A serious guide to foot care for new nurses


Shutterstock | Viacheslav NikolaenkoShutterstock | Viacheslav Nikolaenko

Welcome, newbies! Congratulations on graduating, passing the NCLEX and landing a job! Your entry to the marvelous world of nursing has begun. With it, you’ve probably already had seminars on infection prevention, good body mechanics and patient safety.

What nobody’s talked about yet, though, is the literal foundation of your practice: your legs and feet.

I’d had blue-collar and white-collar jobs before I started nursing, but I was still surprised at how much my feet and legs hurt. Walking on concrete floors all day is its own special kind of abuse, and you tend not to make time for self-care when you’re overwhelmed with other-people-care.

Tips from a grumpy old nurse, then, on how to care for your feet and legs:

  1. Shoes: Good shoes. Some people like Dansko clogs. I don’t; I tend to roll my ankles in them and end up with plantar fasciitis. Some people love backless shoes or shoes with heel straps, or those cute flat clogs with the pretty designs on them. Don’t get the idea in your head that you have to wear what’s popular with your colleagues, and don’t be afraid to shop around. You will have to spend good money, more than likely, but it’ll be worth it.
  2. Toenails: They can be the bane of your existence if you’re not careful. Spending 12 hours closed up in shoes can make even the most well-behaved feet prone to ingrowns, black toenails and weird fungus. Keep your feet clean and dry; trim and file those nails; and let your paws air out at the end of the day. Many nail salons offer what’s called a “runner’s pedicure,” in which nails are trimmed a bit shorter and filed in a particular way. It’s worth the money to check it out.
  3. Calluses: Oh my Lord, calluses. They can be good, in that they protect your feet from rubbing, but they can also be bad if they’re allowed to grow out of control. Don’t ever let anybody cut calluses off, and don’t do it yourself. Lotion and a pumice stone are all you should ever need.
  4. Foot stank: It happens to the best of us. Closed shoes are a breeding ground for athlete’s foot fungus, which can contribute to an awful case of Stank. Over-the-counter remedies are your first line of defense. Be sure to air out your shoes on days you don’t work, and be sure your socks are clean. (This seems like a basic point, but it does escape some people.) If worse comes to worst and you feel like your feet belong to a lizard-alien, see your doctor.
  5. Legs: Legs are just as important as feet. Stretch yours now and then, like a formal calf-and-thigh stretch. Put up your feet when you get home, higher than your heart. If your ankles swell, consider support hose. Remember that salt, alcohol and inactivity can make swelling worse. Massage is a necessity for a nurse rather than a luxury: A leg massage can make the difference between bad and good working days.

Next time we’ll talk about forehead wrinkles—why they appear 10 minutes after you start your first job and what you can do about them!

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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