A footstool is a piece of furniture which is designed to support the feet of someone who is seated. In some cases, a footstool is combined with a chair of some sort, allowing a seated individual to stretch out his or her legs, resting them on the footstool. In other instances, footstools provide support for people who cannot touch the ground with their feet in a seated position, reducing stress on the feet and legs, in which case the knees may be slightly bent to allow the feet to rest on the footstool.
The defining characteristic of a footstool is that it tends to be low to the ground and small, with a broad, flat top and no sides or back. Beyond this, a footstool may take any number of forms, from a spartan wooden footrest to an elaborate upholstered ottoman. Footstool can resemble classical stools, but they can also take the form of wedges or blocks, and sometimes a footstool is disguised as something else, or used as a multi-function piece of furniture.
In some cases, a footstool is hollow with a lid, allowing people to store various objects inside of it. A footstool may also be designed as a small stepstool, allowing people to use it to reach the top shelves in a kitchen, for example. Many shorter cooks keep a stepstool in the kitchen for easy access to high cabinets and shelves, and footstools are also used for this purpose in bookstores and libraries, ensuring that patrons can reach materials which are shelved in high spots.
In some cases, a coordinating footstool is sold with a chair, especially in the case of arm chairs and other chairs designed for lounging in comfort. Some footstools are so large that they can even double as expanded seating, as is the case with many ottomans and hassocks. Footstools can also be used with couches to provide support and comfort as people lounge.
While the use of a footstool might seem lazy, it does have some benefits. By making people more comfortable, footstools can potentially help relieve stress and pain caused by less than ideal sitting positions. They are also highly useful in the event of injuries to the legs, allowing people to elevate their legs to reduce swelling and ease discomfort. A multi-function footstool which can be used as extra seating while also providing storage can be quite useful, especially in a crowded house.