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Ergonomic Chair Options (and what you should know before buying)

Updated on December 30, 2010

Ergonomic Chair Buying Guide

Get the lowdown on ergonomic chairs from someone who has suffered from back pain and repetitive stress injuries.

I've done my research and tried a lot of different computer chairs!

What Is Ergonomics, and Why Should You Care?

Before you go chair shopping, make sure you know what "ergonomic" really means

There are a lot of chairs on the market that claim to be ergonomic but aren't. These days, it's kind of a buzzword that marketing folks throw on a product description. To help you buy a quality ergonomic chair, let's first take a look at what ergonomics means and what a good ergonomic chair should do.

Definition of Ergonomics

According to Wikipedia, ergonomics is "the scientific discipline concerned with designing according to the human needs, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance."

Good to know, but kind of vague, hunh?

To make things simpler, let's just say that ergonomics (especially office ergonomics) is the science of comfort and design.

In short, an ergonomic chair should make you comfortable while you work.

Now let's look more specifically at what the features of a good ergonomic chair are (i.e. what specifically you should be looking for when you buy one)...

What Is an Ergonomic Chair?

What specifically should you be looking for in an ergonomic chair?

An ergonomic chair will have quite a few features and adjustability options. The idea is to be able to fine tune your chair so it's absolutely perfect for your height, body type, health history, and work habits.

Here are the minimum features a true ergonomic chair should offer:

  • adjustable seat height -- Your chair should allow you to sit with your feet flat on the floor, your thighs horizontal, and your arms even with the height of the desk.

  • adjustable lumbar support -- Good back support is critical, since the lumbar spine has an inward curve and sitting for long periods of time without proper support leads to slouching and strains the lower spine, so look for adjustable height and depth.

  • suitable seat width and depth -- Make sure the seat pan is wide enough to comfortably fit your form, and make sure the depth lets you sit with your back against the backrest while leaving 2 to 4 inches between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair.

  • forward/backward tilt -- As mentioned, a good ergonomic chair should have lots of options for adjustment, so look for a backrest with forward and backward tilt (you may even want a chair with a back support that flexes as you lean against it as my Herman Miller Aeron does).

  • durable and comfortable seat material -- While seat material is somewhat up to personal preference, cloth or mesh is generally preferable to harder materials. If your chair uses padding, it should be comfortable enough to sit on for extended periods (with a mesh chair, the give is in the mesh itself, so you won't have padding).

  • adjustable armrests -- You're probably getting the picture that "adjustable" features are key in a good ergonomic chair, and armrests are no exception. The armrests should allow your arms to rest comfortably with shoulders relaxed. Your elbows and lower arms should rest lightly, though the forearm should not be on the armrest while typing.

You can refer to the ergonomic chair diagram below to get a visual of these considerations as well.

Ergonomic Chair Diagram

Ergonomic Chair Diagram
Ergonomic Chair Diagram

Do You Really Need an "Ergonomic" Chair?

Ergonomic chairs can be pricy--is it truly a must for you?

True ergonomic chairs cost quite a bit more than simple office or computer chairs, so you may be asking yourself if you really need to make that investment.

If you only use the computer occasionally and don't have a job that has you sitting for prolonged periods, you may not need a special chair. But if you fall into any of the following categories, a quality ergonomic chair is something to consider:

  • Computer gamer

  • Writer

  • IT professional

  • Email addict

  • Web surfer extraordinaire

  • Desk jockey

  • RSI or neck/back pain sufferer

  • All other frequent computer users!

Any of those sound familiar?

If you fall into any of those categories, an ergonomic chair is definitely going to be a wise investment. While they are more expensive, you will find that quality chairs last a long time and are worth the money. I've had my Herman Miller Aeron chair for nearly five years, and it still feels and looks like new (okay, there's some dust on the ledge under the seat, but who looks there anyway?).

On the other hand, with cheaper chairs, you may find the seat split and the stuffing falling out after a couple of years. My parents have a cheap computer chair that is two years old and has splits and exposed padding--also the seat pan is too large for anyone in the family, or anyone of average height for that matter--so you definitely get what you pay for in many cases.

I'm not going to twist your arm and make you buy an ergonomic chair (pretty hard for me to do through your modem!), but I definitely recommend you make this investment. Even if you aren't experiencing pain today, years of keyboard pounding without consideration for ergonomics can take their toll on your body.

Diagram of an Ergonomic Workstation

Diagram of an Ergonomic Workstation
Diagram of an Ergonomic Workstation

1001 Ergonomic Chairs to Choose from

Your ergonomic chair options are plentiful--let's take a look at a few

While I haven't actually gone out and counted all the ergonomic chairs on the market, I wouldn't be surprised if there really were 1001 (and maybe more).

Ultimately personal preference is going to play a large roll in what's right for you, but I will show you the chair I have (as someone who has had trouble with back pain and RSI in my hands, picking a good chair was crucial) as well as a few others that are popular and have stuck around for at least a few years.

I will also list some sites where you can buy them. Though it's best if you can try out a chair in person before you buy, it can be hard to find a good selection locally (don't even waste your time going to stores such as Office Depot).

Generally if you purchase an ergonomic chair from a store online, they will have a return policy, but if you get a used or refurbished chair from eBay or another discount seller, it may be another story, so be sure to check before buying!

How Much Does a Good Ergonomic Chair Cost?

Ergonomic chair price range

As I mentioned above, an ergonomic chair is an investment, and you can't expect to find a good one for $100 (unless you luck out and find a used one on eBay or Craigslist).

Generally speaking, expect to pay $300 and up. It's not unheard of to pay $1,000 for a quality chair. The Herman Millers especially are up there.

