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What is a Footstool?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By geekish — On Sep 29, 2011

Footstools are a great help in the kitchen, or anywhere where there are high shelves and/or high cabinets. Most of my family is short, so you would have thought we would have had footstools all over our house growing up, but for some reason we didn't.

I would always just use counters or other chairs to reach something that was too tall for me, which I know isn't too safe or practical, but it was fun!

I think it is so cute to have the footstools for pets or to have footstools if you jack your bed up really high. Especially if you get like an old antique type of footstool, it looks so regal and royal, when paired with some piece of furniture equally quaint and charming.

By Tomislav — On Sep 28, 2011

To say that footstools make someone seem lazy is like saying anyone who sits or lies down for any amount of is lazy, which is so far from the truth. Yes, if you are sitting or laying all day and night, that is a problem, but other than that, we all need a break from time to time.

I love the newer type of ottomans that are almost the length of the coach, so everyone who sits in it can have an almost equal opportunity to prop their feet up.

I have never owned a recliner, most seem to just to be too big and heavy for me to know what to do with. I would go with a footstool over a recliner any day, they are just so much more fashionable and seem to be just as comfortable too!

By matthewc23 — On Sep 27, 2011

I was wondering around the furniture store the other day helping my friend pick out a new couch, and I saw an adjustable footstool. It was made out of metal and sort of in a "Z" shape. It just kind of unfolded like an accordion to whatever height you wanted. I thought that would be nice for a family that had different people sitting in the chairs. It wasn't very pretty, though. I guess because of the metal.

Whenever I need a footstool, I just use the coffee table! I'm sure most people would frown upon it, but as long as no one else in the house minds.

By cardsfan27 — On Sep 27, 2011

My grandma always had to keep a wood footstool in the kitchen, because she was too short to reach the top shelves of her cabinets. I've seen the ones in libraries, too, that the article mentions.

I bought a footstool once when I was training my dog. I got ambitious and made an obstacle course for him in my backyard, and one of the things was for him to jump up onto a wooden crate, but it was too tall, so I had to get the footstool for him to climb onto first.

By Emilski — On Sep 26, 2011

@titans62 - I know what you mean. When I was a kid, everyone I knew had one of the big, round ottomans with either a zipper top or the kind where the top just lifts off. That was where everyone kept their magazines and books, so they weren't cluttering up the end tables. When I was watching Saturday morning cartoons, that's always where I liked to sit.

My grandparents even had a footstool with wheels on it for some reason. It was great fun sliding across that on the kitchen floor even though I wasn't supposed to.

By titans62 — On Sep 26, 2011

I definitely don't think using a footstool is lazy. When I was growing up, I remember everyone used to have ottomans and footstools in their houses. It seems like back then it was much more common for people to have regular chairs in the house, not just recliners.

I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the price of producing recliners getting cheaper or else regular old plain chairs fell out of favor. Maybe people still do buy regular stationary armchairs and use footstools, but I don't know anyone anymore that has one.

By Kat919 — On Sep 25, 2011

@dfoster85 - Nice find! A decent footstool is essential furniture for nursing. I remember they brought me one in the hospital when I had my baby. Now, I don't understand why the rooms had rocking chairs but not footstools, but there you have it.

Only the lactation consultants had footstools, so when she came to see me, she went and got me one to keep. Made all the difference in the world! I didn't even realize how uncomfortable I was until she got my feet propped up correctly.

Now, I use footstools everyone. I get those plastic Rubbermaid ones and I have one under my desk at work, one at home, etc.

By dfoster85 — On Sep 25, 2011

When I bought my nursing glider, I was shocked at how much the coordinating footstools cost! They were half as much as the chair, plus they were huge and heavily padded and they rocked like the chair. Why would I want my footstool to rock?

I bought my glider in a nice solid color because I planned to put it in the living room. At one of those "antique" stores that's more of a junk shop, not so much one of the snooty places, I found a small footstool with a nice, matching embroidered cover, not quite so thick. It works much better than one of those huge rocking things, it's easier to move around (because my husband sometimes sits in the chair, too, and of course he doesn't want the footstool in the same place), and it was all of about 15 bucks!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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