According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 24% of American adults suffer from arthritis, and a staggering 39% suffer from back pain. Conditions that affect wide swaths of the population are often multivariate—their causes need multiple explanations. Despite this, we tend to narrow our approaches—singling factors into manageable pieces that are solvable on their own. And when it comes to bodily pain, a foremost cause is poor flooring. The type of flooring you occupy changes the way your body rests. Hard surfaces, such as hardwood, tile, and concrete, don’t support your body in the way that soft flooring does. While the issue of flooring affects most people, it is particularly important for those who spend long periods of time standing.
How Can I Make My Floor Softer?
To make your floor softer, employ soft mats—such as rubber mats—over the areas which you want to make softer. In the workplace, a soft mat combats the strain of prolonged standing on a hard surface. In 2004, researchers from the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation set out to measure the relationship between flooring conditions and worker comfort. Using assembly line workers who spent entire eight-hour shifts on their feet, the researchers tested three different floors. They found that, among all the floors, anti-fatigue floor mats correlated most strongly with worker comfort. This data tells us that soft flooring is important to bodily comfort, but because there are many types of anti-fatigue comfort mats, the question then follows: What is the best anti-fatigue mat for you?
When answering this question, there are a couple of things you can consider. But, what makes the biggest difference is the amount of movement you do while you’re on your feet. For instance, someone who stands for a long time in a single position benefits more from a soft mat. An assembly line worker or a store’s cashier are common examples. On the other hand, someone who’s constantly standing but still walks around—a waiter, perhaps—would likely benefit more from a firmer surface. But, as we’ve said, there are multiple factors to consider when choosing your next ergonomic mat. So, in this article, we’ll dive deeper into detail, discussing what the best antifatigue mat is for you, based on your situation.
For Standing in Place, Which Flooring is Most Comfortable?
The most comfortable flooring is generally soft rubber flooring—especially for standing in place. The main problem with prolonged standing in place is that the feet’s blood vessels become crushed. Without constant motion—walking around or sitting down—the feet’s blood vessels become constricted, causing swelling and pain. For workers who stand in place for their entire shifts—like grocery store clerks, assembly line workers, and even surgeons—this problem is particularly relevant. As Stephanie Camillo, author of Standing on the Job? 10 Ways to Reduce Back Pain, says, “just because you’re standing on two feet, it doesn’t mean you have to keep still. Shifting your weight, lifting your heels, moving from side to side on your toes, all of these things help improve the blood flow and circulation in the bottom of your legs. Improved circulation will release tension where we hold it the most—our backs.” Thus, if you prolongedly stand in place, the medically sound advice is to often take small breaks to stretch, to walk, and to rest your feet. But, while this is a good first step, there’s more you can do. Having soft flooring is a worthwhile addition to your standing conditions. A softer and more elastic flooring surface means that the ground reflects less force onto your body. In sum, if you’re standing in place, habitual micro-movements along with the installation of soft flooring are the two best things you can do for your body.
For Constant Walking, What Type of Flooring Is Easiest on the Feet?
The type of flooring easiest on the feet is typically firmer rubber flooring—if you’re constantly walking. Being on your feet all day is bound to grow tiresome, even if you take breaks to sit and stretch. As if that wasn’t enough, some jobs require their workers to move around while being on their feet all day. Consider waiters, fitness trainers, nurses, and teachers—just to name a few. Walking around instead of standing still means you’re giving your feet’s blood vessels breaks from constriction. Overall, your circulation will be in better shape. But, the muscles in your legs and feet will still get sore. After all, you’re still on your feet for practically the entire shift. According to ezWalker, a community forum for walking enthusiasts, “[foot] arches act as shock absorbers, providing strength and stability. When our arches stop working due to overuse, poor foot position, or flat feet, the joints in our body can become stiff, leading to tendon and ligament damage. The muscles then become stressed and strained from holding you upright for so long without rest – making you more vulnerable to injury.” Constant walking—without the proper safety measures—can put a lot of strain on your foot arches. In some cases, walking on concrete has been compared to striking the soles of your feet with a hammer for every step you take. Soft flooring certainly abates many of the issues that come with walking on hard surfaces for long periods of time. But, for these cases, we recommend opting for firmer anti-fatigue floor mats, as the more controlled level of elasticity will give you the support your body needs without being cumbersome. Walking around on a surface that’s too soft can be suboptimal, especially when compared to firmer comfort mats.
Many people tend to underestimate the usefulness of soft flooring. But our floors are some of our most commonly used objects, day in and day out. Thankfully, companies like Rubber-Cal are trying to inform, bringing more scientific and industry knowledge behind flooring to a wider audience. So, when you ask yourself, “How can I make my floor softer?” know that soft flooring is your best option. And when contemplating soft flooring, we urge you to consider rubber fatigue mats. With rubber, different material compositions yield different properties. Hardness gradations are just some of rubber’s many possible variations. If you’re looking for soft mats, you can rest assured, knowing that whatever type of standing environment you occupy, there is a rubber antifatigue matting option available. Even though there are different levels of cushion, flooring doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you choose rubber anti-fatigue mats. Now that you know which flooring is most comfortable, and what type of flooring is easiest on the feet, picking the best anti-fatigue mats will be a lot easier for you. For more information, please consult one of our other articles, as we’re sure to have answered all of your most important questions.
Soft Flooring: Do You Need a Soft Mat or a Firmer Mat?