We’ve been seeing more organizations turning towards insole programs as a replacement for anti-fatigue matting; and this switch was certainly noticed at this year’s Applied Ergonomics Conference in Orlando, FL, with a significant presence of insole manufacturers.
What does research tell us about matting versus insoles?
Anti-fatigue matting and insoles have both been demonstrated to reduce leg and back fatigue in workers who are exposed to prolonged standing. By providing a slightly unstable surface, these anti-fatigue products encourage subtle movement of leg muscles, consequently promoting blood flow and preventing stagnation in veins.
Looking to compare the relative benefits of matting versus insoles, a study was conducted by Dr. Phyllis King at the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Occupational Therapy . The experiment followed assembly line operators during eight-hour standing shifts over four weeks. Participants were divided into groups, and provided with either anti-fatigue mats, insoles, both, or neither piece of equipment. Three times per week, the operators completed questionnaires rating their perception of the firmness of their flooring condition, their level of general fatigue, level of leg fatigue, and discomfort levels associated with various body parts. While the anti-fatigue matting, insole and combined conditions were all statistically favorable to bare floors, there was no significant preference between the matting and insoles alone. Operators using both the mat and insoles, however, reported the lowest discomfort ratings.
According to this study, choosing insoles over mats will not significantly reduce operator fatigue, so why the trend?
As explained by one of the insole providers at the Applied Ergonomics Conference, PowerSteps, insoles can help manage lower limb disorders (LLDs) such as plantar fasciitis. In a study by E. Durak published in the Journal of Ergonomics , anti-fatigue insoles were found to reduce LLD pain in facilities staff in 9 of 11 cases. We’ve also heard several food industry companies citing hygiene as a motivation for the switch to insoles.
Does your company use anti-fatigue mats or insoles?