For $100 to $200, you can sometimes find unorthodox chairs (kneeling chairs, ball chairs, etc.) that don't fit the specifications above, but which some people swear by. Personally, I can't imagine sitting 12 hours in a kneeling chair, but some people really dig them, so I will include some links below.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you make a living computing and are buying this chair for your home office, you can probably write the whole thing off as an expense for your taxes. (Consult a tax professional to see what applies for you.)

The base model of the Herman Miller Aeron is the chair I've got. I purchased it new four or five years ago, and it still looks awesome. I love the mesh seat because it's cool, comfortable, and I think it's a lot of the reason it still looks new (padded seats always develop those butt dents over time... or they rip, shred, etc.).

I love the way this chair feels to sit in too. It's not necessarily that you sit down and say "wow!"; it's more that you can sit for hours and hours without getting uncomfortable.

I was in a car accident several years ago (and have had a few snowboarding crashes that didn't help the matter), and my upper back has been a bit of an achilles heel for me ever since, but I can sit all day in this chair without being bothered.

On the flip side, 30 minutes in a coffee house kind of chair has me wiggling around and thinking about leaving. With most other computer chairs, I get uncomfortable eventually too. I'm always surprised by negative reviews of the Aeron because it's been everything I ever wanted.

If you think this might be the ergonomic chair for you, there are several models you can pick up through Amazon. Click the links below to read more about them:

Get a Herman Miller Aeron Chair - Which version of this chair is right for you? Peep the selection below!

I just have the base chair, and it's been fine for me, but you may be attracted by some of the versions with more adjustment features. Click the links below to read all about the different Aeron chairs at Amazon:

Used Herman Miller Aeron Chairs on Ebay - You may be able to pick up an ergonomic chair at a lower price

If the prices above are a bit scary, you might consider looking for a used or refurbished chair. You can sometimes find good deals on eBay. Both new and used chairs appear there, so it's worth checking out if you're in the market.

Other Popular Ergonomic Chairs

Beyond the Herman Miller...

I've devoted some space to the Herman Miller Aeron since it's the chair I use, but it's by no means the only option out there. You can find a lot of quality ergonomic chairs, and if you buy through some place like Amazon, you can get a good feel for the chair by the customer reviews.

Click some of the links below to peruse other chairs:

Is an Alternative Ergonomic Chair Right for You?

Maybe you need a chair that doesn't look like a chair at all!

If your back is your weakness, you may want to try out some of the more innovative ergonomic chairs out there. Some don't look like chairs at all!

For example, a kneeling chair is designed to take some of the weight off your rump by tilting you forward and resting your shins on the padded knee rest. It's supposed to promote proper spine alignment, and I've heard some folks say these chairs are wonderful, though if you're spending all day at the computer, they may not be the best bet.

Another alternative ergonomic chair is the ball chair. If you've seen those big exercise balls at the gym, then just imagine putting it in a chair frame and sitting on it. You can even bounce a bit while you type.

Some people even suggest just sitting on one of those giant exercise balls and using that as your chair. (I actually have one of those balls and tried this... after 20 minutes it was bothering my back, so I would definitely say get the ball chair with the frame and back support if you're going to try this.)

Check out some of the links below to explore these alternatives more closely.

Price Check on Alternative Chairs - You can pick up some of these alternative chairs for less than a typical ergonomic chair

Tell the world about your chair or office set-up--fellow computer geeks want to know! :)

Do You Have an Ergonomic Chair? Tell Us About It - What chair model do you have or are you thinking of getting?

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    • Tim Bader profile image

      Tim Bader 

      6 years ago from Surrey, UK

      Nice detailed post about the subject!

      I'm not sure about the name of my chair but it definitely makes a difference.

      I wrote a more general article about my current anti-RSI setup and wondered if you would like to comment?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have/use the BARON/OKAMURA CP ergonomic chair.

      It has all the above with that little extra that make it a very comfortable for my hours of gaming, i will never go back to using a cheep chair for all the reasons ergonomic stands for.

    • joanv334 profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello, thanks for the tips!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm in the market for one of these now. I had a Herman Miller chair at one of my jobs and it was very comfortable. Now I need one that fits both me and my cat. She likes to sit behind me. The joys of working at home!

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 

      9 years ago

      I need a chair like this as I sit to knit a lot!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Some really useful information on Ergonomic chairs here. I have just readjusted mine! thanks

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks for the tips! I just bought an ergonomic chair, not as good as the one in your opening photo though.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 

      10 years ago

      Something I really need...a good computer chair!

    • greenerme profile image


      10 years ago

      Great information. We just upgraded to Herman Miller chairs-Love them!!!!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very useful. I wish I had read this before I bought my new office chair.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I really must buy a proper chair of these on of these days, I spend so much time in front of my computer. But I must admit, I do have my workstation (chair, computer, desk, etc) set up almost perfect which should at least reduce quite a bit of strain and pain. Great lens Lindsay! - Kathy

    • cineteq profile image

      John Parr 

      10 years ago from Montreal

      My back is killing me, I need to get one soon! Great info!!!!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Useful info! thx for that. going to check your blog now.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      DH has the HM chair at work and loves it! ...thanks for visiting my Scrabble Tile Pendant Lens...I appreciate it...your comment made me chuckle!


    • A RovingReporter profile image

      A RovingReporter 

      11 years ago

      I have heard of an ergonomic chair but have not got to owning one. This five-star lens will be of tremendous help when one is looking for an ergonomic chair.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is helpful info. I am definitely in the market for an ergonomic chair...mine is killin' me!


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