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The average commute time in the United States has been steadily increasing. People are spending more and more time in their automobiles. It’s no wonder that people are having more foot problems from driving.
In this article, we’ll discuss 7 actionable solutions to prevent foot pain when driving.
What Is a Driver Foot?
Driver’s foot is when there is foot pain and cramping that occurs while driving. Pain can occur in the heel, the ball of the foot, and across the top of the foot.
Some of the things you can do to relieve pain associated with a driver’s foot include: wearing supportive inserts, wearing proper shoe gear, taking scheduled breaks, stretching exercises, proper positioning, wearing compression stockings, and proper aftercare.
1) Position Your Seat Properly to Prevent Foot Pain
When you are driving, the position is key. Make sure that when seated, your knees are slightly bent and you are not straining to reach the pedals.
Make sure to adjust your seat height, steering wheel, and backrest angle in a comfortable position.
Improper positioning, while you are driving, can cause a variety of foot problems.
Tendonitis is a condition where the tendons become inflamed, causing pain and discomfort.
The problem with not being positioned properly is that you end up straining the tendons, which in turn causes tendonitis.
The extensor tendon on the top of your foot can become strained due to overuse, causing top of foot pain when driving. The pain may even radiate to your ankle, causing ankle pain while driving.
If your foot is too far from the pedal, a condition called plantar fasciitis may occur. Plantar fasciitis is the degeneration of the ligament that supports your arch.
When your toes are pointed down for a long period, it can cause tightening of the plantar fascia. This will result in heel and arch pain.
Not only that, tightening of the Achilles tendon can occur in this position, causing Achilles tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis can result in pain in the back of your heel and ankle.
If you sit too close to the pedal and the ball of your foot is pressing on the pedal with excess force, metatarsalgia can develop.
Metatarsalgia is pain in the ball of your foot.
Metatarsalgia can cause achiness in the bottom of your foot that can continue to be present even after driving.
2) Wear the Right Shoes
Wear supportive athletic shoes while driving. Many running shoe stores nowadays have a variety of different shoes that you can choose from.
Get a shoe that has arch support incorporated into it. Find a shoe that has a hard bottom sole that can properly support your feet.
Wearing supportive shoes while you drive can prevent a foot problem from occurring.
You can also visit your local foot doctor who will give you recommendations on what shoe gear is best for your foot structure.
Everyone’s foot structure is different. A shoe that may work for you may not always work for someone else. Some examples of shoe brands that have stiff soles and supportive arches include New Balance, Brooks, and Saucony.
Do not wear flip-flops when driving.
Flip flops are loose-fitting, making it difficult for drivers to maintain control over the pedals. They can easily slip off and cause a foot injury or car accident. Most flip-flops lack traction and stability.
Not only that, the thin soles on flip flops provide minimal protection to the feet.
3) Wear Supportive Inserts if You Have Painful Feet
Wearing arch supports can be immensely beneficial in relieving foot pain from driving. The insert should contour your feet well and also be able to reduce shock absorption.
For over-the-counter orthotics, Powerstep insoles will work well.
- If you have mild to moderate flat feet and are looking for over-the-counter orthotics, you can wear the Powerstep ProTech orthotic.
These orthotics have good arch support with the deep heel cup that has added cushion to it. These orthotics will last for six months to one year depending on your level of activity.
Remove your shoe liners before placing the orthotics in your shoes.
- For very flat feet, use the Powerstep Maxx Orthotic which has added arch support to control overpronation.
- For high-arched feet, use the Powerstep High Arch Orthotic that can contour high-arched feet well.
If you suffer from pain in the ball of your foot, orthotics that have metatarsal pads in them are a great treatment choice.
These types of orthotics help alleviate pressure from the ball of the foot.
The Powerstep Pinnacle plus orthotics have a metatarsal pad incorporated into it.
The metatarsal pad in the orthotic helps take pressure away from the ball of the foot.
An additional bonus about this insert is that it can help to offload painful calluses in the ball of your feet too.
