Switching to standing desks? Switching to barefoot activity?
November 26, 2012 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Any tips for learning to stand for long periods of time? How about standing barefoot for long periods of time?

I just switched to a standing desk to help create a more healthy, ergonomic work situation for a new, full-time job as a writer.

I imagine it will take me a few days to adjust to standing for long periods of time, and as I have flat feet, I figured that this might be a good opportunity to build up my arches by trying this barefoot, as I've read that shoes with lots of support (I wear orthotics) tend to make arches weaker, even if they reduce pain and such. Anyone have experience with either switching to barefootedness, or with switching to standing desks?
posted by sdis to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
When I started a job where I had to stand the entire time, the first few days were brutal. Just... push through it. And don't lock your knees -- it can make you pass out.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:14 PM on November 26, 2012

My only suggestion would be to switch to this slowly...maybe not all day long at first, just an hour or a few hours per day as you get used to it?
posted by radioamy at 4:28 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get a rubber mat for standing on, it makes a difference.

I have flat feet and always found standing for long periods made me sore above my butt, inward from my hips. Stretching helped this. Stretch hamstrings, glutes etc.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:34 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

You will slowly strengthen up, but going from nothing to everything will make you very, very sore.

I would et a professional (podiatrist) opinion on the orthotics issue myself.
posted by smoke at 4:35 PM on November 26, 2012

Keep your weight balanced on both feet.
posted by foxhat10 at 4:35 PM on November 26, 2012

I actually find lower-support shoes more comfortable for standing than arch support shoes. However, padding (whether on your shoe or on the floor) makes a huge difference.

Also agree that switching all the way at once is not a great idea. Especially if you're going barefoot - start off with an hour or so barefoot a day, and keep a stool by your desk to sit on, especially at first.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:37 PM on November 26, 2012

Oh yeah, definitely a floor mat! One that's meant for people who do a lot of kitchen work would be a good start.
posted by radioamy at 4:41 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

MobilityWOD on posture. Watch it all.

The best position is your next position, as long as you're maintaining correct loading of the spine and hips. Banish the myth of a "perfect" position you can mindlessly exist in all day long. Standing or sitting or even lying in any one position indefinitely is just not a possibility, at least for the living, so ensure the various of positions you allow yourself to cycle through are all biomechanically sound.

To facilitate this habituation of sound posture you likely need an appropriate routine of strengthening and stretching. If you find your body chronically deviates from standard posture (e.g. flat feet, slouched shoulders, forward head), and are feeling the pain that such dysfunctions inevitably trigger, then habituation alone won't resolve it - you'll need to engage in some kind of corrective exercise regimen to catalyse the process of postural realignment.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:05 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

You need to stretch, before and after work. Keep yourself moving in a few different positions over time.

If your posture is off in a particular way, after a few days you will begin to recognize it. You won't be able to fix this by just standing better, though. You'll need to work the right muscle groups to help correct the posture problem, whatever it may be. Strengthening the muscles in the front and back of your torso is almost always a good plan, though.
posted by Mizu at 5:12 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I took an old yoga mat and cut it into four, and stacked the four pieces on top of each other, put them in front of my desk, under a rug. I stand on that. I find barefoot more comfortable than shoes. It took me about three weeks to build up to being able to stand all day. I made it so that I could sit at another part of my desk when I got tired, and only stood as long as I was comfortable. At first that was half an hour. Then a couple of hours (after about a week). Then by the third week I was standing for half a day or more. And by the fourth week I never even thought about sitting down.

A couple of times in the year I've been doing this I've been away for more than a week, and when I've come back it's taken a week or so to adjust again.

