Keeping in step: Foot problems common in service industry

Published: 2011-09-01 14:35:52

 Consider the human foot.

Its 26 bones, 20 muscles and more than 150 ligaments make it one of the most complex anatomical structures of the body. A pair of them takes an average of 10,000 steps a day, absorbing the cumulative force of hundreds of tons.

And nowhere are feet more important than in a town with a large service industry like Las Vegas.

"Oh yes, my feet are very important to my career," says Colin Shaughnessy, a valet supervisor at Green Valley Ranch Resort. "I learned that pretty quick."

Yet, feet are perhaps the most overlooked, underappreciated body parts, says orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon Roman Sibel.

Until they hurt.

"Every aspect of your daily life revolves around your feet," Sibel says. About 50 percent of his patients see him for work-related foot and ankle injuries. "I don't think people understand the magnitude of change in life if they can't walk well. It affects everything from getting up to making breakfast and going to work."

Service industry workers, including cocktail servers, valet runners, cashiers, restaurant workers, dealers and performers, are more susceptible to foot and ankle problems than those in other jobs for two reasons: footwear and time spent on their feet.

"They're not doing desk jobs, they're spending a lot of time walking back and forth," Sibel says. "They're typically wearing a uniform shoe. For women, it's often a high heel."