Chances are you’ve seen, or perhaps own, a pair of Keen shoes or sandals, the ones with a rubberised toe.
They were the brain child of Martin Keen, an avid sailor who preferred to wear sandals on deck. He came up with the idea in 1999 after growing sick of stubbing his toes while boating.
By 2003, he launched the company and within three years Keen had taken off like mad. By 2011 it was reportedly generating $US240 million in revenue.
And Martin Keen credits the success of that shoe to another one of his inventions. An almost-chair.
It’s a stick with a seat that turns a standing desk into a lazier, lean-on-your-butt workspace.
“The first prototype I built was in 1994, in my studio, my red barn. I had a standing table, but no seat that allowed me to stay standing up longer. So I developed one myself,” he told Business Insider.
Keen believes this almost-standing position helped him think better.
“This position in which I worked made me a much more creative designer, get more of that ‘flow’ state out of the day. And that allowed me to be creative enough to come up with this idea for Keen,” he said. “The seat I was working in allowed me to become creative enough to become a very successful footwear designer and conceive my own brand.”
Busting out of stuffy corporate culture
Keen sold his stake in the Keen shoe company six years ago. When he looked around for a new thing to do, he decided to rethink office furniture, in the same way he redesigned the sandal. So he launched his current company Focal Upright.
Back when he designed his first chair-on-a-stick, it was an oddball idea. Standing desks were not even a thing back then. He created one for himself out of an old drafter desk
He had just left his corporate shoe designing job and the standing desk felt like throwing off the yolks of bureaucracy.
“As humans, we tend to accept the tools given to us. ‘Here’s your assigned cubicle. Here’s your chair.’ You don’t think about these things,” he said. “I realised I now wasn’t beholden to corporate culture.”
Still, he soon ran into problem that most standing desk users face: “Standing is tiring after a while.”
Most standing desk owners simply give up.
“After 8-10 weeks, the novelty of standing wears off and we are back in a chair,” he said.
While research shows that sitting all day with no movement is horrible for your health, there’s also no conclusive evidence that simply standing all day, which can be hard on the feet, is a real solution.
But a balance between the two is an intriguing option.
Sit, stand, fidget, balance
The chair is increasingly creating a buzz, too. It was quite the hit at last month’s SxSW conference in Austin, Texas.
“For those who have embraced the standing desk, the stand-up chair is the office chair of the future — and super comfy,” Chris Brooks, an account executive for Media and Entertainment at Phunware who saw the chair at SxSW, told us.
I’ve been trying Focal Upright’s $US100 Mogo chair for the past few weeks and I’ve got mixed opinions on it.
My workspace had to be fine-tuned for it.
At first I found that my arms, neck and lower back got quickly tired when using it. The desk has to be adjusted so that leaning on the chair doesn’t force you to look too far up at your computer screen, or put your arms at an awkward angle to type.
Yet, it also feels good to stand while working for a few hours at a time, without my feet hurting.
With a little practice and some adjusting, the chair does seem to offer a nice balance between sitting and standing. And more balance at work is always a good thing.