Last weekend, I baked 14 pies for a baby shower. (The theme was "sweet as pie," so I served all kinds of pies -- sweet, savory, whoopie, pie parfaits, etc.) A typical weeknight meal for me takes less than 30 minutes to bring together. I rarely have aching feet or a sore back after that short window, but a two-day bake-a-thon really tested my baking skills and my feet.

That is, until I began using a comfort mat. After my first whole day of baking (without the mat), my feet were really sore, and the muscles in my legs were aching. The mat was a most welcome bit of relief on day two. I was afraid I'd have a difficult time navigating a squishy surface while rushing around rolling out pie dough and sauteing squash, but the beveled edge made the transition from floor to mat easy and -- most importantly for me -- hassle free. (No one has time to trip with a pie in their hands.) I noticed a difference both in my longevity of standing and in my overall comfort when I was finished, both for the better.

I used a mat from WellnessMats. Our Test Kitchen uses GelPro mats. Both are great and about equally priced. The mats are more expensive than a fabric mat or rug you might pick up at the store, but they're made of high-quality materials, are easy to clean, and do not slip or slide on tile or vinyl surfaces. Plus, as they've become more popular in home kitchens, decorative versions of these once-utilitarian mats are becoming easier to find. The Antique Trellis Motif from WellnessMats and the Woven Teak from GelPro are two beautiful examples of functional mats that still look great in a home.

The only difference between the two I see: WellnessMats are made of a polyurethane material; GelPro mats are made with a gel insert. How does that translate to your feet? I can't tell a huge difference, either barefoot or with shoes. Also, WellnessMats offers a 7-year warranty, including a promise that the mat will never compress or roll-up on the edges. GelPro offers a limited 3-year warranty if you buy from them and a limited one-year warranty if you buy through another retailer.

The mats would make a great gift if you have a loved one who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, but I'd suggest you go ahead and spoil yourself with one while you're at it, especially if you spend any length of time in front of a stove or sink. Like I said, they're a bit pricey, but your back and your feet will want to give you a giant, squishy hug for the relief.