Institutional ergonomic standards now demand back and neck support for PC and mobile computing. Sedentary computing solutions are also an emergent priority. Sit-to-stand desks address these issues. Hence, they’re likely to become ubiquitous. But as more people make the switch, new ergonomic problems will arise. For instance, after a month of using a standing desk, I discovered a need for good-quality foot support. Here are some of the best anti-fatigue foot support options for standing desk users.
A month into using a Secretlab Magnus Pro desk, my sit-to-stand ratio is around 40:60. Around 60% of the time, I’ve found standing with supported elbows while computing very comfortable.
For most of that time, I stood for 5-7 hours every day in either bare feet or cheap house slippers. After a month, the slipper soles wore down to nothing. Then, the bottom of my feet started to hurt. Soon after, my lower back tightened.
Esports therapist Dr. William Duncan has this advice for gamers who experience pain: “Addressing issues begins by identifying the source of the problem.”
Since my slippers had worn out and the soles of my feet were sore, the source of my problem seemed clear: inadequate standing desk foot support.
Podiatry Basics For Standing Desk Users
The foot is one of the most complex parts of the human body. It has 26 bones that form two crossing arches that bear weight. Well-structured arches form a thick band of plantar fascia across the bottom of the foot.
These arches give the feet a natural spring-like effect that promotes shock absorption(1). Weakened ones can throw the entire body out of alignment while standing.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia gets overused. For example, by standing for long periods in cheap slippers. Without support for the arches, the plantar fascia stretches out.
That causes fallen arches. This condition causes heel pain and makes walking more difficult. It often affects people who stand for long periods of time without support.
Existing Anti Fatigue Foot Solutions
Existing foot solutions for standing desk users are variations of anti-fatigue mats. Here’s a summary:
Hard Plastic Anti-Fatigue Mats
On Amazon, there are several hard plastic models available like the Topo Comfort Mat ($119.00 on Amazon). Billed as a ‘not flat standing desk anti-fatigue mat’, it’s a piece of molded plastic with bumps.
This is designed to be used with shoes. The bumps are there to massage your arches. At a glance, this looked like a dreary option for my sore feet. First, hard plastic does not provide any cushioning for the soles of the feet.
Second, the hard plastic surface makes shoes a necessity. But what type of shoe? Without answering that question, hard plastic anti-fatigue ‘mats’ like the Topo seem unfeasible.
Watch this clip to see the Topo Mat in action:
Anti-Fatigue Compression Mats
The most popular alternative to hard plastic mats are dense compression ones. For instance, the Kangaroo Anti Fatigue Mat has 17,000+ Amazon reviews and a 4.5-star rating.
It looks like a more comfortable option than a hard plastic mat. It comes in various sizes and colors. The smallest 17″ x 24″ version costs $37.99 on Amazon. This clip shows its standing desk foot support effectiveness:
Alternative Anti Fatigue Foot Supports
Existing anti-fatigue standing desk foot solutions include hard plastic mats and compressive ones. Based on those facts, I decided to test out some alternative solutions.
Yoga & Exercise Mats: Poor Support
All desk workers should keep a yoga mat around for stretching breaks. I tried using mine as an anti-fatigue mat. It was an instant failure.
As soon as you stand on a yoga mat, it will compress flat under your body weight. As a result, the soles of your feet will press into a hard floor anyway.
I also tried an MDBuddy exercise mat stuffed with firm EPE foam. Its 1″ thick foam compressed unevenly under my body weight — not ideal. Even so, it felt a lot more comfortable under my feet than the yoga mat.
Timberland Sandals: Good Support
Timberland’s Garrison Trail Webbing Sandal has an EVA-blended foam footbed. It’s a hiking sandal designed for all warm-weather activities. Timberland hypes its soles as having anti-fatigue properties.
I’ve got a beach holiday coming up, so I bought these and tried them at my desk. I found the hype justified. There was no breaking-in period — as soon as I strapped them on, they felt awesome.
As well, standing for several hours felt comfortable. The soles provide the right amount of compression for long standing sessions.
Crocs Clogs: Great Support
The excellent anti-fatigue support provided by the Timberland sandals inspired me to look deeper. Which anti-fatigue shoes are popular among nurses? What kind of anti-fatigue shoes do line cooks wear? In both cases, Crocs came up most often.
Crocs first emerged in 2001 as weird-looking clogs made from proprietary Croslite foam. They’re easy to clean, lightweight, and durable. They also have insanely comfortable footbeds designed to support long periods of standing.
During the 2020 pandemic, Crocs went mainstream. Then, overwhelmed frontline workers worldwide adopted them en masse(2).
