What's to be done about dangling feet?
July 15, 2008 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm a fairly short woman (5'2"), and my feet dangle from almost every chair (pew, bench, sofa, car seat) I sit in. This is uncomfortable and occasionally painful, and I've taken to sitting cross-legged everywhere, which is also uncomfortable and occasionally painful. What are my options?

If I sit back in most chairs, I can't reach the ground. If I slouch forward like a disaffected teenager, my feet will reach the ground but my lower back will ache after a while. At age 22, I have just discovered (with some degree of horror) my first spider vein, which I know is supposedly not caused by sitting in this fashion, but which has prompted the question nonetheless.

I have taken care of this annoyance at home by using a footrest, but I'm wondering what, if anything, can be done about seats outside of the house? Otherwise, does anyone have an inkling about what might be the least hard on my body in the long run: sitting cross-legged, slouching, or dangling?

Thanks very much for your suggestions!
posted by sciapod to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Large purse, portable footrest?
posted by Zed_Lopez at 7:58 AM on July 15, 2008

Sit up straight on the edge of the chair. Yeah, you'll look a little prissy, but you'll be practicing great posture.
posted by desuetude at 8:02 AM on July 15, 2008


Kids are able to successfully dangle their feet for years before their feet toucht the ground so adults can handle it too. Focus on sitting up straight and working on your posture - it will alleviate the pain, make you appear taller in your chair, and will end up making you look as adult as you'd like to be preceived. As a short guy, I tend to run into the same problem sometimes and rather than focusing on where your feet go, it's much better to focus on how you carry yourself. You might feel like a little kid when your feet dangle but people won't perceive you as a little kid unless you slouch and carry yourself as one.
posted by Stynxno at 8:02 AM on July 15, 2008

Man, I KNOW how you feel! I'm 4'11" and this problem has plagued me forever! The weight of my lower legs dangling in chairs causes lots of stress on my knees. I spent 7 hours on an airplane yesterday with my feet on my purse stacked on my sweater stacked on my airplane pillow stacked on a book. Then afterwards I found myself at dinner at a place where the tables and chairs were both super high. I think it's supposed to make you feel big and important, but I was reduced to memories of booster chairs* and textbooks-as-seating-material while I tried to enjoy my tapas. I alternated between laying half sideways (legs in mermaid pose in the booth) and pressing them against the table leg, like a half-pike position.

I've often thought about carrying around a collapsible 'box' that I could make into a square and rest under my feet. However, I'm rather embarrassed at the thought of somebody peering across the room and seeing my feet upon my stupid prop. Generally when I approach a table in public the first thing I do is assess which chair is lowest (without being ridiculously low in respect to the table height), or which one is within foot reach of the table leg without being in somebody's way. I can do this in a millisecond, and I have all sorts of covert strategies to get others to sit in the chairs I want them to sit in. But sometimes I just explain myself. It's not like people are going to argue, and most people don't care where they sit. Sometimes I offer to move the chairs so that somebody else can have a better view, and I can have a painless sitting experience.

*Did not request booster chair.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:03 AM on July 15, 2008

Stynxno, dangling doesn't work because its very painful on the knees, butt, and backā€”even if you're sitting up straight (I have very good posture). It also cuts off circulation. My feet often fall asleep and my thighs just above my knees ache when I dangle my legs. Also, the chair edge can be problematic. Oh, and especially if you're wearing a skirt.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:09 AM on July 15, 2008

1. Wear platform shoes, which increase your awesomeness by 35%
2. Move to Japan, where the furniture is sized to fit you.

I'm not being entirely facetious with those comments, but my wife is the same height, and she's been sitting cross-legged on chairs, on the edges of chairs, etc, for her whole life and hasn't come up with anything better. When we visited Japan together, we went into a furniture store, she sat down on a couch and exclaimed that it was the first one she'd ever seen designed to fit her.
posted by adamrice at 8:15 AM on July 15, 2008

Take up yoga and learn to sit comfortably in the lotus position, which will have the added benefit of looking very cool to people who can't do it themselves.
posted by jedicus at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2008

Carry around a pillow that you can put behind your back. This will move you forward in your chair and allow your feet to touch the floor.
posted by orange swan at 8:38 AM on July 15, 2008

I'm 5'2" and I sit "indian style" whenever I can get away with it. I imagine I probably would if I were taller, too... it's just more comfortable!
posted by katillathehun at 8:40 AM on July 15, 2008

I hate dangling my legs. I sit indian style if I can. In the office, chairs with casters are good, I put my feet on those instead of the ground. Also In most casual situations I prop up my feet on whatever's handy. Not super lady-like but then I don't really wear skirts.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:15 AM on July 15, 2008

I'm short and I have this problem everywhere I go. Sometimes I just sit on the edge of the chair but for the most part I suffer. The good news is that our home environments don't have to be the same- LL Bean makes lightweight, portable couches that are perfectly sized for short people. I find that antique (early 20th century) chairs are often much more diminutive. My desk chair is an arts and crafts ladies desk chair circa 1923 that is actually a little on the short side for me- I love it!

