The best ergonomic chairs today have several functions that make them stand out. They are highly adjustable and configurable based on any user, last for years, are designed for long use and comfort, are aesthetically pleasing, and worth the price point. For these reasons, ergonomic chairs are often very popular in modern offices that can afford them. Any office worker knows the joys of an ergonomic chair.
While most of the premium priced ergonomic office chairs offer good values, it's often the cheaper ergonomic chairs that you have to watch out for. Budget priced chairs often brag about extended comfort, or "lumbar support", or try to reel you in with designs copied from premium ergonomic chairs themselves. The more you use these budget chairs, the more your back suffers which can lead to injuries later on down the road.
How to choose?
Ergonomic chairs are made by a host of different companies and each competing company has great differences in how they design their chairs. Some chairs are designed with a simple appearance that might feel more common while others have traditional mesh appearances pioneered by the Aeron chair. There are still some chairs that take chair design as simply a vessel for ergonomics. The result can be a chair that looks very industrial.
Material and comfort is a very important feature to consider when purchasing an office chair. Whether you prefer mesh, fabric, leather--is an important thing to distinguish.
Each material has benefits, with the mesh being extremely breathable but subject to tears--while other materials like fabric might not be as breathable but provide more of a traditional comfort. Some mesh material can also become rough to the touch while leather is fancier (and mesh) it's also prone to getting very hot and may cause you to lose grip in your chair while seated.
In terms of how chairs handle comfort, some chairs are also more leisurely and don't enforce as rigid seating. While some other chairs force you into an ergonomic position that doesn’t really leave room for variation. Others consistently adapt to whatever position you hold, but might not be as suitable or adjustable depending on what type of comfort you need.
Most high-end ergonomic chairs are highly adjustable. Some are automatically adjusted in that they adjust to back pressure and respond with automatic adjustments while others let you customize every single setting in the chair like lumbar support, arm height, and even seat depth. Do you want to fiddle with knobs, or just let the chair do its magic? If you feel like you're a bit picky you might want to consider getting a very adjustable chair, but if you happen to test out a chair that automatically feels "just right", consider making an investment.
Price is something that needs to be considered carefully. The best chairs cost a premium price, but even then, there are variations between competing chairs ranging from $1000 dollars or more, or around the $900 mark. These variations don't deal with quality so much as preference. Some chairs might have things you wouldn't prefer--so it all comes down to how comfortable you find the chair. Some may find the most expensive chair more comfortable while others could find a cheaper chair more comfortable. Keep in mind that this price can accelerate rapidly with various add-ons that might provide additional comfort and ergonomics like headrest add-ons. If you happen to find the most expensive chair the most comfortable, you might want to save more money. Or if you can't tell the difference, choosing a cheaper ergonomic chair can be a good solution.
5. Haworth Zody Task
Minimalist and simple, the Kody can still compete in all accounts.
While the Haworth Zody chair might not be as well-known as its competitors in terms of brand recognition, it’s still a highly competitive and comfortable office chair with a host of ergonomic adjustments and engineering accomplishments.
The chair combines asymmetrical lumbar adjustment with passive pelvic support. This means you can adjust how much push-back and pressure the lumbar support gives. It’s highly adjustable depending on your preferences, but the chair also promotes good posture practices like promoting rotation in the hips to maintain a natural lower arch in the spine.
Besides the highly configurable backrest, the seat is also extremely ergonomic with it’s “waterfall edge” that doesn’t trigger pressure points in the legs. The chairs seat rest is made with plush foam while the suspension is made out of breathable mesh fabric.
The Zody Task is a great chair to consider if you want a quality office chair with all the bells and whistles for a smaller price. Or if you’ve tried some of the bigger competitors and aren’t satisfied, Zody’s green concentration claiming zero waste to landfill (chairs are made from recycled materials) and 12-year warranty might win you over.
The Haworth Zody Chair retails at $789 for the basic model.
4. Herman Miller Aeron
The first king of office chairs.
You’ll find the Herman Miller Aeron in thousands of offices (and one museum!), both because of how ergonomically viable they are and how industrially well-made. Simply put, the Aeron defined the modern office chair and its popularity is a testament to the chair’s value as a long-term ergonomic investment.
The Aeron chair features complex adjustable levers and tension knobs which can be confusing to use but promise a good amount of customizability for most users. The chair also comes in various sizes that are important when considering the chair as an option.