Since then, enthusiasm for these shoes has spilled well beyond the healthcare sector. These days, the company’s limited edition collabs (Grateful Dead, Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny, etc) sell out in minutes.
Crocs Literide: Ultimate Standing Desk Shoe?
With so much anti-fatigue hype around Crocs, I had to try them out for this article. So I picked up a pair of Crocs Literide clogs. LiteRide is the next iteration of the iconic Crocs foam. It’s 40% softer and 25% lighter than Classic Croslite foam.
In announcing the tech, a Crocs VP noted a big change in the work-from-home era(3). “We’re witnessing a shift from comfort being a ‘nice-to-have’ to a consumer ‘must-have.”
To that end, Literide is for “consumers who want to feel comfortable all day.” It’s also for those “who simply want a stylish complement to their athleisure wear.”
After a week of using my Crocs, I was convinced: they’re legit. My Literides are comfortable, breathable, and easy to slip on and off. Most importantly, the footbeds provide excellent support while standing at a desk for long hours.
UPDATE: seven months after first writing this article, my Crocs + gel heel inserts have remained essential. This clip shows six reasons why Crocs + heel inserts are best for standing desk users. See for yourself:
Crocs + Heel Inserts: Excellent Support
As much as I enjoyed standing in Crocs, I felt that something was still missing. After a tour of some podiatry websites, I found heel inserts a recurring theme.
According to Dr. Scholls(4), these help to “control abnormal foot motion and lessen the stress of everyday activities on your heel.”
Specifically, inserts reduce stress on the heel while standing. An elevated heel cushions the force felt by the Achilles tendon. That prevents flattened arches. Based on that information, I bought a pair of off-brand gel inserts for $35.
The inserts have made a noticeable difference! It produces a slightly elevated heel. That reduces the temptation to tilt my hips off-center. As a result, standing straight feels a bit easier.
Tweak: Extra-Large Crocs With Heel Inserts
After a few days of using heel inserts, my Crocs started feeling a bit snug. To complete this test, I bought a second pair of slightly larger Literide Crocs.
Slightly oversized Crocs with heel inserts added = an excellent fit. So far, I’ve found this method the most comfortable and supportive.
After a few days, my foot pain vanished. Slight postural misalignments I’d recently developed also ironed out. After that, everything was excellent.
For heel insert options, browse the Dr. Scholl’s Store on Amazon.
Standing Shoes + Inserts = Anti-Fatigue
What’s the best anti-fatigue foot support option for standing desk users? In my experience, it’s a good pair of standing shoes — stacked with high-quality heel inserts.
Based on the hype — and my own experiences — Crocs are an excellent option. Birkenstock is another name that stands out. Since the 1930s, its legendary footbed has taken comfortable, healthy standing to an elite level.
The Birkenstock footbed is designed to make you feel like you were standing in sand(5). That promotes long periods of comfortable standing support. To ensure precise foot ergonomics, its extra-deep heel cup keeps the heel bone firmly in its natural position.
Birkenstock footbeds also have a pronounced heel mold that negates the need for inserts. Its built-in support activates calf muscles while improving gait and coordination.
Given these facts, which is better for standing desk users: Crocs or Birkenstocks? Hospital and kitchen staff prefer Crocs because they’re easy to clean. But in a work-from-home setting, a pair of supple Arizona Birko Flor Sandals seems a comfier, more luxurious option.
For more premium standing desk shoe options, browse the Birkenstock Store on Amazon.
- Manouchehr Saljoughian, PharmD, PhD. ‘Foot Pain Etiology: An Overview’. June 19, 2014, US Pharm. 2014;39(6):HS12-HS16, (accessed 6 October 2022).
- Deborah Bach, ‘Health care workers have always loved Crocs; during the pandemic, Crocs loved them back’. December 14, 2020, https://news.microsoft.com/transform/health-care-workers-have-always-loved-crocs-during-the-pandemic-crocs-loved-them-back/, (accessed 6 October 2022).
- Press Release, ‘Crocs Launches LiteRide™, Its Newest Innovation in Comfort Technology’. March 1, 2018, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180301005021/en/Crocs-Launches-LiteRide%E2%84%A2-Its-Newest-Innovation-in-Comfort-Technology, (accessed 6 October 2022).
- ‘The Facts on Heel Pain’. August 21, 2021, https://www.drscholls.com/ca/symptoms-and-conditions/foot-pain-and-conditions/heel-pain/, (accessed 6 October 2022).
- ‘The Original Birkenstock Footbed’. https://www.birkenstock.com/dk-en/things-to-know/footbed/, (accessed 6 October 2022).