The human body was designed for motion. Standing and sitting are the basic postures, and most people spend the majority of their time in one or both positions. While standing is natural and poses no health risks on its own, there are some potential downfalls to standing for long periods, especially on concrete or another hard surface.
Some of the most common results of excessive standing include:
Most of these problems are the result of impaired blood circulation in the lower body. Standing for long periods stresses muscles, joints, and ligaments in the lower body. The calf muscles need to move to pump blood back up to the heart, but standing still keeps those muscles rigid and fixed.
Anti-fatigue mats were designed as a solution to this problem. Some employers are adjusting their workstations and job processes to ease the stress on their workers’ legs and feet, but they can’t all follow suit. If you think anti-fatigue mats may help your legs and feet as you stand for long periods, we have all the information you need to decide if they’re worth the investment.
What are Anti-Fatigue Mats?
Anti-fatigue mats are floor mats designed to stimulate subtle leg movements that combat lower body fatigue when standing for long periods. These mats are often made from rubber or vinyl, but they’re also available with carpeted surfaces or designed with wood.
What makes long-term standing so risky is the lack of movement in the calves, ankles, and feet. Anti-fatigue mats encourage your legs to make consistent micro-movements as your feet adjust to stay stable on the mat. You may barely notice those tiny movements, if at all, but your legs benefit from some movement.
Do Anti-Fatigue Mats Really Work? Where’s the Evidence?
If you want to know if any remedy for aching, tired legs really works, you turn to the research. Surprisingly, multiple studies have put anti-fatigue mats to the test. Initial studies compared the discomfort of standing on a single anti-fatigue mat to standing on a hard surface like concrete for 1-4 consecutive hours. Later works have tested multiple types of anti-fatigue mats to see if some types or designs are more effective at relieving discomfort.
So, what are the results? We can sum them up with the following information:
The overwhelming consensus is that high-quality anti-fatigue mats do really help relieve discomfort in the lower legs. By relieving discomfort, you can assume that they also reduce your risk of developing problems with your calves, ankles, or feet as a result of standing for long periods.
Reasons to Use Anti-Fatigue Mats
As an individual, you may use an anti-fatigue mat if you spend more than two or three consecutive hours on your feet for work or other activities. They help for tasks that require you to stand in one spot with little to no movement for long periods. Measure your standing area and try to find a mat that fits into that space comfortably.
Employers are now investing in larger-scale anti-fatigue mats to help employees feel more comfortable during long shifts. That is a worthwhile investment because it improves productivity while reducing the risk of many workplace injuries. There is no guarantee that no injuries will occur, but the mats can help reduce rates of injuries that form over time due to excessive strain and pressure on the lower legs, ankles, and feet.
What Type of Anti-Fatigue Mat is Best?
You will maximize comfort and lower leg protection with a mat that isn’t too soft or too hard. What exactly does that mean? There is no exact guideline in place to predict the effectiveness of any given mat or material. What you can look for is a mat that doesn’t “bottom out” when weight is applied. If the material compresses too much, you lose support and are more likely to experience lower-leg discomfort.
If the surface is too hard, then you could end up with the same problems created by the hard surface underneath the mat.
In general, you want to stay away from extremely cheap mats marketed to the everyday shopper. The most effective mats are commercial anti-fatigue mats made from durable materials that don’t crush down when you step on them. They may cost a bit more and aren’t as cute as some mats for everyday users, but they will deliver the most relief for lower body discomfort.
What is the Best Thickness for an Anti-Fatigue Mat?
The minimum thickness for an effective anti-fatigue mat is between 3/4" and 3/8”. As long as it’s a commercial mat made from durable materials, that thickness should provide adequate protection when standing for up to four or five hours at a time.
You may need to experiment to find the best type of anti-fatigue mat for your legs. Try different thicknesses and materials until you find the mat that keeps your legs comfortable for hours. If you don’t have time or money, look for a minimum of ¾” thickness and make sure the mat doesn’t compress down when you step on it.
Final Thoughts – Are Anti-Fatigue Mats Worth It?
Anti-fatigue mats for standing are worth the investment as long as you follow some simple guidelines: