For people who work from home full or part time, an office chair is more than just a piece of home decor—it’s an essential furniture item that determines how they feel at the end of the work day. A desk chair is where many workers spend a significant portion of their lives, and like with a mattress, it’s worth investing in a good one for that reason.
With so many different styles on the market, it can be hard to know what to look for when furnishing a home office. Mental Floss spoke with professionals in physiotherapy and furniture design to learn more about the best ergonomic office chairs built to ease the aches and pains of a sedentary work life.
What to Look For in Ergonomic Office Chairs
While there are plenty of affordable desk chairs out there, experts tend to recommend pricier options. It can be hard to tell the difference between a $100 chair and a $1000 chair just from shopping online, but according to experts, the price comes through in the product. “[When talking about] a good office chair, I prefer to use the term performance task chair,” Rosalie O’Donnell, an interior designer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), tells Mental Floss. “Because performance just means high-quality materials and components, extra [durability], and [a] really good warranty.”
In terms of materials, woven mesh is ideal for office chairs. Leather may look and feel nice, but after a few hours of work that luxury becomes a drawback. “You want good airflow, which I think is one of the big reasons people are moving away from those stuffy-looking executive leather chairs,” O’Donnell says.
Dr. Tim Fraticelli, a physical therapist and founder of PTProgress.com, agrees. “Make sure to choose a breathable or ventilated mesh material, especially if you spend long hours at a desk,” he tells Mental Floss. “Leather chairs can look great, but they usually rely on foam inserts for support that can become worn quickly.”
In addition to breathability, strong support is essential for long-term comfort. Like a mattress, a cushion that’s too soft can become just as uncomfortable as one that’s too firm. “The seat cushion should be contoured and padded to absorb and support your weight,” Dr. Karena Wu, a physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, tells Mental Floss.
The seat pad shouldn’t be the only part of the chair you make contact with. The armrests, headrest, and lumbar support are there to redistribute pressure throughout your body and keep you in a comfortable upright position. Because everyone’s body and preferences are different, these features should be customizable.
“You want a chair that supports the natural alignment of your spine,” Dr. Ben Fung, physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, tells Mental Floss. “For a chair to be ergonomic, you want to keep in mind things like [the] height and position to [the] keyboard, lumbar support, and adjustment options to help keep your feet on the floor.”
A Good Office Chair Should Be Paired With Movement
Ergonomic chairs are designed for long-term use, but experts warn that it’s never healthy to sit in the same position for hours at a time.
“There’s no such thing as the ‘perfect sitting posture’ because sitting in one static position for 8+ hours can absolutely cause stress and strain to your joints,” Dr. Fraticelli says. “According to research on office ergonomics, posture variability was found to significantly decrease shoulder and back pain and even led to increased workplace productivity.”
That’s another reason why easy adjustability is so important in an office chair. Instead of locking into one position and sticking with it, you should be tweaking these features throughout the day to keep your body loose. Even the highest quality seating needs to be paired with walks, stretches, and varied positions throughout the day.
“Our bodies aren’t meant to be stationary for very long,” Dr. Fung says. “Small, frequent breaks can go a long way to alleviate problems before they begin. Tools such as standing desks and ergonomic chairs can help put your spine in a more natural position. It is essential to stand and move often throughout the day and stretch at your desk if possible.”
According to Dr. Fung, sitting so that your hips and pelvis are slightly above your knees while your feet are on the ground can be a good call, as it helps evenly distribute body weight better and can take pressure off your back.
The Best Ergonomic Office Chairs to Buy Now
1. Best Overall Ergonomic Office Chair: Herman Miller Aeron Chair; From $1275
Herman Miller is considered the gold-standard brand in the world of ergonomic seating, and it comes with gold-standard pricing. The cheapest version of their iconic Aeron chair costs $1275. If budget isn’t a concern, many experts agree that the quality is hard to beat.
“It’s the crème de la crème of performance task seating,” O’Donnell says. “What makes it amazing is the material. A lot of people call it mesh, but it’s actually called pellicle and it’s really meant for you to be sitting in it eight hours a day. It allows heat to disperse, so what you’re sitting in is not absorbing all this heat from you and keeping you trapped—you can stay cool.”
The Aeron comes in multiple models and sizes, and Dr. Fraticelli prefers the drafting stool model ($1485). “At my fixed standing desk, I like to vary my position,” he says. “This allows me to quickly move from standing to sitting and has the same support as the popular Herman Miller Aeron office chairs, except in a taller format.”
2. Best Budget Office Chair: Duramont Ergonomic Office Chair; From $250 with the on-page coupon
It’s hard to find a well-made office chair that excels in support and adjustability for under $300, but Duramont’s ergonomic office chair fits the bill and doesn’t compromise on quality.
“The Duramont ergonomic office chair is a great option,” Dr. Wu says. “It has a wide and contoured seat cushion, adjustable arm rests, a removable headrest and rollerblade wheels for easy mobility.”
Like the other products recommended here by experts, the chair’s mesh back promotes breathability and easily disperses heat. In addition to the armrests and headrests, the back and lumbar support are customizable, allowing you to switch up positions throughout the day.
3. A Great Chair for Customization: FlexiSpot Classic Pro Chair; From $300
Dr. Fraticelli uses two chairs in his office, and the second is this Ergonomic Pro chair from FlexiSpot. It’s highly adjustable and user-friendly, so he can customize it throughout the work day.
“This chair has a surprising level of customization. I like using this chair with my adjustable desk because it’s easy to make quick adjustments based on the desk height I select,” he says.
The armrest, headrest, and seat can all be tweaked to maximize your comfort. The chair also features breathable mesh on the seat as well as the back, making it a great option if you overheat easily.
4. Best Big and Tall Office Chair: The HON Ignition 2.0 Task Chair; From $367
The HON Ignition 2.0 is the second most expensive chair on this list, but at less than half the price of the Aeron, it’s a good option for mid-range budgets. The armrests move horizontally as well as vertically, so they can accommodate a range of body types. The contoured mesh back stretches to nestle your frame while keeping it cool, and the lumbar support can be adjusted to meet the curve of your spine.
“The HON Ignition 2.0 Ergonomic Office Chair is extremely comfortable,” Dr. Wu says. “This one comes in a little more pricey but still within a reasonable budget.”
While the Ignition 2.0 can accommodate up to 300 pounds, you can also get a big and tall version ($674) of the same model, which offers an extra-wide seat and can support up to 450 pounds.