FWIW I didn't do any deliberate stretching or strengthening regime when I started. Muscles get stronger at whatever you make them do. So my standing muscles and the back/neck muscles needed to hold my head and arms at the right height got stronger from practice at standing! But I do already do strength work at the gym, and am pretty fit from other regular exercise.
posted by lollusc at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2012

a few days? Try 3 months! Could you go on an 8 or 10 hour hike everyday? Get a perch or a tall stool for the interim. And, yes, a mat, or maybe Crocs? A few deep squats at the top of each hour helps. I like to alternate standing on one leg, doing leg raises, walking in place.
posted by at at 5:48 PM on November 26, 2012

Standing is not necessarily any more healthful than sitting. However, if you are determined to stand all day long, a textured rubber floor mat with be invaluable.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:38 PM on November 26, 2012

I bought this mat for my mom, who spends a lot of time standing barefoot in our tiled kitchen, and she loves it. You might try it or something like it.
posted by losvedir at 6:42 PM on November 26, 2012

Start with standing for a few hours a day and work up from there. Borrow or buy a kitchen stool, bar stool, or drafting chair until you get used to spending more time standing.
posted by yohko at 6:48 PM on November 26, 2012

When I worked at a movie theater standing all day, my solution was preemptive Ibuprofin.
posted by pwnguin at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2012

Ah, standing desks. I've been doing the standing-desk thing for almost a year now at my full-time writing/editing job. And back in April, I bought the anti-fatigue mat losvedir linked. It's very cushy, and it feels nice with bare feet. Unfortunately, while the price is certainly right, and it does feel nice, I'm not sure I'd recommend it for standing all day, as it's almost too cushy for that; almost immediately, I found that my knees were getting hyperextended as my heels sunk into the mat, regardless of whether I wore shoes or went barefoot. And if you have carpeting in your office, fuggedaboutit—that mat (and the other I tried before it) scooted around way too much on top of carpet. I found myself having to drag it back into place with one foot all the time. And it won't keep you from getting plantar fasciitis, either, unfortunately. (Ask me how I know!)

Everyone's feet and ankles are different, but what I've learned in the last year is that I have to have ankle support, or my ankles swell by day's end, and I have to have heel support, or I start to wake up with plantar fasciitis. (And I've developed a bit of bursitis in my hips for reasons unknown.) So that's changed things a bit for me; one of the biggest unforeseen costs of the standing desk for me has been shoes. When you consider barefoot standing, remember that in an office environment, you're almost certainly not going to be able to just stand still on the mat all day (nor is standing in place all day recommended by most standing-desk proponents—the point is to move around). You're going to have the leave the mat at some point, and when you do, the normal rigors of walking apply. You'll need off-mat shoes at very least; if you find you need shoes with ankle support when you're off the mat, putting those on and taking them off every time you have to run to the printer is going to get old pretty fast. (Been there...) I've found it more worthwhile to invest in better shoes and hiking sandals (see my linked shoe list above for some ideas) and not use the mat.

Something else you should have is a stool that's at a good height to just lean on a little when you feel like you need a rest—and you will need a rest! Target has good basic wooden stools for about $18, and they're worth it; I developed plantar fasciitis a few months after setting up my standing desk because I doggedly tried to stand all day every day at first, which is definitely not good for your feet. A mix of sitting and standing and moving around is best. And since my standing-desk setup is on top of a lower desk surface, I also invested in a set of low kitchen shelves from The Container Store as "sideboards" to give me places to rest my dictionary, clipboard, and other things I need at easy viewing height (they also afforded me another "level" of storage space underneath).

Anyway, the advice that I read when I first set up my desk was to give yourself at least a month, if not two or three, to really get used to the rigors and routine of the standing desk. And don't expect miracles; while my legs are definitely stronger, and I can stand for way longer than I used to be able to, I've actually gained weight in the last year (and not just muscle, alas). I do like the way I relate to coworkers better now (there's something intangible there that's improved), and my legs aren't falling asleep all the time anymore, but the standing desk is certainly not a magic-bullet weight-loss solution by any means.