This travel expert agrees with you - the pressure on your swinging legs causes deep-vein thrombosis.

What about an inflatable pillow? Legs works is a 'foot pillow'. I don't think it is the perfect solution for me- I think I may have to carry a folding foot stool, at least on international flights.
posted by arnicae at 9:23 AM on July 15, 2008

sciapod, i'm also fairly short. <>
If you sit forward on the chair, you not only strain your spinal curve, you also put pressure on the back of your thighs.

A footrest whenever possible is important for good circulation. I don't know about you, but my feet "go to sleep". If no foot support or opportunity to get up and walk is available, discreet foot-circle exercising is helpful.
posted by reflecked at 9:41 AM on July 15, 2008

that was a "less than" symbol. less than 5 feet. :)
posted by reflecked at 9:41 AM on July 15, 2008

I'm 5'2" and I tend to shift a lot between having one leg tucked under me, sitting cross legged and finding various things to prop up my feet (computer tower, table post, etc.). When I'm wearing a skirt (like now) i'll tuck one leg up under me and cross my other leg over that knee - it's a bit pretzel-y, but I find it to be pretty comfortable. The shifting is mostly to wake up the various parts falling asleep.

On planes, I usually have a carry on that goes under the seat in front that I can put my feet up on.
posted by oreonax at 10:00 AM on July 15, 2008

I am an inch taller than you, and still have issues with many chairs. What I do is: buy basically crappy shoes (this is aided by the fact that no reputable brands make shoes in my size), turn one foot sideways so the bottom is mostly vertical, place other foot on top of this one. Then I switch feet every so often so as to give the opposite (top) foot a break. Maybe my legs are longer than yours or something, if you are truly dangling this probably isn't helpful.

I also perch on the rungs/bottoms of chairs whenever possible.
posted by shownomercy at 10:04 AM on July 15, 2008

My wife is 5' and she complains about this as well. She typically uses a footrest or tall shoes, and when she was looking for a new computer chair, she dedicated herself to testing every one in the store till she found one that dropped low enough.

Amusingly, I am 6' tall, and I'll frequently sit with one foot underneath the other leg specifically so my free foot dangles.
posted by quin at 10:47 AM on July 15, 2008

I'm 5'0". To the extent possible, I sit forward on the edge of my seat so my feet can touch the floor. This gets me lots of comments on my "good posture." It's easier to do this if your abs are strong, but I think it also helps keep your abs strong, at least a little bit. Obviously this doesn't work for long plane trips or times when you want to relax in a deep seat--for those I am shameless in my requests for a pillow to prop me up. Sometimes I'll even use my purse or a wadded up jacket. I also sit Indian-style a lot.

I'm 41 now and have a lot of spider veins. Maybe I would have had them anyway, I don't know.
posted by HotToddy at 11:26 AM on July 15, 2008

I'm 4'11". I sit indian style whenever possible or I use a pillow behind me so I can sit closer to the edge of the seat.
posted by desjardins at 2:30 PM on July 15, 2008

I'm 4'11". Heels and platforms have worked quite a bit for me. I also place my bags behind me on the seat (currently, I carry a huge bag that tends to take up about 3/4 of the seat... not specifically for this purpose, but I suppose it does help to fill up the seat). Occasionally, I sit indian-style. I sometimes brace my feet against table posts/legs or chair rungs - sometimes both feet, sometimes just one foot (with the other leg crossed over). Whatever the case, my feet rarely wind up dangling.
posted by aielen at 3:12 PM on July 15, 2008

TravelSmith sells a folding footrest just for this problem. You are not alone.
posted by caddis at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2008

At 4'10" I feel your pain!! I usually sit in the Lotus position while working, etc. but for long flights that just isn't sustainable/practical. I have thought about ordering an inflatable pillow like this one that I can put on the floor under my seat to prop my feet up on.

At work, I use a shipping box to put my feet on (it's a FedEx overnight box) that can be laid 'flat' on its side for sitting straight up and turned on an edge to prop my feet up so that my legs are straight out. This helps, even with the 'petite' office chair (which is too big for me).

I'm currently designing a make-shift footrest of my own for an upcoming trip, I'll post back if I come up with something good! :)
posted by giddygirlie at 3:17 PM on July 21, 2008

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