Unforgiving surfaces like ceramic tile and hard wood can be rough on the human body, especially in sensitive places, like the spine, hips, and ankles, says Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon in the greater New York City area. In addition to general aches and pains, being on your feet for hours can pose a variety of health problems, like swelling, varicose veins, soreness, and stiffness across the back.
"Usually, if you stand for extended periods on a hard surface, you'll feel discomfort and stiffness in the lower limbs. You also reduce the blood supply to muscles, resulting in lower-limb muscle fatigue and pain in the neck and back muscles, legs, and feet," says Dr. Okubadejo. "Anti-fatigue mats lower the time of static standing and make your legs make a subtle motion. Because of this, your muscles balance the instability of anti-fatigue mats, which helps you maintain blood flow in the body and forces you to change your posture."
Dr. Okubadejo says that the soft structure of anti-fatigue mats alleviate pressure around the spinal cord, dispersing weight more evenly and naturally. They also limit flat-footed standing, which can increase the risk of pain developing in the ankles, hips, and knees. He recommends getting selective about your thickness and aiming for mats that are 3/4 of an inch in height. Same goes for overall design, as mat shape and materials can all affect joint health.
"Foam anti-fatigue mats are great for areas like the bathroom or kitchen in a home," says Dr. Okubadejo. "Foam rubber mats are suitable for long hours of standing and often have higher foam density inside. Gel mats are probably the best for fatigue prevention and ergonomic properties."
5 anti-fatigue mats to protect your joints
This $40 anti-fatigue mat has more than 15,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. It’s constructed of a joint-friendly memory foam. And no worrying about slipping or sliding as each mat features a non-slip grip that won’t budge on hard wood, tile, or linoleum. Available in three different sizes and a smattering of colors.
Fully’s anti-fatigue mat contours and edges are designed to cushion tired toes at a standing desk, however, it works just as well in front of the kitchen sink. Inspired by the natural valleys and peaks we’d find outside, Fully’s Topo mat is great for people who like to move around while standing. For those tight on kitchen space, it comes in a mini version, too.
GelPro’s premium product is like Mercedes-Benz of anti-fatigue mats. It features a gel-foam blended core for total shock absorption against unforgiving surfaces, while its textured exterior won’t slip or stain. For bigger kitchens or larger surface areas, it also comes in a variety of sizes, maxing out at 30 x 108-inches long.
For better joint health on a budget, check out Wise Life’s kitchen mat. At just $24, it’s made of memory foam for cloud-like support, featuring a non-slip grip and a beveled edge for sleek design. Rather than your standard solid black, it’s. available in a colorful pattern that’ll jazz up your kitchen, bathroom, or office.
Like Fully’s mat, iMovR’s anti-fatigue product is marketed as an ergonomic office accessory. However, its size and handle make it easy to pick up and move anywhere, including your kitchen. All iMovR’s products are made in the United States using recycled materials to reduce your carbon footprint. Available in black, gray, and burgundy.
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