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Long hours of standing, often in unsupportive shoes and on slippery surfaces, can wreak havoc on bartenders’ feet. And according to Rhonda Cammon, a Nashville bartender and nurse, not taking proper care of your feet can also be hazardous to your long-term health.
“Foot problems often cause a chain reaction through the lower half of the body, impacting your calves, knees and hips and putting you at greatest risk for chronic issues like plantar fasciitis and tendonitis,” says Cammon.
Here, Cammon and other bartenders share their tips for taking care of your feet.
Johnny Livanos, the general manager of Ousia in New York City, swears by regular stretching and Bikram yoga. “Even though I’m not specifically stretching my feet in class, having a flexible and loose body is great to prevent injuries and keep your body feeling 100%,” he says.
If downward dog isn’t your thing, Cammon recommends incorporating simple stretching exercises, like circling your ankles, point and flexing your feet and rolling your feet on a golf ball into your daily routine.
Keyatta Mincey, an Atlanta bartender and consultant, also believes in the value of foot stretches. “At 40 years old, I do feel the decline in my body and make sure I stretch my feet and calves regularly, even during 15-minute breaks on shift,” she says.
Wearing the wrong shoes at work can lead to a host of foot issues—something Laura Lashley, a California brand ambassador for Seedlip, learned the hard way. “I started serving and bartending when I was 20,” she says. “Since black shoes were the uniform, I just wore black Converse for the first five or six years of working and didn’t even realize how bad they were for my feet.” As a result of improper footwear, she developed plantar fasciitis and suffered from two separate metatarsal stress fractures.
Like many bartenders, Dansko clogs are her shoe of choice. Lashley sticks to Nike Air Max sneakers and other supportive shoes off-hours.
Livanos, who has flat feet and has tried several brands of orthopaedic shoes, prefers the Cole Haan brand, which he finds both “supportive and stylish.” Mincey prefers New Balance sneakers and recommends breaking them in before wearing them behind the stick. Both bartenders also suggest rotating shoes often to extend their lifespan.
Proper socks and foot insoles can provide additional support for aching and overworked feet.
“If you’re lucky enough to have insurance, you can often get over-the-counter shoe inserts or have custom ones made with your plan,” says Cammon.
Kathleen Roll, a bartender at Ludlow Liquors and Sportsman’s Club in Chicago, rotates two pairs of Dr. Scholl’s insoles, which are available at drugstores. She also wears thick socks from outdoor apparel company Carhartt when breaking in new shoes to help prevent blisters.
And don’t forget about medical-grade compression socks. “When you’re on your feet for long hours, the blood pools in your lower legs and puts you at greater risk for deep vein thrombosis, diabetes and other issues, especially as you get older,” says Cammon. “Compression socks help promote circulation and can prevent serious medical complications.”
Roll gets monthly full-body massages but says foot-only massages are a great hack, as well. “They are cheap, quick and effective and can easily be worked into your schedule and budget on a quick break from a double or after a long brunch shift.”
Lashley builds regular pedicures into her budget, while Livanos dunks his feet in cold water or takes a cold shower post-shift to reduce “swelling and inflammation.”
“Feet are just as critical as your hands in this business,” says sommelier and Diversity in Wine and Spirits executive director Lia Jones, who had to leave service due to chronic arthritis in her feet. “And once you can’t use them, you’re done. I’d caution young bartenders that it’s important to take care of your feet from day one.”