4) Take Scheduled Breaks During Long Trips
Take scheduled breaks every hour while driving.
Long periods of driving can cause your feet to swell and feel achy or uncomfortable. It can also cause plantar fasciitis to occur due to the tightening of your Achilles tendon that occurs when you pump the gas and brake pedal continuously.
During your break, walk around to improve circulation in your legs. You should aim to walk for 20-30 minutes.
Massages can help relieve symptoms. You can use a tennis ball or a golf ball and place it on the floor. Massage your arch and heels over it.
This will massage the plantar fascia ligament on the bottom of your foot. It will make the ligament more supple. Massages can also improve blood flow in the foot.
5) Perform Stretching Exercises for the Driver’s Foot
Stretching exercises can help stretch your tight tendons and ligaments in your foot, and provide significant relief. Make sure to stretch during your breaks.
Check out this article on how to properly stretch your calf muscles to help with plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Performing stretching exercises for 10-15 minutes, three times a day, is a great treatment option for heel pain.
Here is another article demonstrating how to perform stretching exercises for extensor tendonitis (the tendon on the top of your foot).
6) Wear Compression Stockings
Anytime your legs are hanging down while you’re sitting for prolonged periods, you may notice increased swelling in your legs.
Some people experience more swelling than others due to genetics.
The veins in your legs pump blood back to your heart. When your legs are hanging down, the valves inside the veins aren’t as efficient in pumping the blood back to the heart.
This results in the pooling of blood in your legs. This often gets worse with age.
When you’re sitting for prolonged periods in a car, you may notice increased swelling in your legs.
A little bit of swelling in the legs is generally harmless, however, if you are immobile in a vehicle for a long period, you will be at risk for developing a blood clot (DVT), which is a medical emergency.
If you experience sudden calf pain, redness, or feel tightness in the calf, you will need to go to the hospital to be evaluated and receive blood thinners.
Compression stockings can be beneficial to help reduce swelling. It’s not realistic or safe to wrap your ankles and legs with an ACE bandage when driving.
Make sure your compression stockings fit well.
You can start with a low-grade compression stocking strength of 15-20mmHg. The compression stocking can be worn during the day, and removed in the evening.
One pair of socks will generally last 6 months.
7) Prioritize Aftercare Driving Treatment
Proper aftercare is essential to relieve foot pain from driving. When you reach home, take off your shoes and massage your feet.
Pay attention to any sore areas. If the sore spots persist for days, make sure to contact your foot doctor for evaluation.
Elevate your legs for 30 minutes to relieve swelling. Elevating on 2-3 pillows can help reduce foot and leg swelling.
Soak your feet in Epsom salts for about 10-15 minutes to reduce discomfort in the feet. Proper foot care is essential.
Make sure to take a 30 minute walk after driving to improve circulation.
Finally, make sure to perform the stretching exercises mentioned previously to prevent tightness of the tendons and ligaments in the feet.
In conclusion, foot pain from driving is a common issue that can significantly impact drivers’ comfort and safety. By understanding the causes of this discomfort and adopting proactive measures, drivers can minimize the risks associated with foot pain.
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- Ahire, S. G., & Shukla, S. (2021). Assessment of Foot Using Foot Function Index in Taxi Drivers. Indian J. Physiother. Occup. Ther, 15, 169-172.https://ijpot.com/scripts/IJPOT_July-Sept.2021.pdf#page=175
- Jammes, Y., Weber, J. P., & Behr, M. (2017). Consequences of Car Driving on Foot and Ankle Mobility and Reflexes. Clin Res Foot Ankle, 5(233), 2.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318906354_Consequences_of_Car_Driving_on_Foot_and_Ankle_Mobility_and_Reflexes
- Talusan, P. G., Miller, C. P., Save, A. V., & Reach Jr, J. S. (2015). Driving reaction times in patients with foot and ankle pathology before and after image-guided injection: pain relief without improved function. Foot & ankle specialist, 8(2), 107-111.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1938640014548420
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