Should You Wear Shoes At A Standing Desk?

Standing for prolonged periods is widely known to potentially have negative health effects in the workplace and home environment. With several benefits of using a standing desk, should you use shoes or go barefoot?

Key Takeaways:

  • More scientific studies are needed to ascertain the health and productivity implications of wearing shoes at standing desks.
  • Standing barefoot activates muscles in your feet that increase strength, balance, and mobility.
  • Flat-soled shoes that provide good arch support are essential for ensuring that your feet are comfortable.

Is Standing Barefoot At A Standing Desk Good For You?

Depending on several variables and your unique situation, standing barefoot can have both positive and bad consequences on your health. Standing barefoot enables your feet to move more freely and activates muscles that would otherwise be inactive when wearing shoes since they are designed to provide ergonomic support. Because standing barefoot can result in stronger feet, it can lead to improved posture and overall balance.

However, it’s important to take note of the potential disadvantages of standing barefoot at a desk. Discomfort, exhaustion, and even pain in your feet may arise if you stand with no shoes on for extended periods. Additionally, wearing no shoes and exposing your feet in some workplaces or public spaces may not be practical or hygienic.

The Health Risks Of Prolonged Standing

Defined as standing for periods of more than 8 hours, prolonged standing can have adverse effects on your body. Multiple studies and literature reviews have shown chronic venous insufficiency, musculoskeletal pain of the lower back and feet, preterm birth, and spontaneous abortions were health risks associated with working conditions that required prolonged standing. This is particularly true for more than 50% of employment workplaces where prolonged standing is either a necessity or a favoured option.

As the only means of contact between your feet and the ground, footwear offers a possible means of mitigating the potential risks of musculoskeletal problems. Whilst there is a sound understanding of the effects of prolonged standing on the body, there is a lack of research on the design and development of footwear that is required given the physical requirements of the workplace and the preferences of the workers.

Things To Consider Before Wearing Shoes At A Standing Desk

Wearing shoes at your standing desk might be the default thing to do without even giving it much thought. But there are some important things you should consider.

  1. Proper posture and support: Choosing the right pair of shoes to properly support your feet, legs, and the rest of your body in an ergonomic position is the most important aspect. When standing for extended periods, it is essential to observe proper posture and support your joints, limbs, and muscles correctly. This way, you can remain comfortable during your workday and prevent future problems or injuries.
  2. Foot health: It goes without saying, but looking after your feet is vital even if you are keeping active at your standing desk. Going barefoot intermittently has some benefits such as improving balance, strengthening foot muscles and ligaments, and improving blood flow. However, extended periods may result in discomfort and even injury.
  3. The level of comfort: Shoes that don’t fit well or are uncomfortable in other ways just aren’t worth wearing. It is crucial to wear comfortable shoes that fit well and offer the necessary support. Shoes that are too small or too large can lead to discomfort and pain. Shoes that offer great arch support and are relatively soft on the skin are the most preferred type of shoe.
  4. Dress code and etiquette: Depending on your workplace environment, shoes might be considered a must from a dress code or attire point of view. For example, some professional service sectors such as consultancies have more relaxed working cultures than others, and working without shoes will be seen as acceptable (as long as you are wearing socks).
  5. Standing duration: How long you stand at a standing desk will influence the type of shoe you wear, or any at all. If you plan on standing for more than 30 minutes then it may be worth investing in shoes that are more comfortable and supportive than the standard officewear shoes.

Types Of Shoes To Wear For A Standing Desk

If you’re using a standing desk at the office then the options on the type of shoe may be more limited depending on your workplace policies, etiquette, and culture.

Sneakers or running shoes are the most popular type of shoe to wear at a standing desk since they are purposely designed to support your feet whilst running. The design benefits, such as increased traction and arch support, directly translate to the standing desk where you are in a stationary position.

Loafers are an extremely popular option amongst men as they offer a level of comfort that goes unmatched. Commonly made out of soft leather, loafers are typically generous when it comes to space on the toes and heels. Some brands such as Aquila, have supple rubber on the soles for additional comfort.

Slip-on shoes can be a good option for those who need to take their shoes on and off frequently. Crocs are a popular choice for their comfort and ease of use.

sneakers and loafers

The Benefits Of Wearing Shoes At A Standing Desk

The benefits of wearing the right pair of shoes at a standing desk might be obvious to some. But there are some relatively obscure advantages.

