By spending more on a quality ergonomic chair, your chair will last longer and give you more pain-free days. Many of us who have had or still have a standard old office chair know how you can only take a few hours (or sometimes less) of sitting at your desk before you have to get up and walk around. And when you walk around after sitting in that standard, cheap chair, you often have to stretch and notice that you’ve got a lot of tension in your back or neck.
Ergonomic chairs are specifically designed for people who sit for long periods of time at their desks. With a comfy, ergonomic chair, you can nip neck and back strain in the bud and set yourself up for a successful workday.
What to Look For in an Ergonomic Office Chair
There are a ton of ergonomic office chairs out there to choose from, including some that claim they’re ergonomic when they’re really not. Here’s everything you need to look out for when searching for the perfect ergonomic chair:
- Price vs. Value: Quality ergonomic chairs are always going to be expensive. Even a budget pick is going to cost you at least a couple hundred bucks. With any purchase that involves your comfort, however, you shouldn’t look for the cheapest option; you should look for the option that gives you the most value for your money. If you think about your mattress, for example, you probably wouldn’t get the cheapest option, right? After all, you spend eight hours a day sleeping on it so you want it to be comfortable and kind to your back. Why shouldn’t an office chair be the same? You’re going to spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, so it’s worth investing in a quality chair that’s designed to be comfortable.
- Comfort: It almost goes without saying, but we’ve obviously got to mention it: when you’re sitting in an office chair for hours at a time, you need it to be comfortable. Comfort is subjective, though, and depends on your preferences. If you can, we recommend physically sitting in a variety of ergonomic chairs before purchasing one to find the perfect fit. If you can’t, at least make sure you pay attention to the material of the seat cushion, where the chair has breathable mesh, if any, and what the armrests are made of.
- Support: If you pick up any cheap office chair from your local Walmart or Target, you’re likely not going to get a chair with much support. The point of spending extra for an ergonomic chair is to get that additional back and lumbar support. Investigate the ergonomic claims for the retailer selling the chair you’re looking at to ensure you’ll actually get the support you need.
- Adjustability: While it’s important for your chair to be comfortable and ergonomically supportive right out of the box, it’s equally essential for it to be adjustable since everyone is different. Over the life of the chair, you may also want to adjust your level of lumbar support as your needs change. You’ll want to make sure there’s an option for customizable armrests, chair height, and tilt as well.
- Materials: The plain old desk chair you might buy for your kid’s first desk probably isn’t going to hold up that long. Likewise, when you find an affordable office chair, it’s probably due to the materials used to produce it—cheap plastic breaks easily and fake leather often starts peeling after a few months. Purchasing a quality ergonomic chair is an investment, yes, but it’s one that’ll last you for years, just like a car or mattress. Ergonomic chairs from reputable brands use higher-quality, long-lasting materials for both the frame and the seat cushion.
What Does Ergonomic Mean?
If you’ve seen the word ergonomic thrown around but you’re unsure what it really means, here’s a brief definition. When something is ergonomic, it’s designed to be both comfortable and efficient.
An ergonomic chair is designed with comfort in mind and has unique technologies built-in that help reduce back and neck strain from sitting in a chair for long hours. Of course, different companies will have different technologies and their own unique patents for their chairs, but all of them are designed ergonomically.
The term ‘ergonomic’ can be applied to more than just office chairs as well. Anything that you use that causes you any sort of pain or discomfort probably has an ergonomic option available (that’s probably more expensive, but usually worth it). When it comes to office items, the two most common ergonomic upgrades are computer mice and keyboards.
Best Overall: Steelcase Series 2
- ✓ Highly customizable
- ✓ Extremely adjustable
- ✓ Reasonably affordable
- ✗ Customization options can quickly hike price up
Most people in search of a great ergonomic chair don’t need to look further than the Steelcase Series 2. It’s easy to personalize this chair’s style as well as its adjustability and support. Plus, the seat is equipped with a blend of high-density foam and infused air pockets for a super comfortable sitting experience every time.
You can customize the chair’s back style, upholstery color and style, back and frame color, and wheels. Then, you can also add a headrest and choose how adjustable you want the armrests to be, or if you even want armrests at all. These upgrades will cost you, however, so mind your budget.
The Series 2 chair does a lot to help minimize strain on your back, neck, and other parts of your body by helping the chair move with you. Steelcase’s Air LiveBack technology uses a geometric pattern that flexes when you move and change positions in the chair, reducing physical strain. There’s also a weight-activated tilt mechanism that’s synchronized between the seat and the back, helping you seamlessly transition between different incline positions.
Steelcase gives you a lot of adjustment options on the chair to better fit your needs, too. The chair’s tilt can be adjusted and locked, the seat is height- and depth-adjustable, and—should you choose this option—the fully adjustable armrests can raise up and down, pivot in and out, move side to side, and scoot forward and backward.
As a bonus, Steelcase is into sustainability. Each chair is made of about 10% recycled materials and is 90% recyclable if you eventually decide it’s time to throw it away.
Steelcase Series 2
For most people, the Steelcase Series 2 is priced well and will let you work long hours without neck and back pain.
Another Great Option: Autonomous ErgoChair Pro+
- ✓ Uses flexible TPE that's breathable and earth-friendly
- ✓ Reasonably affordable
- ✓ Awesome for people who move a lot while working
- ✗ Only six different customization options
If you’re constantly fidgeting in your chair while working, you should go for the Autonomous ErgoChair Pro+. It’s roughly in the same price range as the Steelcase Series 2, but it’s designed specifically for those who want to move more in their chair.
