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I had been thinking about getting a laptop stand for my standing desk for awhile, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to review the mStand Laptop Stand by Rain Design. In the few weeks that I’ve been using the mStand it has provided an ergonomic solution to using a laptop at my standing desk with an unobtrusive yet solid design.

Upon first taking the mStand out of its packaging I noticed its sleek design. The stand is a single metal piece in the shape of a smooth curve, with curved edges and a curved lip to hold a laptop in place. On the bottom of the stand, as well as where the laptop sits, are gray rubber grips that keep the stand and your laptop from slipping.

My laptop is my primary computer. I work in different places so I need portability across meetings, classes, coffee shops, and various office spaces. Upon using the mStand I noticed right away that I was standing up straighter and not hanging my head down to see the screen. This is because the mStand raises the laptop screen and tilts the keyboard.

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This laptop stand also has a nice weight to it, which is necessary to keep it stable. However, I found that the faster I type while my hands are resting on the laptop and the screen is angled past straight up and down, the screen will shake. This is remedied by not resting my hands on the keyboard when I type.

Since I’ve been using the mStand in my home office I’ve been wishing it were more portable, especially because I have a variety of workspaces. But I think I just wish I had one at each location I work in! What it lacks in portability it makes up for in stability.

Overall, I’m a big fan of this sleek design, and if you’re an Apple user you’ll appreciate the matte aluminum finish. I also want to mention that the mStand comes packaged in recyclable cardboard, which I appreciate. So if you’ve been thinking about a laptop stand, the mStand by Rain Design is a good choice for its sleek sturdy design.

Casey Miles is a PhD student at Michigan State studying queer rhetorics through documentary filmmaking and digital rhetoric. You can find out more about her work at www.soulsmiles.com, or follow her on Twitter @soulsmiles.

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I first set eyes on the Stamina InMotion Elliptical Trainer when I was researching standing desks. One of the sites I visited featured a large photo of a woman standing at her desk, one foot perched on a small contraption—that seemed to consist almost entirely of two large foot pedals—tucked underneath it. I happen to love the motion of a standard elliptical trainer, not to mention the intense full-body cardio workout one provides, but I’ve only ever used one in a gym, so I was intrigued.

Six months ago, with the help of my father-in-law, I crafted a DIY treadmill desk by attaching a plank to the arms of my high-end treadmill with a couple of screw-on clamps. I would walk very slowly on it (between one and two miles an hour) while working on my laptop. Unfortunately, the DIY nature of the contraption quickly became a problem. It was fine for working at (although I never really got over a slightly seasick sensation when typing) but if either I or my husband wanted to use the treadmill for a faster workout with a longer stride, the shelf got in the way. And it was a real nuisance to get out the screwdriver every time we wanted to remove the shelf. After a few weeks, I took it down permanently.

So I was overjoyed to receive the Stamina InMotion Elliptical Trainer for review, thinking it might be the perfect compromise. At the time I got it in the mail, I was alternating between sitting down to work in my living room and standing at a tall buffet in my front hall, which coincidentally just happens to be the correct height for a standing desk for me (I am 5’5” tall).

Although the Stamina InMotion needed to be put together, assembly was a piece of cake. My husband, who is one of the least mechanically inclined people in the world, did it before I even asked him to. The package arrived; I opened it to check the parts; I took the kids upstairs to put them to bed and returned to find David had already put it together. He was already testing it out, too. Unfortunately, he didn’t read the instructions, which state “If you have good balance and are familiar with the elliptical, you may use [the machine] while standing. Always mount and dismount the elliptical from the lowest foot pedal. Stand on the foot pedals with the front of your shoes close to the front edge of the pedal cap. For more stability, place a chair next to [the machine] and place your hand on the chair back while stepping onto the pedals. Move your highest foot forward and follow the natural path of the machine. If necessary, use a wall or a table to help maintain your balance while using [it].”

David just hopped on without using anything as a support, started stepping, and promptly fell off. I, however, placed the machine in front of my buffet, gripped the edge of the counter, stepped up, and started pedalling away. The first thing I noticed is that the stride (the up and down rotation of the foot pedals) is not as high as that of a conventional elliptical machine, the sort you’d use in a gym. This makes your steps feel a bit short and choppy in comparison, at least at first. The second thing I noticed is that it made me a great deal taller, almost a whole foot, which meant I had to perch a couple of boxes on top of the buffet in order to position my laptop at the correct height. This was an easy, if not particularly attractive, fix and in fact, as a replacement, I have my eye on the Executive Stand Steady Stand Up Desk that Casey reviewed last week. Once you are comfortable on the elliptical, you don’t need to hold onto anything. This frees your hands to hold the phone, for instance, or to search the web. I find the movement is too dramatic for extended periods of typing but your experience may differ.

