How can I stand comfortably / work on my feet for long periods?
December 27, 2008 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Hi MeFites :) I've recently changed my desk setup so I'm standing, instead of sitting, to help reduce my lower back pain. However I'm not used to standing for long periods and would love any tips you can offer me for standing comfortably for hours at a time.

Hi MeFites :) I've recently changed my desk setup so I'm standing, instead of sitting, to help reduce my lower back pain.

However I'm not used to standing for long periods and would love any tips you can offer me for standing comfortably for hours at a time.

Please note...

- I work from home so it's usually bare feet on hard wood floors

- I'm not in a position where I can walk while I work - to do that I'll need to take breaks away from the computer

- I have a laptop so I can sit down somewhere during the day if you think that's a good idea?

So far the only things that have come to mind are standing on a cushy bath mat or yoga mat, and also resting one foot at a time (yes, the way horses do, hehe).

A huge thank you in advance for any help you can give me :)!!
posted by katala to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Get a good industrial floor mat. get a pair of Crocs. sit when you can. bare foot/wood floors (or any hard surface) is bad.
posted by patnok at 4:43 PM on December 27, 2008

Bare feet are probably a better option than most office shoes, but consider wearing a pair with really good arch support. Even if you don't decide to wear shoes, definitely consider getting something like this. Really anything to make the floor a bit softer would be good. This isn't just carpet, it's actually kind of squishy and will thus conform itself to your foot in ways that carpet won't. I've seen these in use numerous people who work jobs where they stand in the same spot for extended periods of time, e.g. security guards. They work wonders.
posted by valkyryn at 4:44 PM on December 27, 2008

I have hard floors throughout my place. Birkenstock Boston clogs are my essential indoor shoes: easy to slip on and off, very comfortable after they've broken in, and long-lasting if you never wear them outside.
posted by D.C. at 4:55 PM on December 27, 2008

Rather than standing up, I think you might do better with one of these. I used to use one, and they are surprisingly comfortable even for long periods of use.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:32 PM on December 27, 2008

I so feel your pain. I have chronic low-back issues that can make sitting in front of a computer damn near torture. My solution was to go to a standing desk, kind of like this one. The stool is key--you end up more leaning against it than sitting. Takes the weight off your feet, but you keep a more comfortable upright posture. That Moser rig is expensive, so I built a rough copy (and a stool) out of scrap plywood and 2x4's. Even when my back is hurting pretty good, I can work and not be miserable.
posted by lost_cause at 5:44 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pay lots of attention to your posture, of course. I find that I have to consciously rotate my hips forward to put my spine in a good position, for example.
posted by hattifattener at 5:47 PM on December 27, 2008

Don't lock your knees, you'll pass out.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:47 PM on December 27, 2008

Use a good floormat, one which has an uneven surface so that your feet change position more. Put a rug over it if it's too hard on your bare feet. Your legs will appreciate the floormat.

If at all possible have the height and angle of your worksurface be adjustable - easily adjustable so you can tweak it as you work and as you need a different position.

Laptops are almost impossible to use comfortably standing for long periods. If that's all you have, then get a separate keyboard and mouse or trackball (my preference is to have both, mouse on left, trackball on right.)

Orient your working so you can look far away as well as close up; you'll get tired less if your eyes can look into the distance and relax every now and then.
posted by airplain at 5:52 PM on December 27, 2008

I remember reading an article in the NY Times a few years ago about a doctor who'd arranged his workspace at a standing level and put a treadmill in front of it. He would set the treadmill to run at a very slow speed (like, 1 step per second or so). I think most people finding standing for a long period of time much more uncomfortable than walking for a long period of time, so his idea struck me as pretty cool at the time. I just googled "treadmill desk article" and found a link to the article on a website that apparently sells just this kind of setup.
posted by aka burlap at 6:06 PM on December 27, 2008

I stand / walk for 13 hours at a time at my job and just got some MBT shoes. They are fairly expensive ($250) but they are the first shoe that I really did NOT feel my feet, legs and back all ache for a few hours after a shift. They're very cushy and make you re-adjust your balance which seems to make the difference. My posture is better too. I'm not sold on all the claims people make about these shoes yet - but so far they're pretty amazing. Cheaper clearance ones can be found online.

Sans expensive shoes I like the squishy floor mat idea. Alternating resting a leg like horses do is smart. Another smart thing animals do is stretch all the time. Watch them - every time your dog or cat gets up, they stretch. Take yoga breaks.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:31 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a similar setup at my last job (to prevent constant getting up/sitting down) and, like lost_cause, found a tall chair to be a huge help. I could sit on it, lean against it, or ignore it, as it suited me. Make sure your monitor is elevated enough that you look at it straight on. I used a normal keyboard on a flat surface, but keyboard ergonomics is a whole other area you could look into.

The rubber mat should be a help (I never used one, but they're standard in factory settings for a reason) but good shoes *definitely* are. Go to a local uniform company (often branded as 'nurses uniforms' or some other industry tie-in) and get a decent pair (Carolinas with ankle support might be good for you.) You won't regret it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:42 PM on December 27, 2008

Absolutely seconding the MBT shoes. They're dorky looking as all get out, but unfuckingbelievably comfortable. I had Achilles tendon surgery followed two months later by ankle stabilisation surgery on the same foot (then three months later stepped out the front door and randomly broke the other ankle) two years ago. These are the first shoes that I've ever encountered that I can walk around in for 10 hours straight and not feel a single twinge of pain; not in my feet, not in my back. They are worth every penny despite their appearance.

