Why can't I sit with both my feet on the floor?
August 17, 2005 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I can't bear to sit with both my feet on the floor for long. I either end up sitting cross-legged, or with one or both feet tucked up underneath me in some half-baked lotus position, or getting a box or something to rest them on. What's going on? Is it likely a circulation thing, or a psychological disorder? Anyone else have this?
posted by nylon to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've been like this my entire life -- it amazes me that some people can just sit in their desk chairs in one of those ergonomically upright positions. My lower back and legs get tense or uncomfortable if I try -- maybe it's just bad posture.

And yes, I've adjusted my ergonomic seating with lumbar support in a zillion different way, and never found a perfectly comfortable arrangment. I am a born sloucher, it seems.
posted by junkbox at 1:43 PM on August 17, 2005

It's obviously latent homosexuality, or, if you are out, latent heterosexuality.

Seriously, you are probably just fidgety. I can't stop moving personally. I've got to wiggle or shift or pick or scratch or rock or something all the time. People have accused me of being nervous, but really, I'm not at all, I just move a lot.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:43 PM on August 17, 2005

Yes. I do exactly the same thing. Not sure why though. I've been on a quest for years now to find a chair that is comfortable for me where I don't have the urge to pick my feet off the floor. I'll be interested in seeing what others have to say.
posted by AstroGuy at 1:43 PM on August 17, 2005

Man, I was thinking about this literally ten minutes ago as I twisted my leg into an odd contortion so that it lay braced against a wall three feet above my head.

I figure it's racial memory from sitting in trees as arboreal primates.
posted by Netzapper at 1:49 PM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I kid you not, I almost asked this exact same question like two weeks ago but then forgot about it. I'm glad someone did it, I will be interested to see what people have to say.
I usually end up sitting close to the edge of any chair, with my legs crossed at the ankles underneath. Then I start a sort of theme and variation of leg placements based on that. I have always been reasonably fidgety, but I think this has more to do with poor posture. Good luck finding a definitive answer.
posted by Who_Am_I at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2005

I do this too, although I've always assumed it was partly due to my poor posture and partly because I'm short.

Chairs aren't usually well proportioned for short people--and I can prop myself up a bit if I'm sitting on one of my feet or ankles.
posted by divka at 1:53 PM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I do the exact same thing. For me, it's temperature control when I alternate tucking my feet underneath my thigh (as I am doing now). And as for putting my feet on something else...I'm guessing it's more comfortable. It allows me to slouch more.

I really don't think there's anything wrong with it, psychologically or physically. Perhaps it denotes a comfort with one's body??
posted by state fxn at 1:55 PM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I do this too! I have one of my legs tucked under right now. Are we gonna have messed up knees when we're older?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Like divka, I've always assumed I do this because I'm short. Chairs always seem to be made for someone with longer legs than me.

My favorite thing to do is to sit with my foot sort of en pointe, but with the toes curled under, if that description makes any sense.
posted by MsMolly at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2005

Count me in this party, too. I *have* to have a stool under on my desk to prop one of my legs up on. I'm tall (6'4") and figured it might be a circulation thing. I'll also occasionally put both my feet up on my desk and work that way. Horrible posture, but people compliment me on how "relaxed" I look at the office.
posted by robbie01 at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2005

I swapped to using a physical therapy ball instead of a desk chair, and I could not be more happy. I fidget and bounce and roll around all day long. Sitting with crossed legs on it is a little challenging, but I have become the zen master of balance.
It seems to keep my core and trunk muscles engaged more during the day, and I end up not feeling as creaky at the end of the day. It might not be for everyone, but I highly reccommend trying one, they don't cost very much money.
posted by tumble at 2:06 PM on August 17, 2005

I do this too. I don't think it will screw up our knees, since my dad does it also and his knees are fine.

When my dad taught high school many years ago, he used to get teased by his students about it -- he'd lean against his desk while talking, scoot back so he was sitting, cross one leg over, then find himself sitting with both legs crossed meditation style, without noticing.

