Even though many of us have been working from home for nearly a year now, you might still be using a not-so-ergonomic desk setup, whether that’s your kitchen table, couch, or — no shame — bed. This might have been fine in the early pandemic days (remember Tiger King and toilet-paper hoarding?), but by now you’re probably feeling the ill effects of all those hours spent hunching over your laptop. Poor seated posture can lead to aches and pains from head to foot. Along with ergonomic chairs and lumbar-support cushions, chiropractors say a simple footrest can make a big difference in getting you into alignment.
As chiropractor Cariann Paul explains, your hips and knees should be level with each other, and both should form 90-degree angles while you’re sitting. When your feet don’t reach the floor, she says, that puts extra stress on the sciatic nerve, which extends down from the lower back and branches out to the back of each leg. Compressing the nerve can lead to pain everywhere, from the back to the glutes, hamstrings, and IT bands. “The goal is to be in a position that imposes the least amount of stress, and a footrest is a great solution if you don’t have that perfect configuration,” Paul says. Chiropractor Jan Lefkowitz of Body in Balance Chiropractic says using a footrest helps with circulation, even if your feet do hit the floor — but especially when they don’t: “A footrest improves your circulation by taking pressure off the veins in the back of your thigh where the chair compresses your legs,” he says. “One of the biggest problems with sitting is the restriction of circulation, which increases strain on your heart and causes fatigue.”
Even if you already have a great chair, Daniel Huang, a certified chiropractic sports physician at Level Up Sports Chiropractic, still recommends buying a footrest to make sure you’re not just slouching forward in your seat. “Because the footrest is static, this will force you to sit back against a desk chair in proper posture,” he says. Since holding one position for a long period of time is a common cause of pain, Huang and Lefkowitz both say that a footrest that allows for small movements — like one that rocks, pivots, or lets you move your feet around — is also a good idea. Below, we’ve rounded up the footrests the three chiropractors recommend to their patients.
According to Paul, shopping for a footrest is a bit like choosing a pillow, with personal preference dictating if you like a softer or firmer feel. For something soft, she and Huang both recommend this memory-foam option. It’s available in two different heights (the regular is 3.9 inches high, and the tall is 5.5 inches). Its sloped shape lets you rest your feet in a few different positions: They can be flat on top or angled along the side for a little calf extension. “The material and shape is ideal for those who prefer their calves to have a nice, gentle — but constant — stretch,” says Huang. The ErgoFoam footrest is also a rocker if you turn it upside down, promoting what Huang calls “active sitting.” He says, “Basically, a footrest allows the hip joint and the lumbopelvic region (the lower back–pelvis) to shift positions occasionally.”
Another one of Paul’s picks, this footrest can be adjusted in height anywhere from 3.5 inches to five inches and can also be used either flat or at up to a 30-degree angle. She likes that the memory-foam base “sculpts to the bottom of your feet.”
If you’d rather use a hard footrest, Paul suggests this hardwood style from Humanscale, which is adjustable from 3.75 inches to 6.75 inches high. It’s on the more expensive side, but Paul likes how it “looks a little bit more professional” than some of the foam options.
With three different height settings and the ability to adjust its angle, this footrest is one of Huang’s favorites for most people. He likes that it has “pressure points for added comfort,” noting the raised nubs that you can use to give your feet a mini-massage while you work.
Despite its simple design, Huang says this footrest “has the best height adjustability,” with a height range of five inches to 10.25 inches. It has a sturdy, durable steel construction and will likely last a while, too.
Note: This footrest will be in stock on February 13, 2021.
When we asked people who have been working from home since the pre-COVID days about their favorite ergonomic desk accessories, consultant Rohini Menezes told us she uses a footrest that can be separated into two parts so you can sit with your feet spread apart. Menezes’s footrest is no longer available, but this very similar version also has a split design. Plus, its covers are machine washable for easy cleaning.
Also recommended by chiropractors, this footrest has a sliding panel for an adjustable surface area, and it folds up into a small square so you can even (one day) bring it on a plane or to your office. For now, it makes it easier to hide when you transform your dining-room desk into your dining-room table at the end of the day.
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