Is Working At Your Desk Hurting Your Feet?

In the world of ergonomics, feet tend to get left out of the conversation.  We tend to focus on our backs, necks, shoulders, wrists, even bums, but little if any attention are paid to our glorious feet.  And if truth be told, we tend not to notice our feet until they start aching and then wow, are we aware of them.  Why?  Because when feet get cranky, they let us know with each and every step that we take, or continuously yell at us when we stand on them and even yell at us when we sit or lie down

What Kind of Foot Pain Are We Talking About?

Foot pain can come in a variety of forms.  But the most common complaints are:

  • Fatigue
  • Heel Pain
  • Big Toe Pain
  • Sore Arches
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Swollen Feet and/or Ankles

What Could Be Causing Your Foot Pain? 

The usual suspects include things like

  • Ill Fitting Shoes (high heels, hard soles, narrow shoes, etc.
  • Poor Foot Support
  • Prolonged Standing (especially on hard floors)
  • Flat Feet
  • Weight Gain

And don’t rule out signs of more serious medical issues that can cause pain, swelling and numbness in your feet.  These could be signs of more serious conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular issues, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and believe it or not, even thyroid issues.

But Did You Know that Working With a Computer Can also Cause Foot Pain? 

We don’t tend to associate sitting at a desk all day with foot pain, but the truth is sitting and standing while you work with your computer can put your sweet feetsies at risk!

Common Ergo Foot Traps While Sitting

Over the years, I have seen a ton of hidden habits that can directly lead to foot pain when sitting at a desk.  Here are a few of the more common ones:

  1. Resting on the balls of your feet.  This is a very common mistake to sitting with your heels up in the air and rest on the balls of your feet.  It’s like wearing high heel shoes which are notorious for distorting your natural foot posture and can lead to some serious issues including hammer toe (due to imbalances in your muscles and ligaments surrounding your toe joints), shortened achilles tendons, arch pain and muscle spasms.
  2. Resting on the outer edges of your feet.  This is another common pose which can bruise the sides of your feet, cause arch pain, pain in the pinky toe as well as cause ankle weakness and discomfort.
  3. Sitting ON your foot.  Believe it or not, this is more common than you would think!  Often this happens when your chair is not high enough, so you sit on your leg and foot to boost yourself up.  Sometimes it is because you are trying to relieve some discomfort in your back.  However, this can lead to distorted foot positions and of course, you are bearing weight directly onto your foot compounding the risk of causing pain to your foot, ankle, knee, leg and lower back.
  4. Sitting with your legs stretched out and your ankles crossed. At first blush, this popular pose looks very relaxed.  But in addition to putting stress on your lower back and causing your neck to bend forward, this position can cause a great deal of stress on your ankles and feet, can cause problems with your circulation, and compress nerves in your feet.

Easy Ergo Fixes.

  • First, make sure your seat height is adjusted so that your hips are level with or slightly higher than your knees.
  • Then, make sure that you are sitting with your feet firmly planted on the floor or a foot rest.
  • If you wear high heels, keep a pair of flats or sneakers at your desk (you can even work barefoot!) so you can avoid #1 above.  For anyone who does wear different height heels at work, make sure to adjust your seat height accordingly.
  • If you want to stretch your legs out, by all means do so, but do not cross your ankles and save this position for short breaks.

Common Ergo Foot Traps While Standing

As sit stand desks make their way into offices around the world, we are enjoying the many benefits that come along with the ability to sit and stand throughout the day.  But if you are not careful, your feet can get pretty unhappy, pretty quickly.  Here are some common things that can bother your feet:

  1. Prolonged Standing.   The idea behind sit stand desks is to do just that.  Switch positions to sit and stand throughout the day. Prolonged sitting can take it’s toll on your lower back, hips, knees, ankles and of course feet.   It can also reduce circulation to your lower extremities which in turn can cause soreness.  But standing for long periods of time can also cause blood to pool in the feet and ankle, causing swelling.
  2. Standing On a Hard Surface. Standing on a hard surface will quickly take it’s toll on your feet.  The effects can be felt in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, lower back and even your neck and shoulders.  Standing on a hard surface also impedes movement and can be bone jarring over time.
  3. Bad Shoes.  High heels, hard sole shoes and shoes without proper arch support are all things to avoid when standing while you work.

Easy Ergo Fixes

  • Use An Anti-Fatigue Mat.  Anti fatigue mats are designed to to be shock absorbing to your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back.  They make a huge difference.  Use one if you stand for more than 1 hour per day.
  • Sit AND Stand Throughout Your Day. The ideal rhythm is to change your position from sitting to standing at least every hour.  This avoids working in awkward positions for prolonged periods of time.
  • Wear Comfy Shoes.  If you wear dress shoes to work, be smart an keep a pair of comfy shoes at your desk that you can easily slip into.  You can also use shoe inserts for extra cushion and support.
  • Alternate Your Standing Position.  Last but not least, when you stand when working, alternate between standing on both feet and putting one foot up on a foot rest or small box (4 – 6 ” should do the trick) to help alleviate pressure on your lower back as well as to take the weight off your foot.  Of course, if your feet and back are getting tired, that is a signal that it may be time to switch to sitting!

Now it’s your turn.  Please post a comment and share how you keep your feet happy and healthy at work!

Until the next time!


  • Felicity Bedford
    Posted at 07:33h, 09 May Reply

    Thanks, this is the most useful information I have found for my problem, which started when I had to switch to online classes. Will check how I am sitting at my computer and will take more computer breaks!

  • Naomi
    Posted at 11:26h, 06 July Reply

    Thank you for this post! I have been having some pain on the bottom of my feet and I got to wondering if it had something to do with how I am sitting at my desk.

    I think I am crossing my legs and putting too much pressure on one foot during extended periods. While I sat here typing this, I realized I am crossing my ankles with my legs extended out.

    Yikes! I am going to try to be more aware – thanks for the tips.

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