I have to really concentrate on just doing the ladylike one leg over the other when I want to come across as professional. Most of the time when I'm in my cubicle I have one or both legs wrapped up under me.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:08 PM on August 17, 2005

You know, as I think about it, my father does this, too. He has a significantly different frame than my own, so I feel that physiology may not have a great deal to do with it.

Are there personality traits that correlate to this?

I really wonder whence this behavior comes.

re: knees: I actually have already discovered some knee stress in myself as a result of consistently keeping my legs crossed in a figure-four style. My family also reports a great deal of arthritis, so that may factor into the results. Something to adjust for in the studies.

Hrmm... could I make my life's work the study of people who cross their legs a lot? Think of the important contribution I could make to neuroscience or psychology. Sorry, I was channeling pure academic.
posted by Netzapper at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2005

I do this too (sitting on foot right now, on cheap office chair). However, I used to work in an office where I had a $900 ergonomic chair. I could sit in that chair for hours without the urge to do what you describe.

I have always suspected the cause is bad chairs for my size (I'm short). The one chair I could sit regularly in had adjustments of every kind including chair-back height and chair-seat depth, lumbar support, arm rest height, tilt tension, and of course height adjustment. The two chairs I have at home lack some of these features, and I can't sit in them "right." I think height adjustment alone is not enough to be comfortable in a chair, one must be able to change the distance between the front of the chair's seat and the beginning of the chair's back, to accomodate your leg length.
posted by teece at 2:13 PM on August 17, 2005

Sweet fancy moses! It looks like someone needs to fund a study of this. Or has one been done?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:16 PM on August 17, 2005

I assume that I do this because my calf muscles and achilles tendons are kind of tight.
posted by matildaben at 2:18 PM on August 17, 2005

I'm 6' 3" and I do this as well. I end up either putting my feet on my tower under my desk, or on the desk. I also can't understand people that can sit straight up all day. Also I can't believe that people can stand sitting at those desks that don't have any room underneith. Where you are like right up against wood. That would drive me crazy.
posted by meta87 at 2:24 PM on August 17, 2005

Not to break the "me too" party but is there anyone out there that *doesnt* do this?

Also, I bet there's a bit of a self-selection factor here: When I sit absolutely still is when I'm concentrating on something else - maybe doing some writing.

When I notice I'm fidgety its because well.. I'm a bit bored or distracted and thus...fidgety. Make sense?
posted by vacapinta at 2:25 PM on August 17, 2005

I do this, too. I must bang my knee into my top desk drawer 10 times a day as I try to sit with my legs crossed and scoot in close to the desk. I'm only 5'4" so perhaps it's a short thing. I also have a super cheap chair and old too-tall desk.
posted by jdl at 2:25 PM on August 17, 2005

No matter what, I'll gradually build up a pile of stuff (boxes, books, subwoofers, even shoes once) to prop my feet up on when I'm sitting at a desk. I am incapable of sitting with my feet flat on the floor for more than a few minutes at a time, ergo chair or not. I'm not even particularly fidgety. I think someone upthread had it right: I'm probably more directly descended from tree monkeys than savannah monkeys. :)

Oh, and I'm short too, for a man.
posted by socratic at 2:26 PM on August 17, 2005

Where did you get the idea that you're supposed to sit with your feet flat on the floor all the time? That makes no sense at all to me. Isn't the point that you are supposed to sit comfortably?
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:27 PM on August 17, 2005

Adding to the chorus: I hate sitting with my feet on the floor. It makes me feel fidgety and tense. When I was a student, I never had a desk because I didn't use them -- had to study on the bed or floor. I hate movie theaters.

But I have pretty good posture, and though I'm tallish for a woman (5'10"), I'm not especially tall for a human. So I don't know what the reason is. It's not discomfort, exactly -- it's more like a compulsion.

