(BPT) - Construction workers don't wear high-heels - and not just because of the questionable fashion statement that might make. Professional builders know how important it is to protect their feet on the job, and you should do the same when undertaking your do-it-yourself home improvement and maintenance projects.
'We've all watched a neighbor mow the lawn in flip-flops and worried that they are risking injury,' says Joseph M. Caporusso, DPM, a podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). 'Just as you equip yourself with the right tools for a DIY project, you need the right kind of footwear when working around your house.'
Uncomfortable, ill-fitting shoes cause foot pain for nearly 78 percent of Americans, according to an APMA survey. What's more, says Caporusso, improper footwear can lead to injury.
The APMA offers some advice for DIYers looking to take care of their feet:
* Before starting a project, consider the possible risks to your feet. For example, will you be working with nails? A shoe with a thicker sole could help protect your feet from possible punctures. Does your project involve lifting heavy objects? Steel-toed shoes or boots could help prevent crush injuries from anything you drop. Always wear protective footwear if you're working with heavy equipment, and yes, that includes the lawnmower, string trimmers, and hedge clippers.
* Make sure your work shoe or boot fits properly. Footwear that is too tight or too loose can cause irritation, blisters and other injuries. And ill-fitting shoes can compromise your stability, putting you at greater risk for falls.
* How long will you be on your feet for the task at hand? If your project will require you to stand for long stretches of time, a comfortable, supportive shoe will be especially important. Excessive standing, or standing and walking for long periods on hard surfaces like concrete, can increase the chance of foot problems, APMA says.
* Is there a chance your feet will get wet and chilled? Some fall lawn and garden tasks involve water. Standing or walking in wet shoes can cause irritation and even injury. If your feet will be exposed to water during your project, consider waterproof footwear.
* Before beginning any project, inspect your footwear to make sure it's in good shape. Worn or damaged shoes and boots will be less effective in protecting your feet. If your footwear is showing signs of wear that might compromise its integrity, replace it.
* When buying new work boots or shoes, shop later in the day when your feet are at their largest. Try on both shoes (not just one on your larger foot) and make sure both are immediately comfortable. Shoes that fit properly should never require a 'breaking in' period; they should be comfortable right away.
* Look for products that carry the APMA's Seal of Acceptance, which indicates products that have been found to be beneficial to foot health. You can find a full list of APMA accepted products at www.apma.org.
* Take care of your work shoes. Always clean off any spills, drips or solvents that get on your shoes. Inspect them regularly and get them repaired when necessary - or discard them if they're beyond repair.
Injuries and irritation can sometimes happen, despite your best precautions. When foot pain occurs, don't wait to see if it will just go away on its own. 'There's really no such thing as 'normal' foot pain,' Caporusso says. 'If you experience foot pain after engaging in a DIY project around your house, you should see today's podiatrist. He or she can diagnose your pain and advise you on treatment options.'
Wearing the right footwear when doing DIY projects can help ensure that when you're finished, you're left with a great-looking home improvement - and no foot injuries.