It has a frameless back, which may sound weird at first, but it really just opens up opportunities for more movement. The back is made of responsive webbing that’s denser in necessary areas, like your lumbar region, and lighter in others. What’s awesome about this flexible material is that it adapts to your specific body and spine, giving you a nearly perfect chair fit no matter how you’re sitting.
Even though the thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) strands that make up the webbing are flexible, they’re still extremely strong. Autonomous boasts that this flexible TPE is ten times more durable than traditional foam and fabric options.
There are six different chair color and frame combinations to choose from, including a few options with a breathable mesh covering over the flexible TPE. Once you have your chair, you can adjust the tilt and tension to stabilize the lumbar section, with 11 different lockable positions.
The ErgoChair Pro+ is perfect for anyone who’s antsy or fidgety all day in their office chair.
Best Budget: Ticova Ergonomic Office Chair
- ✓ Comfortable foam seat and breathable mesh
- ✓ Adjustable lumbar support
- ✓ Affordable
- ✗ May not hold up as well as more expensive options
Although all good ergonomic chairs will cost you more than the average office chair, there are still relatively affordable options out there. This ergonomic chair from Ticova has a breathable mesh back to keep you cool and a comfortably plush seat to relieve pain over long periods.
Under the seat fabric, there are three inches of high-density foam that give you wide support and help evenly disperse pressure on your hips and thighs. The same soft foam also appears in the headrest, which can be detached if you don’t want it.
One of the best things about this affordable gem is how much you can adjust its features to your liking. You can adjust the height and angle of the headrest, the height of your seat cushion, the tilting angle and rocking resilience, and the height, angle, and forward/backward direction of the armrests. Plus, there’s a handy dial on the back of the chair that lets you adjust the height and depth of the chair’s lumbar support.
Ticova Ergonomic Office Chair
Ticova's ergonomic chair is the best option if you're looking to save money, but still want a comfy, supportive chair in your life.
Best Premium: Steelcase Leap
- ✓ Highly customizable, with extra adjustment options
- ✓ Multiple colors to choose from
- ✓ Eco-friendly chair
- ✗ Pretty expensive
- ✗ No open mesh, which some might want
The Steelcase brand is an excellent choice in general for an ergonomic chair simply because there’s so much you can customize when you order. With Steelcase’s Leap model, in particular, you get an office chair that’s stylish, comfortable, and, of course, highly customizable.
When constructing your personalized chair, you can choose between fabric and leather upholstery, the color of the upholstery, three base and frame colors, and wheels for carpet or hard floors. You can also spring for additional lumbar support, extra arm adjustability, or even no arms at all on your chair.
The Leap uses LiveBack technology to help support your back; the chair will change shape to support your spine’s natural curvature and give your lower back extra support. Under your tush, the seat is made of high-density foam and infused air pockets, which helps the seat conform around you and relieve pressure points.
As far as adjustments go, you can adjust almost everything. There’s a tilt mechanism you can adjust to find the perfect level of resistance against your back as you recline. You can also use the variable back stop to lock in your favorite recline or upright position. Plus, the seat pan can be adjusted in and out to support your bottom and thighs where you need the most support.
And of course, if you tack on the adjustable armrests and additional lumbar support to your final chair, you can personalize those settings too. Keep in mind that those add-ons will increase the chair’s final cost, though. Also, as a nice inclusivity bonus, the adjustments are labeled in English and Braille.
As with all of Steelcase’s products, sustainability is important. Each Leap chair uses 10% recycled materials and is 94% recyclable at the end of its life.
The Leap chair from Steelcase costs more than the Series 2, but it’s well worth it in terms of ergonomic upgrades and features.
Best Ultra-Premium: Herman Miller Aeron Chair
- ✓ Patented Pellicle material and PostureFit SL back support
- ✓ Breathable and comfortable
- ✓ Three different chair sizes to choose from
- ✗ Super expensive
Yes, Herman Miller’s Aeron chair is expensive, but because it’s an amazing chair for people who sit for most of their workdays. This chair combines Herman Miller’s proprietary Pellicle suspension material with its patented PostureFit SL back support to make one heavenly work throne.
If you decide to add adjustable PostureFit SL pads to your chair, you’ll get extra lumbar support and help stabilize the base of your spine. In turn, this helps your posture while you’re working and reduces muscle aches and fatigue. Regardless of whether or not you get this extra lumbar support add-on, the chair has eight zones of varying tension in the back and seat that help relieve circulation-restricting pressure points.
There are a ton of ways to customize the Aeron chair, which makes it easy for you to get the exact chair you need. When you order the chair, you can customize the frame/base combination, the tilt, the armpads, the arms themselves, the chair wheels, lumbar support, and back support. You can also customize the size of the chair (choosing between small, medium, and large), which is something you don’t really see with any other ergonomic chair brand.
Plus, if you feel like being friendly to the Earth, you can choose the Onyx base when you’re customizing your chair. The Onyx base is composed of recycled material made from plastic waste in the ocean.
Herman Miller Aeron Chair
If you want to invest in a chair that’ll last you a really long time and have your back thanking you at the end of every workday, spring for Herman Miller’s Aeron chair.