Mars Saxman: Every piece of literature or advice on back pain, sciatica, good posture, etc. I've ever seen says to sit with your feet on the floor.
posted by climalene at 2:50 PM on August 17, 2005

I do that too, and I've always assumed it was because I have knee problems, and sitting with both feet on the floor for a while will inevitably cause my knees to hurt. If your feet don't hit the floor properly, you could subconsciously be doing it to avoid unwanted strain on your knees (see: ergonomics in regards to chairs).
posted by geeky at 3:13 PM on August 17, 2005

Not to break the "me too" party but is there anyone out there that *doesnt* do this?

I don't.
posted by waldo at 3:21 PM on August 17, 2005

Hah! So it's not just me ...

I always sit with one foot (usually the left) tucked up under my butt. I'm a tad under 5ft, and if a chair is low enough for me to sit with my feet comfortably on the floor, it's too low for me to use the mouse or keyboard in comfort. Sitting like this lets my foot act as a kind of booster cushion.
posted by essexjan at 3:33 PM on August 17, 2005

Hmm, I do that too, but I hadn't noticed. Now I am going to be obsessed with how I sit. Thanks a lot!

posted by synecdoche at 3:36 PM on August 17, 2005

Humans weren't meant to sit in right-angled chairs. We naturally slump down and forwards when placed in such devices, and so, with both feet on the floor, we must constantly push ourselves back into an upright position. Crossing your legs is one way of halting the perpetual slide.

Galen Cranz goes into this in her great book The Chair.
posted by callmejay at 3:43 PM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Phew, what a relief. Thanks for the replies, everyone - I'm glad it's not just me. As climalene says, this is more like a strange compulsion than a straightforward discomfort thing. In fact, I often end up with dead legs and aching joints from the positions I get myself into. But the problem with crossed legs etc. (aside from the social aspect of squirming around like a loony) is that, ironically enough, it inhibits good circulation, encouraging varicose veins and other problems. I'd love someone to have a good explanation for it, especially now I realise so many others have the same thing. It's not my height - I'm 5'11 - and I get this regardless of the height of the chair or stool. Netzapper and blue_beetle are right - someone needs to study this.

On preview: excellent, callmejay, I'll investigate that!
posted by nylon at 3:53 PM on August 17, 2005

Galen Cranz is a pilates disciple!

Good book though.
posted by mecran01 at 4:04 PM on August 17, 2005

nylon: the one thing that I think really needs investigating is not the height of the chair, but the depth, if you will.

Almost all office chairs allow you to adjust height. I've only had one that allowed me to adjust depth (how long the seat is, from front to back).

Think about it: that's just as vital as height. If the depth is too short, you'll feel like you are sliding off the chair. If it's too long, you'll have horrible posture or not have your feet on the ground. Unless you happen to have the exact right depth by accident, a chair that lacks such an adjustment is going to cause problems.

While I, too, feel like sitting on my feet is a compulsion sometimes, I'm very suspicious of the fact that the only chair I ever used that allowed me to adjust depth made this compulsion go away.
posted by teece at 5:07 PM on August 17, 2005

Average height/weight, and I tend to sit crosslegged.

I want a giant sitting-ball, though. Learning to sit cross-legged on that sounds like a worthwhile challenge!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:20 PM on August 17, 2005

The only time I'm truly comfortable typing in an office chair is in lotus position. If I'm only reading, I've got a weird arrangement (home office, obviously) where I'm half slumped to the side, with right foot in lotus and left foot on the wall.

5 foot tall, and I've never EVER been able to find a desk/chair combo that's even close to ergonomically correct.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:41 PM on August 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yep, I do this. I have an inherent urge to sit cross-legged, or with my knees to my chin. It's just more comfy. Nice to know I'm not alone.
I'm tall - don't know if that makes any difference.
posted by Radio7 at 3:52 AM on August 18, 2005

Everyone tells me I am going to get varicose veins from this.
What is the PC term for indian-style nowadays, anyway? I sit like this but it's not the same as lotus by any means-my feet are tucked under, rather than laying on top and pointing up. If anyone knows, it should be Mefi.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:54 PM on August 18, 2005

I find that sitting on something flat like a floor, rather than in a chair, is somehow comforting when I'm feeling stressed or depressed. Could it be related to that?
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:26 AM on August 19, 2005

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