  • Decreased muscle fatigue: Standing on your bare feet will gradually prove to be discomforting as you will feel tired under your soles. This can be alleviated by wearing comfortable shoes or standing for reduced periods.
  • Improved posture: Shoes that offer proper support can help improve posture and reduce the risk of back and knee problems when at a standing desk. You might feel that you have a better foundation as opposed to standing barefoot.
  • Enhanced comfort: Shoes that fit well and offer the necessary support can make standing at a desk more comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Improved safety: Shoes with good soles for traction can help prevent slips and falls and therefore reduce the risk of injury. Shoes also help to mitigate against colder office environments by keeping your feet warm.
  • Reduced foot pain: One of the most common forms of foot discomfort arises from inadequate arch support. Choosing the right pair of shoes that offer proper support can help reduce this.

The Downsides Of Wearing Shoes At A Standing Desk

There are more benefits to wearing shoes at a standing desk than there are downsides.

  • Compounding discomfort: Shoes that are uncomfortable or provide inadequate support can lead to increased discomfort, pain, and musculoskeletal issues over time. For example, shoes that are too small or too big, or don’t provide proper arch support, will start to impart physical stresses on your feet. These problems should be able to be identified and remedied quickly.
  • Finding comfortable dress shoes can be difficult: If you are in a workplace environment where personal presentation and attire are held to a high standard (e.g., where clients frequently visit), then finding comfortable but acceptable shoes can be challenging.
  • Feet fatigue may be harder to detect: The fatigue in your feet and legs from prolonged standing may be tougher to detect if you are wearing shoes.

Choosing The Right Shoes For A Standing Desk

Understandably, most people value comfort when they are selecting a pair of shoes for their standing desk. The cushioned soles offered by loafers or the shock absorption qualities of sneakers make them desirable choices in terms of comfort, especially when standing on hard surfaces such as wood and polished concrete. Running shoes also typically have soles that are designed for increased traction, and this quality can help reduce the risk of injury.

If the shoes don’t fit then they aren’t a good match, irrespective of how comfortable they are. If your shoes don’t fit, then you will instantly feel discomfort or pain along the sides or head of the shoe. The fit for a shoe should also consider the fit of the arch, to ensure you receive optimum structure for painting proper posture.

Alternatives To Wearing Shoes At A Standing Desk

Figuring out which shoes you need for a sit-stand desk can be aided by trying other alternatives and understanding the benefits that each brings.

  1. Not wearing anything and going barefoot: Primarily down to personal preference, some people like to go barefoot (or wear socks). This naturally improves balance, strengthens foot muscles and ligaments, and improves blood flow, but is not something that can be sustained for long periods or on cold floors.
  2. Anti-fatigue mat: Designed to be used with and without shoes, an anti-fatigue mat provides a cushioned and supportive surface to stand on. This reduces the amount of strain on your feet and legs and is one of the best standing desk accessories you can buy.
  3. Bosu balls and balance boards: Using a Bosu ball or balance board can help improve balance and strengthen core muscles while standing at a desk. These can be used barefoot or wearing shoes.
  4. Comfortable slippers: If you work from home, comfortable slippers can be a good alternative to shoes. However, most slippers don’t offer much in the way of proper support or cushioning.

Which Is Better? Being Barefoot Or Wearing Shoes

Whilst the jury is still out from the scientific community, there appear to be more benefits than disadvantages to wearing shoes than going barefoot at a standing desk. As long as you select the right pair, they provide much better arch support, protection from objects and the cold, and comfort to encourage standing. But depending on your environment, you may not be able to go barefoot, thus forcing your hand at choosing the right pair of shoes.


In most cases, choosing whether to go barefoot or wear a good pair of shoes will come down to personal preference depending on the environment you are in. Most offices won’t allow people to use their standing desks barefoot due to hygiene policies and etiquette. There are clear advantages to wearing shoes as long as they provide ergonomic support and are comfortable, but going barefoot intermittently is a good idea.

Frequently Asked Questions

What shoes to wear at a standing desk?

Your feet and legs can be stabilised and shock-absorbent by wearing shoes with robust rubber or foam bottoms with good arch support. To ensure a good fit and avoid discomfort or damage when standing for long periods, the shoe’s design and style are crucial, and they should fit perfectly.

Should you wear shoes on a standing mat?

In contrast to dress shoes or stilettos, sneakers, boots, and other flat-soled footwear with good arch support are acceptable to wear on anti-fatigue mats. High heels are not acceptable since the small point of the heel will exert a lot of pressure on the mat and potentially puncture it.


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