The Aeron chair was one of the first chairs to use mesh in the seating and backrest. The result is an amazingly breathable chair, but depending on your preferences, this is something you might want to take note of. Some users have reported that the mesh seating wears or tears over time and that it causes their pants to fray since the material can be rough. However, like most expensive chairs, you can easily purchase then replace various parts.
Since Aeron is one of the older chairs, a lot of users have found that there are newer thus more modern chairs with better ergonomic capabilities. Some find the chair, while ergonomically viable and leagues better than normal chairs, not very comfortable. The
Aeron chair is a perfect example when you have to sit one way. Suffice to say, slouching in an Aeron is a death sentence.
That said, tons of people still rely on the Aeron chair and it’s older status can make it very affordable from local warehouses or craigslist. The newest model is also a bit cheaper than competitors now.
The Herman Miller Aeron chair retails for $729.
3. HumanScale Freedom
The Humanscale may look industrial, but it feels amazingly comfortable.
HumanScale uses an automated approach where the ergonomic chair naturally conforms to your body, giving the support and comfort where needed--without the hassle of confusing support levers, knobs, and other bells and whistles.
The HumanScale’s design feels very industrial with thick metallic beams connecting each part of the chair into a frighteningly impressive appearance. It’s the sort of chair people tend to stare at, whether with curiosity, or a mild sense of unrest. While it may look like a torture chair from the back, the chair’s unique ability to recline without a recline mechanism perfectly adjusts tilt to the user’s position. The chair also features automatic spine adjustment, and quality cushions that mimic the body’s natural contours and decrease pressure points for prolonged comfortability.
The HumanScale’s strength is in it’s automatic chair adjustments that feature automatic armrests that adjust with movement and its self-adjusting recline. It’s also a very versatile chair with one of it’s most popular incarnations featuring a high-quality headrest. A headrest is perfect for long gaming sessions or relaxing while binging on Netflix.
The basic Humanscale Freedom chair retails for $989. The model that comes with a headrest retails for $1169.
2. Herman Miller Embody Chair
The Herman Miller Embody is a premium chair in all accounts.
While the Herman Miller Aeron reigns king as the classic ergonomic chair, Miller’s Embody ergonomic approach and powerful design might make it a better and newer alternative for those with a bigger budget.
While some chairs rely on you configuring adjustable settings, the Embody focuses on conforming to body micro movements through their “pixelated support” system that gives the body a sense of floating. The chair’s inner construction is a marvel to behold, which makes the chairs pixelated support system seem like a bionic spine. A lot of ergonomic chairs feel more like machines, and this chair is the perfect example. In many ways, it certainly feels like one as the backrest automatically distributes weight evenly as you sit on it which reduces pressure and encourages movement in a variety of positions.
The design definitely takes a hefty departure from the Aeron with a less ordinary angular shape and clean appearance that looks more like a Steelcase chair.
The Herman Miller Embody chair retails for $1229.
1. Steelcase Leap Chair
SteelCase Leap is an amazingly versatile office chair.
The Steelcase Leap chair is a beautiful ergonomic wonder. It features a unique system where the back support and seat operate independently, giving an intuitive and incredibly supportive experience. When you lean back, the backrest will go back while the seat moves forward to accompany your body into a highly ergonomic position.
The Steelcase Leap is also known for it’s incredibly powerful back support which mimics the movement of the spine and supports your body as you move. I would go so far to say that the Steelcase Leap is the best chair for lower back pain. The design of the backrest itself even looks highly futuristic, and when you see it, it’s not really a surprise that it feels that good against your back.
The Leap chair is also highly customizable which makes it a perfect fit for anyone. You can customize the push-back of the backrest, the ergonomic support (in newer models), chair height, the arm tilt / height, and even the angle of the seat rest.
While some chairs offer the same customizable settings, the Leap chair offers the best all around experience that somehow just “matches” what your back (and rear) needs. It’s also an incredibly good-looking chair with a clean modern aesthetic, that fits into any new-age office or pleasantly designed workspace.
The Steelcase leap chair retails for $919.
Which office chair is right for you?
While each chair is extremely competitive in terms of ergonomic capabilities, the Steelcase Leap offers the best all around value with copious adjustable options, great comfort, and amazingly simple but clean looking design. It’s also continually improved with variations iterations of the chair from the v1 version and v2 version (included in this list) that has an adjustable lumbar support. However, if you’re looking for a chair that isn’t hard to set up, the HumanScale Freedom would be a great pick. Another pricier option is the extremely comfortable Embody chair--that is, if you’re not limited to a budget.