Now, I don’t work while actively using my elliptical for more than one or two hours per day, and when I do, I usually make phone calls, watch videos, or do research while stepping. It also makes a good footrest which can be easily varied while standing. (As you may already know, those who work at a standing desk should constantly vary their position.) Sometimes I simply stand on it without pedaling, or I rest one foot or the other on it. You can also use the Stamina InMotion while you are sitting at a desk, if there is ample knee room underneath the surface. I can do so at my dining room table and the movement is gentle enough not to impede typing.  I personally would not advise attempting to exercise on this machine all day long while working at a standing desk but I strongly recommend it as a useful accessory. In an ideal world, I would have a purpose-built treadmill desk and this elliptical machine with an adjustable height standing desk, so that over the course of a working day I could vary between slow walking, standing, stepping on the elliptical, and sitting.

In summary, the Stamina InMotion Elliptical is a sturdily-made compact elliptical trainer, which can be used either standing or sitting. You can pedal forward or backward and the level of resistance can be manually adjusted. As well, the machine comes with a fitness meter (positioned between the pedals), which tracks the time, the total number of strides and the distance equivalent of your workout, and the number of calories you’ve burned. It is a great choice for standing desk users who are looking for a way to move during certain tasks at a desk or for a treadmill desk user who wants to vary the kind of motion he or she engages in over the course of the day.

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The Stand Steady series of desks can easily and quickly convert a sitting desk into a standing desk. When I was invited to review this product I immediately wished I’d known about the Stand Steady desk three years ago when I was looking for an affordable standing desk for my home office.

The Executive Stand Steady desk setup is ridiculously easy, taking just about five minutes, as the company promises. The package contents consist of a wooden desktop, two lightweight metal legs, five screws, four tube reducers, and four rubber leg pegs. The parts arrived a bit scattered in the box because the bag of parts burst open during transit. The list of components on the instructions also promised a penny as a gesture for just how easy setup is, but it was missing from mine.

The desk comes with a sheet of instructions with troubleshooting tips and handy info for transitioning from a sitting to standing desk. To be honest, the instructions are a bit wordy, especially considering how simple it is to put the desk together. I got a bit lost and overwhelmed in that document, but it was all but forgotten once I starting using the desk.

I decided to try out the Stand Steady on my kitchen table, which actually serves as my partner’s desk in our house. I already have a standing desk in my home office, so to really try out the desk I needed a surface at sitting height. The Stand Steady comes with adjustable height legs, which is valuable in accounting for varied sitting desk heights and body proportions of the user.

What I immediately loved about the Stand Steady is the option of angling the desk surface, which is great for laptop users. I will often catch myself bending my head at the neck to accommodate my laptop screen, but with the Stand Steady’s angled desktop I was standing up straighter from my mid-back to my shoulders.

The Executive Stand Steady model offers a good amount of workspace. I was able to fit my laptop, a notebook, coffee, and a water bottle on the desktop. The design of the desk also offers storage space underneath the desk surface. At first I was a bit put off at the weight of the Stand Steady; it’s pretty heavy. But after using it the heft of the desk offers a necessary stability, especially for every day use.

As a grad student, my office space changes year to year, and in an institutional setting I’m not in the position to demand a standing desk. But the Stand Steady will allow me to adapt any sitting desk into a standing desk. And if you are in the position to request a desk from your company, organization, or institution, the Stand Steady is an ideal choice because it’s drastically less expensive than a standing desk.

Overall, the Executive Stand Steady is perfect for first-time standing desk users who are looking to affordably and easily convert their current sitting desk into a standing workspace.

Casey Miles is a PhD student at Michigan State studying queer rhetorics through documentary filmmaking and digital rhetoric. You can find out more about her work at www.soulsmiles.com, or follow her on Twitter @soulsmiles.

What are the best shoes for standing all day at a standing desk?

Dr. Benno Nigg, a professor of biomechanics, co-director of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Calgary in Alberta, works at an adjustable standing desk and alternates between sitting and standing throughout the day.

So what does a leading researcher on orthotics wear on his feet when he stands at his desk?

Nothing but socks.

He does, however, stand on a kybun mat, an extremely soft mat 6 cm in height, designed by Karl Müller, the Swiss engineer who introduced the Masai Barefoot Technology shoes in 1996 (which ushered in the modern craze for barefoot/minimalist shoes).

Dr. Nigg explains that standing on a firm surface for long periods of time is not ideal because certain parts of your body will bear the entire burden of standing and that, over time, this may cause problems in those areas. On the other hand, standing on a soft surface provides an unstable base that requires your muscles to change their activity constantly and prevents that kind of constant load on particular parts of your anatomy. An additional positive effect of using a soft mat, says Dr. Nigg, is that the small muscles crossing the ankle joint are exercised and strengthened, improving your stability in general.

