of jobs standing on foam, for example, you may still not feel great at the end of the day.” 

There are several reasons why jobs that require you to be on your feet — on concrete, or not — can be taxing on the body, but there’s plenty you can do to counteract those effects. 

Read on to learn how to protect yourself if you’re on your feet all day and what steps you can take to prevent chronic aches and pains, including stretches from our Hinge Health physical therapists that you can do right at your workstation to minimize the impact.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Julianne Payton, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Payton is a Hinge Health physical therapist with 8 years of experience and specializes in ergonomics and workplace injuries.
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Lee is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and an Associate Medical Director at Hinge Health.
Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

Walking and Standing on Concrete: How It Impacts Your Health

It’s common for workers who put in long hours on concrete flooring to blame it for their sore backs and feet

But know this: While there is no convincing evidence directly connecting the unforgiving nature of concrete and musculoskeletal (MSK) injury, there may be some parallel connections. “Jobs that involve a lot of time on concrete may also require a lot of physical and emotional hard work,” says Dr. Payton. “Moving or standing on a hard surface may signal that you need to invest extra time into preparing your body to tolerate the physical work you do and find time to break up the stress that can build during a work day.”

Work-related MSK woes can also be attributed to static positioning (lack of movement) or repetitive motion (which, yes, includes walking). This can include standing at a cash register all day but hardly moving your body, or working in the kitchen at a restaurant and repeatedly performing the same tasks. 

The emotional demands of work can also physically tax our bodies, contributing to these work-related MSK aches and pains. This can include not feeling supported by co-workers or managers, dealing with demanding customers, or doing tasks that don’t interest you. Emotional stress has a physical effect on our bodies, including increasing inflammation.

Luckily, research shows that even a little bit of movement can do a lot to treat work-related symptoms. Short spurts of activity — what the healthcare team at Hinge Health calls “movement snacks” — can go a long way toward giving your body a much-needed break from spending long periods of time on your feet, or helping reset from emotionally demanding work.

“Our bodies are not designed to be in one position for long,” says Dr. Payton. “They really crave movement.” As a result, small bursts of activity can make whatever position you’re usually in more tolerable by giving you a break from a hard or repetitive physical task. 

How To Prevent Pain When Standing All Day

Rather than perpetuating the belief that concrete negatively impacts you, it’s important to focus on ways to increase your tolerance for being on your feet all day, no matter the surface. These tips can help:

Wear appropriate footwear. There is no such thing as the perfect shoe, but proper-fitting, supportive shoes that feel comfortable are key. Try on several pairs in order to find one that works best for you during the day and also when you exercise on concrete, like walking or jogging.

Consider shoe inserts. Orthopedic insoles, also known as orthotics, add extra cushioning and support that can reduce foot discomfort: They help to stabilize the body, so the foot and leg muscles don’t have to do as much work when you’re standing. As a result, you may experience less lower body fatigue and foot soreness at the end of the day. Orthotics can also target specific issues you may have with your feet, like plantar fasciitis, flat feet, bunions, high/low arches, and more. Though not always necessary, Dr. Payton says they’re worth a try and sometimes seem to help. 

Have a seat. If possible, sit down every 15 to 20 minutes, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Set a reminder on your phone or use discomfort as your guide, suggests Dr. Payton. If you’re starting to feel a bit achy, it’s a good reminder to take a brief rest.

Change positions frequently. “Our bodies love movement, so try to vary the types of positions you’re in throughout the day,” says Dr. Payton. Not only will this help prevent pain or irritation in the future, it’s also a great strategy for people who are already in pain. The movement can help restore blood flow to areas and reduce sensitivity, says Dr. Payton. Repositioning yourself doesn’t have to be a time-consuming endeavor, either. Doing something as simple as touching your toes for a few seconds can make a difference. 

Get your heart rate up. Before or after work, take five to 10 minutes to indulge in a cardio-focused activity, like walking, jogging, or dancing, that gets your heart rate up. This quick burst of activity can make both your body and mind more resilient to the demands of work.

Try an anti-fatigue mat. These mats can provide extra support under your feet, especially if you don’t have the option for much sitting. “If the extra cushioning these mats provide helps you feel better when standing for long periods, then I say go for it,” says Dr. Payton.

Take deep breaths. Taking a few deep breaths through your nose when you feel tense or in pain slows your heart rate, allows more oxygen to enter your bloodstream, and ultimately tells your brain to relax. It also triggers the release of “feel-good” endorphins, which may help combat pain. 

Stretches to Make Standing on Concrete Easier

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  • Calf Raises
  • Seated Pelvic Tilts
  • Standing Back Extension
  • Forward Bend
  • Deep Squats

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These stretches can go a long way toward helping you feel better before, during, and after a long day on your feet. By engaging all the major muscle groups, these moves have the ability to help increase blood flow, reduce stiffness, improve flexibility, and relax muscles. “I recommend rotating through these exercises and choosing a different one every 15 to 20 minutes,” says Dr. Payton. 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

PT Tip: Wear Compression Socks

When you’re on your feet all day, these specialized socks apply gentle pressure to the legs to improve circulation and reduce swelling. This helps relieve fatigue, heaviness, and pain. “Compression socks are fantastic for people who walk or stand all day and are often helpful for people with leg pain,” says Dr. Payton

How Hinge Health Can Help You

 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Waters, T. R., & Dick, R. B. (2014). Evidence of Health Risks Associated with Prolonged Standing at Work and Intervention Effectiveness. Rehabilitation Nursing, 40(3), 148–165. doi:10.1002/rnj.166

  2. Everything You Need To Know About Compression Socks. August 17, 2023. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-you-should-know-about-compression-socks/

  3. Beech, P. February 28, 2019. Hard living: what does concrete do to our bodies? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/28/hard-living-what-does-concrete-do-to-our-bodies

  4. Good, L. (n.d.). Tips on Standing & Walking on Concrete Flooring. Livestrong. https://www.livestrong.com/article/351733-tips-on-standing-walking-on-concrete-flooring/ 

  5. da Costa, B. R., & Vieira, E. R. (2009). Risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review of recent longitudinal studies. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 53(3), 285-323. doi:10.1002/ajim.20750