Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Lawn cutters: Keep your toes on

There is no need to remind you dear reader how tiring a day's physical graft can become when you are on your feet all day. Nor would it be appropriate to bombard you with a set of statistics that might want you to not to get out of your beds of a morning. But it is a well known fact that statistics indicate many tens of thousands of people are treated annually in hospital each year across the globe for lawn mower related injuries. Adults aged between 25-60 sustain most. Injuries involve deep lacerations, amputation and broken and dislocated bones. Fourteen (14) % involve the foot with a large percentage resulting in loss of toes or part of the foot. The vast majority of these injuries are considered preventable. The risk and occupation hazards with people on their feet for a living are well documented and clearly understood.

Injuries associated with power lawn mowers fall into four categories:

Direct contact with rotating blades.
Propelled objects at high speed
Overturning (riding mowers)
Riding over victims.

The foot has an amazingly complex architecture with 26 small bones and 32 joints. It operates by an intricate system of ligaments muscles and tendons and needs to endure forces often 3 times our body weight. There are five separate phases of foot behaviour during one step.

The foot needs to land safely, stabilise to take weight, then distribute load, it locks into a rigid lever, before propelling itself forward to take off. Quite an engineering feat (wise choice of words). All of the above is completed in six-tenths of a second. The faster you move the quicker it happens.

A normal function of the working foot is to sweat and when confined in the airtight boots this leads to break down of bacteria which give off offensive odours. Perfectly normal but often a source of concern (usually to the people you live with). Easily rectified by simple and regular foot hygiene. Bathing the feet in hand hot water using simple soap (46 degrees C) will wash the bacteria off the skin. Do not steep the feet in hot water as this may weaken the structures, which support the arches of the foot. Pat dry, take care to dry between the toes, then apply cream (the cheaper the better) before a light talcum between the toes (can use baby powder or medicated varieties). This will improve most athletes' foot types. If symptoms persist such as itchiness or tenderness then see a podiatrist.

About 25% of the population sweat excessively, good tip is to wear socks, which absorb fluids and can be easily washed. Preferred fabric is cotton or cotton mix. Nowadays there are new polymers, which offer both antibacterial as well as anti fungal properties and these are integrated within the knitted sock. Ideal as treatments for existing infections or as a preventative measures. Recommend a fresh pair of cotton socks per day which allows others to be washed and dried etc. Recommend a second pair of long socks be worn over the short socks. These come over the ankle and can be tired down over the boot to prevent entry of foreign bodies. Woollen socks with double knit soles trap air, which heats to body temperature, and prevents hypothermia of the foot.

There are many over the counter inlays, which help reduce the flow of sweat or deodorise the smell. Regular boot fumigation is recommended and kills all microorganisms likely to cause infection. Footwear should be left in an aerated place to distribute pungent fumes. Working boots should be left in the open air when not worn and some people suggest keeping the spare boots in the fridge or freezer to kill micro-organisms Just remember to defrost them in good time. A light sprinkle of talcum or medicated powder into the boot reduces friction against the sides of the boot. Some people used bicarbonate of soda instead. If your work boot do not contain aeration portholes these can easily and cheaply be made by a cobbler. An important proviso is to have a mesh protection to prevent entry of foreign objects.

Safe footwear is important especially when walking behind a lawnmower. Developments in polymer technologies mean today's work boots are both lightweight and extremely supportive for the working foot. Occupational footwear needs to support the foot especially during excessive activities. Further they need to be flexible and lightweight incorporating good fit and comfort to reduce foot fatigue. The range is vast and meets most people's requirements. It is therefore not my intention to recommend any one supplier but instead to briefly highlight the features necessary for a safety boot.

Resilience and durability
Working boots need tough uppers for durability many are made from treated leathers which combat degrading and cracking due to environmental factors. This means the surface must be treated regularly which prolongs the life of the boot. You are recommended to follow the manufacturer’ instructions.

Sole Traction
Tread designs must prevent slippage on unstable surfaces. Protective non-sip soles should incorporate studded, ridged or cleated patterns to grip slippery or rough ground. These rough ridges increase the foot's surface contact and thereby reduce the risk of slippage. Lightweight polyurethane foams are very hardwearing and maintain their integrity longer, thus prolong the effective working life of the boot. Injection sole systems combine the upper and sole of boots, which make for a stronger union than traditional stitched soles. Most quality work boots will have heat resistant soles, which are not adversely affected by exposure to chemicals.

Reinforced toe box
A sensible precaution is to wear boots with a reinforced toe box. There many types available but steel toe capped boots would be ideal. Some people do experience problems with the toe box and it is recommended an adequate depth be left to accommodate the toes.

For the vast majority of people getting boots to fit their specific foot requirement is not a problem but due care and attention is required, non-the less. Length and breadth are important if the boot is to take the strain of the walking day. Sometimes these measurements are complicated because there is no standardised system of measurement. Wherever possible have you does a trained shoe fitter assess feet but the vast majority of footwear is sold self-service. This has increased recently with online services supplying footwear.

Support for the foot
Advances in material science and improved understanding of foot function mean boots offer maximum support without loss of cushioning or added weight. Provided vital statistics of foot volume match the boot size, than that is all that is required. Quality boots will include other luxury features, which are often, overkill and account for the price tag. Boots, which provide a quality foot bed to cushion the foot and protect against friction within the shoe, add to their comfort. Top of the range boots incorporate polyurethane foams and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) as part of the dual density midsole. The former is responsible for support, whereas the latter gives cushioning to the foot. All fitting boots will accommodate foot orthoses and some include this support within their structure circumventing the need for added supports. By cradling the foot in this way there is reason to assume it will reduce foot fatigue and referred leg and backache. Reinforced heel support (multi-layers) keep the foot from excess movement and air trapped in the sole of the boot reduce the effects of ground reaction on the foot.

Lacing Systems
There are now many different lacing systems available. The vamp of the boot i.e. lacing section, helps hold the heel of the foot in the rear of the boot which stabilises the foot. Lacing is a mechanical means of adjusting boot fit to the precise dimension of the foot within. Different systems are available which further enhance comfort to accommodate broad and narrow fittings. Designs of eyelets again are varied and help reduce entry of foreign objects.

Trouble shooting
High on the ankle boots can cause shin splints. Buy boots in the afternoon when the foot is at its biggest size.

Have a safe day.

(Video Courtesy: Legion of Weirdos by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 3/12/2019

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