What is an ergonomic chair?
This might sound like a stupid question, but it certainly isn’t one. With every chair on Amazon, and every chair available to be tested at Office Depot claiming to get ergonomic, the term– “ergonomic,” can easily lose value.
However, I define and attribute the word very carefully. If something is ergonomic, then by god, IT’S ERGONOMIC. But Sure, there are varying degrees of ergonomics to be had. Some chairs only have a few ergonomic functions, whereas some chairs are fully ergonomic with multiple ergonomic adjustments. That is the key, really–adjustments.
Is a Chair Adjustable? If so, then it’s probably Ergonomic! However, the more adjustments there are, the more ergonomic the chair will be. In this article, I’ll define an ergonomic chair as ergonomic once it has the bare minimum of adjustments to be defined as such.
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What Does an Ergonomic Chair Need?
Ergonomic chairs need a few things to be considered ergonomic. The basic idea is that the more adjustable the chair is, the more ergonomic capabilities it has.
#1 Height Adjustment
Almost every chair has this adjustment out there, but that’s because it’s very important to have. Since people have different heights and different desk heights, it’s important to be able to be close enough to your desk and to have your feet on the ground keeping your knees and hips mostly parallel.
#2 Adjustable Armrests
Adjustable armrests come in various shapes and sizes. Just because an armrest is adjustable, doesn’t mean it has too much value. The reason is that the armrest could be uncomfortable and just plastic. However, I still think having adjustable armrests is very important, and it can be a good indicator of a chair’s ergonomic value.
There are a lot of expensive chairs out there that don’t have adjustable armrests, but most of these chairs are designer chairs not meant to be comfortable. Sub $100 chairs often don’t have adjustable armrests either. Then from there, you have armrests which can go up and down, and then you have armrests that can go side to side as well as up and down. Finally, you have armrests like in the Steelcase Gesture and Leap which can be pivoted and adjusted in a crazy amount of positions.
Finally, you have armrests like in the Steelcase Gesture and Leap which can be pivoted and adjusted in a crazy amount of positions.
I think it’s most important to get armrests that can be adjusted in height and width so you can get the right distance between your arms to be comfortable.
#3 Adjustable Backrest
Some chairs have backrests that can be adjusted up or down. In the case of the HON Ignition (HON Ignition Review), this is a substitute to adjust the lumbar support in the right place. I also tested other chairs like this Office Master chair that had similar functionality.
Overall, I don’t think an adjustable backrest is completely mandatory as long as there is some adjustment in the back to adjust the lumbar support to the right place. The reason is that I find adjustable backrests to be a bit tricky to get the right feeling of comfort without having a gap under your lower back.
#4 Ergonomic Design
Depending on the type of chair is, ergonomic design can mean everything. In the case of the Steelcase Leap, the back has a natural curve to it that is very supportive and comfortable. Other cheaper chairs don’t have much ergonomic design at all, and some chairs force your neck, shoulders, or arms forward on accident (I’ve seen some DXRacer chairs do this).
#5 Adjustable Seat Depth
Another important ergonomic feature is adjustable seat depth. When your chair has an adjustable seat depth, you can move the seat panel forward or back to accommodate your leg length. The ideal position is hand or so away from the inner part of your knee. If you don’t get a chair with an adjustable seat depth, you might find that the seat is either too small or too big depending on your size.
#6 Synchro-Tilt and Back Tension / Back Tension Seat Glide
The ability to recline in an office chair is very important, but you won’t find this ability in many chairs in the $100-200 region. It’s only till you stretch past that budget that you will get office chairs that give you support when you recline. In addition, you need to watch out for “center-tilt” chairs that lock the seat with the back when you recline.
Instead, you need a chair that has something like Synchro-tilt or a similar system like the Steelcase Leap’s “Natural Glide System” that keeps your seat level when you lean back. Back tension is also important since it gives you a wider range of positions and encourages more movement while you are sitting down.
What are the Best Ergonomic Chairs? [From Best to Worst]
So what are the best ergonomic chairs? Well in a lot of ways, the expensive chairs win the battle. The reason is that these chairs cost a fair amount of money (around $900+), but they have 10-year warranties and can last for much longer. You will also notice that all of the parts used are higher quality. With Steelcase and Herman Miller chairs, you can tell the difference.
In fact, the Steelcase V1 that I use was made in 2001, and it’s still completely functional today. So if you buy a Steelcase or a Herman Miller, you might still be using it in 2032 (the future!!).
#1 Steelcase Leap
The Steelcase Leap is probably the best office ergonomic chair out right now–no questions asked. Sure some other chairs like the Steelcase Think or Herman Miller Aeron come close, but nothing matches the amount of features and comfort packed into the Leap.
Sure, it’s expensive, but it’s also the best of the best. It will last you YEARS, and each year will be better than any other cheaper offering or most similarly priced chairs.
Check out the Steelcase Leap Review.
#2 Herman Miller Embody
Even more expensive than the Steelcase Leap is the Herman Miller Embody. The design of the chair is more futuristic and updated, and the technology in the back part of the chair is insane. The chair uses an interlocking pixel system to support your back to encourage movements during the day.
If you sit a lot like me, you know how important, powerful recline and chair flexibility is. The Embody represents the pinnacle of this design philosophy, and it’s one of the best chairs out there.
Check out the Herman Miller Embody review.
#3 Steelcase Think
While the Steelcase Think doesn’t have the same amount of features as the Leap (as we covered in this Steelcase Think vs. Leap comparison article), it’s still a great chair with some of the best adjustable arms on the market. Plus, the fabrics used in the Think are great for hot weather, and I love how minimalist and lightweight the chair feels. Definitely one of the best ergonomic chairs out there.
Check out the Steelcase Think review.
The ErgoHuman Chair might not be the prettiest chair, but if you like mesh and a good dosing of “ergonomic design,” you’ll love the ErgoHuman Chair. I use to work at a Solar company, and I would see three employees fighting over this chair all the time. The back looks something straight out of a spaceship or something, but the chair is quite comfortable and adjustable. A lot of people say this is a good chair for tall people, and I can agree with that.
Check out the Ergohuman Chair review.
#5 HON Nucleus
The HON Nucleus is a good chair option if you are seeking a mid-priced office ergonomic chair. The price is under $500, so you will notice some parts lessen in quality like the arms (feel a bit plasticky). But the chair has very good construction and innovative design. I love the springy seat cushion.
Check out the HON Nucleus Review.
#6 HON BASYX
The HON Basyx is one of the cheapest “ergonomic” chairs you can get. It comes with adjustable lumbar support, and other ergonomic functions like adjustable height, seat depth, and arms. It might not feel super premium since it’s fairly cheap, but it’s a decently comfortable experience for the price better than some other competitors.
Check out our HON Basyx review.
#7 Alera Chair
The Alera Chair has had a lot of success with plenty of people looking for an adjustable low-priced office chair. A lot of people liken it to the “poor man’s Aeron, ” and I, found that comparison to be pretty accurate.
You’ll get similar features without the same sort of quality and polish that the Herman Miller Aeron chair has. It’s a decent chair for someone looking for a mesh task chair that has adjustments for a wide pool of heights and weights.
Check out our Alera Chair Review.