If you have any other specific questions, feel free to ask! And good luck!
posted by limeonaire at 8:30 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Practice, practice, practice. You will be exhausted at first. It took me at least a month to get used to standing at a standing desk. Just when I felt like I was really getting good at it I got pregnant and now I'm sitting again. Sigh!
posted by town of cats at 8:40 PM on November 26, 2012

Standing desk user for about 2 years. Maybe longer. I love it and wouldn't go back to sitting all day.

I was a marathon runner when I converted to a standing desk and I did it in under a week. It wasn't a problem during the conversion week; I felt great! Then I had the worst run I've EVER had the Saturday after my conversion week. I offer my experience not because I think you should convert as quickly, but to show that even someone with lots of endurance still feels the effects of the change. Make the change slowly and allow yourself to adjust. I was silly to rush it.

A few other things:
- I had an ergonomic person look at my setup and it helped a lot. I ended up using a few reams of paper elevate my monitor. It doesn't need to be an expensive rig to work well.

- I'm barefoot almost all day in my office and all day when I telecommute. I also run in a minimalist shoe, because I find it comfortable to me. If you wear orthotics you should talk to your doctor before ditching those. I'm no doctor but removing support and standing all day seems like a recipe for aches.

- I have a chef's pad at the office but don't have one at my home office. Doesn't seem to make a difference to me.

- Put a thick book on the floor. When you start to fatigue rest one foot on the book. Next time, put the other foot on a book. Something about that really refreshes my legs.

- After you convert, you will be miserable if you have to sit all day. When I'm in an all day meeting my body just aches.
posted by 26.2 at 9:27 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel like this question was made for me. About a year and a half ago, I converted to wearing minimal shoes (Vibram 5-Fingers), and about 6 months ago, I converted my work space to a standing desk. So I generally stand, wearing barefoot shoes, most of the day.

Definitely get an anti-fatigue mat -- it helps quite a bit. Also, if you are mounting your monitor high up, invest in a drafting stool, with a thin cushion or towel, so that you can either sit on it, lean against it (without a plastic edge biting into your butt), or roll it away for when you want to stand unassisted for a while.

Both standing and going barefoot-or-close-to-it are very different experiences that load your body in interesting new ways, which can result in unexpected injuries. For instance, a lot of people who run barefoot or in Vibrams go too fast too soon and end up with top-of-foot fractures, because their bones and their muscles aren't yet ready to handle the crazy new loads (and new stride patterns, and new foot strike methods). So don't be afraid to ease slowly into it.

If I had to do it all over again, I might get an Ergotron unit (http://www.amazon.com/WorkFit-S-Single-HD-Sit-Stand-Worstation/dp/B003WQ4GXQ/ref=pd_sbs_op_2) so that I could maintain a regular desk posture some of the day, and a standing posture at other times.
posted by felix at 6:55 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't jump in to standing all day 100% right away. I started by standing about 4 hours per day total, and sitting the other 4, switching every 1.5-2 hours on average. I just kind of gradually adjusted to standing most of the day from there, as I felt more comfortable and less exhausted.

I tried an anti-fatigue mat, but my feet sunk into it too much and I had knee and ankle pain after a couple of hours. Instead, I stand at my desk in barefoot shoes (I like the Merrell brand best). The ones I have are comfortable and keep my feet in a neutral position all day, and have just enough of a barrier between the wood floor and my feet to keep the soles of my feet from hurting by the end of the day.

Other things: try to stand with your weight equally on both feet most of the time, but do stretch occasionally, and try to move around a bit. If I'm on a conference call where I don't need to stand in front of my computer the whole time, I pace. I also stand with my feet shoulder-width apart and rock from side to side, which helps my hips and lower back not to get stiff. And definitely check out the Mobility WOD linked above - they have a lot of great tips.
posted by bedhead at 9:14 AM on November 27, 2012

In my army time during parade we would have to stand at attention/at ease for hours on end. We were told to wiggle our toes to keep the blood circulating. Not sure if it has any scientific backing but I never passed out!
posted by chugg at 3:27 PM on November 27, 2012

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