Humanscale FM500 Foot Machine Footrest Product Review
We love having this Humanscale footrest around; it's one of the most borrowed items around the testing lab. It’s attractive, slender, and it feels amazing. Yes, we know we’re describing it in romantic terms, and no, we’re not embarrassed about that.
Feels so, so, so nice after a long standing or treadmill desking session. The FM500 also provides gentle stimulation of the calf muscles while sitting or standing, which helps combat some of the problems caused by static work positions. Lifetime warranty reflects its sturdy construction. The smartest thing about the design is that it pivots where your ankle does, as opposed to the center of the board where competing footrests tend to pivot.
The rubber treads attached to the steel rockers can come off. The footrest also has a tendency to “creep” forward while rocking.
Rock ‘round the Clock
We’ll start by saying that footrests are almost always a good idea if you’re planning on working from a standing or seated position. Ideally, you’ll find yourself in both positions, and often – as we always say, your best position is your next one.
Spending too much time in a chair does enough damage as it is, don’t make things even worse by placing your legs in an ergonomically poor position. Footrests keep seated workers from stretching their legs out too far, which can place strain on the lower back. A properly angled footrest also prevents uncomfortable overextension of the foot.
As useful as they are for the chairbound among us, standing workers will find footrests even more invaluable. Standing workers have a tendency to adopt asymmetrical positions. It’s not a bad thing; placing one foot in front of the other is a natural, relieving, response to extending standing time. Even horses do it to relieve leg strain, one leg at a time. But we don’t have four legs, and horses don’t sit in chairs, so a little help from a well-designed footrest can be a godsend.
Any movement is good movement if you’re working while standing, and the adjustment from foot to foot helps keep standers comfortable and happy. Footrests make the motion even easier. Ever noticed the rail that runs along the base of bars? That’s one footrest solution, but others are even more effective. One study found that standing workers would use footrests 80% of the time when available, and would switch from foot to foot every 90 seconds on average. And again, your back will thank you. Using a footrest helps prevent excess lordosis – think the reverse of hunching – which can place serious stress on the discs that get squished between the vertebrae in your spine.
And when rocking is introduced to the equation? Even better, rocking footrests make it extremely easy to find a comfortable working angle. On top of that, rocking your feet back and forth requires constant use of the calf muscles. Not very much – if you find yourself counting reps on your rocker you’re doing something very wrong – but enough to improve circulation, which is a good idea if you’re worried about varicose veins and swollen feet.
Enter the Humanscale Foot Machine.
The Cadillac of Footrests
The FM500 looks amazing right out of the box. The woodgrain top (available in both black and cherry), die-cast aluminum legs, and steel feet are worlds away from the industrial plastic of cheaper options. Rubber treads on the base of the rockers protect hard floors and provide traction. They’re helpful and grippy, but they’ve also been the source of the very few complaints we’ve seen from Foot Machine users. The FM500 does have a slight tendency to move forward during use, so you’ll find yourself hauling it back toward you after a couple minutes of rocking. Not a major issue by any means, but certainly an annoying one.
On the other hand, that’s about the only complaint we can make. The Foot Machine’s elliptical base is a little different from the wheels found on some of its competition. The design makes the point of rotation directly below the ankle, rather than the center of the board, and pays major comfort and ergonomic dividends. And this thing is seriously sturdy. Some of the more sprightly members of the WorkWhileWalking team actually use it as a two-footed, dynamic standing platform at their desks. Now, it’s not the intended use of the Foot Machine – although physical therapists would relish the idea of their clientele getting in extra strengthening exercises while at work – but it does give you some idea of how durable these rockers are – a lifetime warranty should also tell you something.
More than anything else though, we’d give the Foot Machine a nod simply because of how comfortable it is and just how good your legs feel after using it even for a short while. Not that the health benefits aren’t spectacular, but at WorkWhileWalking, we like this Humanscale offering best because, at the end of a long walk or a long stand, nothing feels better than sitting down, putting your feet up, and rocking away.
Take a look at our footrest comparison review to get more detail on this product category. And if you’re looking for something more active, check out our balance board comparison review. Want to stay up to date with all the newest office fitness products? Subscribe to our newsletter here.