But if going shoeless like Dr. Nigg really isn’t an option for your workplace, what shoe should you wear for standing at your desk?

In the standing desk community,  there seem to be two conflicting opinions: barefoot/minimalist shoes or shoes with great arch and/or ankle support. Ask a standing desk user what he wears on his feet and he’s just as likely to tell you he goes blithely barefoot as he is to tell you he that he has to wear shoes with supportive arches or his feet are killing him at the end of the day.

On the surface, this division of opinion seems confusing — but it really shouldn’t be. When Dr. Nigg is posed the question, “What shoe is the best shoe?” He answers with, “There is no best shoe.” What matters, he explains, is comfort. And what is comfortable for some people will be uncomfortable for others and vice versa.

(Dr. Nigg has done extensive research on shoe inserts or orthotics that shows they can help lessen the frequency of exercise injury, but only when chosen by the wearer him or herself, on the basis of comfort. You can read more about his research and how the entire orthotics industry is currently more an art than a science in this New York Times article.)

In fact, Dr. Nigg is so adamantly against the notion of the “best shoes” that when I ask him what kind of shoes he wears, he’ll only go so far as to admit he likes “Bally shoes or something similar” for everyday wear and when pressed on what he wears for hiking and running, he simply says, “Running or hiking shoes.”

Dr. Howard Friedman, a podiatrist and board-certified foot surgeon based in Suffern, New York, agrees that someone with no foot issues should simply wear what they are comfortable in and that lots of shoes would be fine for wearing at a standing desk, from everyday casual shoes to walking shoes to running shoes. He does suggest that those who are transitioning from sitting to a standing desk should wear a shoe with plenty of room in the toe, to allow the foot to move around.

“For someone with a sore flat foot, a shoe with a supportive arch would  probably be best and something like a Dansko clog might be ideal since the arch is supportive, solid and there is room in the toe area,” says Dr. Friedman. “They are still pretty popular in hospitals with operating room nurses and surgeons who stand for long periods of time.”

“More important than the shoe is probably what the worker does with his or her feet while standing,” Dr. Friedman goes on to say. He recommends that standing workers get in the habit of doing three exercises throughout the day: periodically raising themselves up on tiptoe; raising the forefoot to balance on the heels; and alternating standing on one foot at a time – like a flamingo – for short periods.

Dr. Friedman also thinks it is often a good idea to change shoes during the course of the day since one pair of shoes will wear out in the same spot. “Changing to different shoes will probably shift the pressure underfoot around a bit,” he says.

The takeaway from all of this seems to be that when it comes to what to wear on your feet while you work at a standing desk, it’s a matter of trial and error. Pick a pair of shoes that is comfortable for you, or a couple of pairs, and try them out. Pay attention to how your feet feel after using them for a while, and the rest of your body, too.

Here are some options to consider, ranging from supportive to minimalist:

What kind of shoes do you wear at your standing desk and why? Tell us about them in the comments.

Ergotron Workfit-D Sit-Stand Desk review

Ever since I built my $47 collapsible standing desk, I’ve wanted a “real” standing desk–an adjustable one that lets me switch to a chair if I’m in the mood. I came close to buying one a couple of times, but I held out each time.

I couldn’t find a standing desk that seemed just right

It seemed like I’d either have to shell out at least $875 for a motorized desk like the GeekDesk or go for a less expensive desk for $600 to $700 and resign myself to using a hand crank to raise and lower the desk.

The GeekDesk is definitely appealing–a motorized desk can’t help but lend you some nerd cred. But they’re expensive and kinda slow; it takes 12 to 15 seconds to move between sitting and standing heights. Plus you have to plug in your desk, and there’s that motor just waiting to die on you someday…

The only alterative that I saw, the hand crank model, also seemed slow. And who wants to crank their desk like a Model T? Minus -1000 nerd points.

Then I stumbled across the Ergotron WorkFit-D Sit-Stand Desk. This desk, which is available on Amazon for around $595 shipped, seemed to hit a sweet spot. It was relatively affordable (for me), and it also offered a fast, manual adjustment mechanism that seemed practical for frequent alternations between sitting and standing.

When I expressed interest, Ergoton kindly agreed to send me a desk to review. I’ve been using it daily for a month now, and I have to say I’m extremely pleased.

Ergotron WorkFit-D

Easy assembly

If you’re planning to order a standing desk (regardless of the manufacturer) for use at home, be aware: Delivery might be a challenge. The WorkFit arrived by freight, which meant I had to be present to accept delivery. Not a problem for me, since I work from home, but that be an issue if you have a normal-person job.