I got mine from the Walking Company, but I hear you can get sweet deals on closeouts from Just know that they are sized in quarters instead of halves (i.e., instead of whole/half sizes, they go 8, 8.25, 8.50, 8.75, 9, etc.). So, your best bet would be to go try a pair on IRL, then go buy 'em somewhere cheaper online.
posted by dancinglamb at 7:33 PM on December 27, 2008

Oh, and these are the ones I have. They aren't any cheaper at Walker's Wearhouse at the moment, but maybe if you Google around, you might luck out...
posted by dancinglamb at 7:35 PM on December 27, 2008

I've worked retail in several positions. Many of those jobs keep me on my feet without necessarily walking. It's different from the lower back pain thing, but it can come in as a factor.

The one female only tip: wear support hose, even under pants. It helps the circulation in your legs.

For everyone:
Work out for 30 minutes minimum as soon as possible before starting your work day. Getting the blood flowing makes it so much easier to stay on your feet all day. You may want to talk to your doctor about exercises that would specifically help your back.

Get good shoes - really good, bland ones. I hate Crocs, but I have a pair of Eccos I bought ten years ago that are in excellent shape and that support my feet perfectly.

Stop and stretch every few hours. Again, ask your doc about stretches for your back.

A decent floor mat is also a good idea if you want to go barefoot.
posted by medea42 at 8:20 PM on December 27, 2008

I'm gonna nth the suggestion on the anti-fatigue mat. You'll see them quite often in manufacturing plants. They're there for a reason.

That being keep the following in mind. 99.9% of individuals standing on those mats are wearing safety boots (due to safety regulations), and so getting good shoes might be a better option. I've never worn anything other than regular shoes/boots, but if what everyone above says is true, then skip the mat and get the shoes.

Either ways, at least get one of the two.
posted by FusiveResonance at 9:35 PM on December 27, 2008

i'll second medea42's suggestion for support hose but go one step further with (gender neutral) support socks! i was complaining to my godfather, who's a doctor, about sore legs after standing all day while leading a training session, and he recommended support socks. he uses them at work. i've bought a few pairs but haven't tried them yet. he recommended a few brands... i can find the list if you're interested. good luck!
posted by bellbellbell at 11:29 PM on December 27, 2008

I'm going to have to warn against the suggestion of Crocs given here - I loved my Crocs, until my arches fell - and then my feet hurt all the time, and I couldn't understand why. Crocs basically have no arch support. Do yourself a favor and look for a pair of shoes with good arch support.
posted by bigmusic at 11:47 PM on December 27, 2008

i found the list of compression stockings. he recommended: jobst, venosan, airways, and sigvaris.
posted by bellbellbell at 11:59 PM on December 27, 2008

"it's usually bare feet on hard wood floors"

Get some shoes with cushioned insoles that provide the right amount of arch support for your foot shape.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:07 AM on December 28, 2008

My differing opinion from ppl recommending particular shoes is that yes, wearing better designed shoes is good, but only good in that it is doing less damage.

From the site of the MBT shoes that a couple of ppl have recommended:
At MBT we don’t believe in shoes. We believe in footwear that makes you better from the ground up.
What fetishising nonsense! We have evolved over millions of years in bare feet. Being out of shoes is the best thing for your feet. Working at home at your own desk, there is no need to be wearing shoes.
posted by Sitegeist at 2:25 AM on December 28, 2008

I'm on the side that supports a good shoe. I got my Z-Coils after a severe back sprain from jogging left me barely able to do my job which requires standing in a small area for most of the day.

They are extremely comfortable and less expensive than the MBT shoes (around $160). They hold up very well - I've worn mine to work every day for 5 years now - and have replaced the coils and inserts only once.

Many health care workers, beauticians, cashiers, etc. wear these shoes to lessen the pain and fatigue that comes with standing for long periods of time.

Yes, they're kinda dorky looking (although I actually get a lot of "cool shoes" comments, surprisingly) but since you'll be at home, that shouldn't be an issue.

And I nth the support hose/sock idea, too.
posted by ourroute at 7:39 AM on December 28, 2008

Talk to / rent a yoga instructor (or other specialist) with good experience and knowledge of standing poses. There's a whole lot going on with standing and putting adding a bit of focused movement in could be really helpful. The hip/knee/back relationship is fascinating.

As for shoes vs. !shoes -- try for yourself. There's a whole bunch of experimenting in store for you. Make notes, this could be really helpful for others!

Not to make or invite humor or politics, and I don't know if you'll find this helpful/interesting --Donald Rumsfeld (former secretary of defense) worked at a standing desk. I'm unsure why he chose to work this way but you might find something useful in googling that around.

Best of luck to you!
posted by ezekieldas at 8:29 AM on December 28, 2008

I like someone's Crocs idea (and perhaps one of the slip-proof, cushioned foam kitchen mats).

Otherwise, you could invest $1000+ and test out the Herman Miller Aeron and Embody chairs =)
posted by steampowered at 6:13 PM on January 14, 2009

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