Help me put my feet up...ergonomically
August 31, 2020 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I like to put my feet up on an ottoman under my desk with one ankle crossed over the other during my long work hours. I recently started having knee problems and suspect this habit may be exacerbating/causing the pain (I have loose joints and tend to hyper-extend my knees.) Nonetheless, I find it far more comfortable during my long work hours to have my legs up. How can I do it without hurting myself?

Do I need a softer ottoman? Do I need to be conscious of how tall or low the ottoman is? Do I need a fancy solution that isn't an ottoman? (I’ve had half a dozen ottomans over the years and can't think of any that were any better or worse for me. I’ve also had the under the desk feet hammock things but they always broke.)

I do move around a lot while working and I have a wonderful footrest that rocks and rolls that I use when writing emails, talking on the phone, organizing files, but when I get into deep flow, I want to put my feet up. It’s clearly not doing great things for my knees because they ache afterwards but I can’t seem to get comfortable for long periods without putting them up.

I’ve been working from home for 10 years and I consider any investment in comfort and ergonomics generally worth it. I can adjust my desk and chair easily if needed. Open to positioning tricks or product recommendations of any price!

I’m also open to the thought that maybe occupying my legs with an under-the-desk bike or elliptical would scratch the same itch, but I don’t know if I can do the detail level design work that I can get lost in doing something like that, since I’ve never been able to use a treadmill or regular standing desk and be able to get deep into work.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The problem I have with that type of position is that the lower leg is completely straight, with the knee locked and the leg immobile. I would imagine that a pillow under the knee (bending it and supporting it) would ease the problem although I don't know how you would get a pillow into the correct position. Maybe a triangular pillow with the high side closer to your knees?
posted by metahawk at 6:00 PM on August 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

Wrapping my legs around each other has given me problems in knee and ankle ligaments of the 'outside' leg -- is up but not crossed comfortable for you?
posted by clew at 7:13 PM on August 31, 2020

Best answer: I agree that the problem is likely the knee locking - you can even hyper extend it a bit. I sit in a chair with my feet on an ottoman a lot and for me the important thing seems to be to have support right up close to the back of my knees and to have a slight drop from there to my feet. I pull the ottoman right up to the edge of the chair and have a memory foam pillow on it so there is room for my knee to bend a bit. The ottoman is the same height or slightly higher than the surface of the chair.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 PM on August 31, 2020

Best answer: I also have loose joints and knee issues! When I put my legs out straight even if they're hyperextended I must have support under where the knee is. ( Hyperextension is comfy for me though, so you do you!)
posted by WowLookStars at 7:50 PM on August 31, 2020

Best answer: Also, do you foam-roll? Try rolling out your IT band.
posted by matildaben at 7:52 PM on August 31, 2020

Best answer: Maybe something like an Adirondack chair footrest would let you put your feet up high enough but still allow your knees to bend.
posted by evilmomlady at 3:48 AM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I do this, too, and have a bad MCL and hyperflexible joints. My compromise has been to cross at the ankle with knees falling open a bit, legs turned out at the hip instead of the knee. That keeps both knees a little bit bent, but I still get to have my ankles up and crossed, which is more comfortable for me than up and not-crossed.
posted by assenav at 9:39 AM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use something like what evilmomlady suggests and it really feels like my legs, hips and lower back are correctly positioned.
posted by entropyiswinning at 10:24 AM on September 1, 2020

Best answer: I have hyper-flexible joints and have had multiple ACL/MCL surgeries, so I like to have my legs up too. The key for me is avoiding hyper-extending your knees. You either need your entire leg supported (like on a couch) or to have a small pillow under your knees. They just have to be straight, not bent. As long as they don't hyper-extend, you should be good. Even if you cross your legs at the ankles, if you can avoid hyper-extension, you should feel better.
posted by banjonaut at 11:07 AM on September 1, 2020

I used the same moving footrest (Webble) for a long time, happened to stop using it for awhile and found my knee pain went away. Might be worth a try. Still miss sliding it around though.
posted by miscbuff at 6:46 PM on September 1, 2020

Best answer: I also get knee pain when I WFH because I like to sit in my recliner with my feet up and ankles crossed. I had my doctor check my knee, and there was nothing wrong with the joint. My pain seems to be related to tight IT bands, which run along the outside of your leg from approximately hip to calf. Foam rolling, massage, and lower body stretching helps me. in addition to reminding myself not to sit with my feet crossed. I do not have loose joints, so you might not be experiencing the same pain as me, but tight IT band is my problem.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 9:23 PM on September 1, 2020

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