The box was HUGE and HEAVY. I had the driver leave it in my garage, which has a door that opens into my office. Very convenient.

Even so, wrestling the 108-pound box into my office by myself was difficult. I’d recommend getting a friend to help, especially if you have to negotiate stairs.

Upon opening the box, I found the WorkFit-D’s parts swaddled in heavy Styrofoam and cardboard, unharmed by the rough trip. Excellent job with the packing, Ergotron.

I inspected the pieces as I extricated them from the packaging, and I liked what I saw. I was impressed, both with the materials used and with the fit and finish of the components. The uprights are heavy steel boxes, and the feet are welded firmly in place. The top is heavy particle board, finished on both the top and the bottom. All of the parts were nicely painted with no razor sharp edges.

Assembling the desk was straightforward. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, requiring only a Phillips head screwdriver. The entire setup process, including unpacking, took about 40 minutes from start to finish. (Although I did have some help: My 3-year-old son had a blast handing me the screws one by one while I bolted everything together.)

Putting the pieces together left me even more impressed with the quality of the desk. I particularly appreciated that Ergotron resisted the practice, almost universal among furniture companies, of skimping on hardware. It’s rare these days to put anything together without stripping at least a couple of screws. It doesn’t take much–a little too much English on the screwdriver and you’re screwed.

But the fasteners included with the WorkFit-D were high quality steel, and I didn’t even come close to stripping one, even when my screwdriver slipped.

After putting the desk together during my lunch hour, I pushed it against the wall and started using it that afternoon.

Smooth adjustments, roomy work surface

When assembled and placed on a firm floor (tile, hardwood or office carpet), the WorkFit-D is rock solid. The desk weighs about 85 lbs. when unpacked, and the heavy top and welded steel frame make for a very stable work surface.

But it was the manual adjustment mechanism that I was most eager to try out.Each leg telescopes together, and an internal spring applies constant upward force on the moveable upper segment of the leg. During normal use, the desktop is locked in place by set of brakes, which are controlled by a lever on the front of the desk.

To adjust the desk, you squeeze the release lever down and gently raise or lower the top. If you’re raising the desk, the springs do most of the lifting work for you. To lower it, you need to press down on the top a bit to compress the springs. Finally, after releasing the lever, one final push drops the desktop a half an inch or so and then locks it into place. The entire process takes just a couple of seconds. Want to see it in action? Here’s a video.

My desk adjusted smoothly, although I found the springs to be a bit too stiff for my liking. No problem–they’re adjustable, so I backed mine off a bit.

Due to the maximum strength of the springs, Ergotron recommends placing a maximum of 65 pounds on the WorkFit-D. That’s considerably less than the GeekDesk’s rating of 275 lbs., but it shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re this guy:

messy desk

The work surface provides plenty of room at 47.6 inches wide by 23.5″ deep, which gives me enough space for my 17″ MacBook Pro, keyboard, mouse, notebook, water bottle and iPhone. I never feel cramped while I’m working.

Ergotron WorkFit-D

When I’m standing, I like to keep the desk at a height that allows me to bend my elbows at 90 degrees. I’m 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and the desk adjusts from about 30 inches (mid-thigh level) to 50 inches (even with my armpits). Unless you play power forward for the New York Knicks, you should be able to find a height that works for you.

No desk is perfect…

Although I’m liking the WorkFit-D overall, I have a couple of minor nits to pick with it.

First, the top doesn’t sit as close to the wall as I would like. This is due to the length of the crosspieces that make up the feet–they stick out about 2 inches beyond the back of the desk top, so you can’t snug it up against the wall. Combine that with the trim at the base of the wall, and I have a 3 inch gap behind my desk. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s a little unsettling. (OK, it’s just me.) The upside, though, is that the wider base means more stability.

Second–and this is really isn’t Ergotron’s fault–the desk is a teensy bit wobbly on the plush carpet in my office. I can rock the desk back and forth by maybe a quarter of an inch. It’s only really noticeable if I lean my elbows on the desk top, which I sometimes do when I’m thinking. I imagine I’d need a much heavier desk with wider feet to avoid this.

And my last little gripe is that my optical mouse doesn’t track very well on the smooth, reflective birch top. But that’s nothing a $6 mousepad can’t fix…

A solid, no-frills adjustable desk

Ergotron WorkFit-D

I’m really happy with my Ergotron standing desk, and I plan to keep using it. Given the desk’s high-quality materials (and the absence of electric parts), I know I can rely on it to give me years of service.

Bottom line? If you’re looking for an affordable, well-made standing desk, you can’t go wrong with the Ergotron WorkFit-D.