Best Office Chair 2018 – The No Bulls#*t Guide to Sitting

Much like a bed, people often underestimate the need for a top quality office chair. Sure, while they may be “expensive”, a top-rated office chair should be viewed as an investment in your health, both in body and mind. An investment that will equate to greater productivity throughout the workday, less fatigue, and altogether greater comfort.

That’s why after 300 long hours on the Herman Miller Embody Chair,we ranked it our #1 best office chair. Why? It’s a desk chair that promotes movement which in turn increases blood flow, in large part thanks to its innovative back system that is analogous to that of a human’s spine. Lastly, it’s fully adjustable, fitting most if not all body types, and all the while providing support and airflow to keep you cool throughout the workday.

Office Chair Comparison Chart

Herman Miller Embody Chair – Editor’s Choice/Top Office Chair for Back Pain

best-office-chair-editors-choicebest-office-chair-1Price: Check Price | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Adjustable

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: High tech good looking body support.

This easily ranks as one of the top office chairs reviewed thanks to it’s unique and well thought out design. It also looks damn cool and should complement even the most finicky of shoppers.

Pay close attention to the back of this chair, as that’s it’s key to magical seating. Okay, that might be an overstatement, but according to Herman Miller, The Embody’s back has something they call a “dynamic matrix of pixels” that is designed to stimulate your body’s blood and oxygen flow simply by reducing the pressure on your body when seated. Additionally, The Embody is built to automatically adjust to its user back, even when they move allowing lower back support to never dither. All said and done, The Embody is supposed to be so effective it reduces stress and blood pressure.

The Herman Miller Embody chair starts at $1,229.

 Steelcase Gesture Chair – Best Ergonomic Office Chair

best-office-chair-2Price: Check Price | Read Full Review: Steelcase Gesture Office Chair Review | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Adjustable

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Increased productivity and comfort makes it pay for itself.

At close $1,000 you might be questioning the efficacy of this chair.  But fear not, it’s worth every penny, as shown in our Gesture chair review.

After a study of 2,000 people in 11 countries, Steelcase has developed a chair that suits the needs of not just any person, but any device.  Which is to say they’ve addressed more than just using a computer, or pad and paper at the desk.  The Gesture chair is built to support those that use a tablet or smartphone, and based on my experience it does just that.

The armrests, unlike many other office chairs, can be easily manipulated to accommodate almost any seating style or position.  Moreover, the back of the chair, called 3D Liveback, automatically adjusts to your spine and mimics the natural motion of the body.  And it also features the furthest recline of any office chair, all without losing its footing.

If you’re thinking about getting this chair, make sure to check out the color choices, the stool version (in case you sit a high desk) and the two back types.

Steelcase Leap Chair – Best Home Office Chair

best-office-chair-3Price: Check Price | Read Full Review: Steelcase Leap Office Chair ReviewReclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Adjustable

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Tried and true chair design provides support and comfort.

Billed as Steelcase’s number one selling chair, you’d be a fool to not consider this office chair during your hunt for sitting bliss.

Using something called livelumbar technology, which flexes with your body’s movements, the Leap is a cut above the average office chair. And while it may look simple there is a great deal of research and development that has gone into building this top-rated office chair.

Read: Best Standing Desks

Other features include a natural glide system that allows you to recline but remain upright and still naturally reach your work, all without hindering posture or pressure on the back. And if that isn’t enough to persuade you, you can take comfort in the fact that the Leap is almost 100% recyclable, and is made from up to 30% of recycled materials.

The Steelcase leap chair retails starts at $919.00.

Ergohuman High Back Mesh Chair – Best Executive Office Chair

best-office-chair-4Price: Check Price | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Adjustable

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Breathable with support in all the right places.

Need customization?  Then you’ve come to the right place.  Or in this case the right chair.

The Ergohuman High Back Mesh Chair is specifically designed for those that will be seated for more than 5 hours a day.  And it can be adjusted in a variety of places/manners, including the seat depth, back, lumbar area, spin area, back angle title, base and more.

Really there is no adjustment you can’t make, allowing the Ergohuman mesh chair fit a variety of folks and with that temperaments.

The Ergohuman starts at $649.

 Herman Miller Aeron Office Chair – Best Mesh Office Chair

best-office-chair-5Price: Check Price | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Adjustable

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A proven winner that provides breathable mesh.

The Herman Miller Aeron chair is the granddaddy of them all. But that isn’t to say it’s without some flaw. Nevertheless, it’s still a top contender as it offers exceptional support, creating that magical S and adjustability. On top of that, the Aeron is mostly meshing, providing that cool feeling while you sit and work.

And not for nothing, it’s pretty evident that the Aeron will last the test of time, as it’s been on the market since 1994. You’ll find many of these for sale on sites like Craigslist, and while they’ll be at a discount, they still hold their price, further attesting to their quality and desirability.

When you go shopping for an Aeron, pay attention to the fact there are different sizes to accommodate different people.

The Herman Miller Aeron chair retails for $939.00.

 Locus Chair and/or Workstation From Focal

Price: Check Price | Reclining: No | Arm Rests: No

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Promotes standing without the pain.

Full disclosure: this isn’t exactly a chair. Though, you can purchase just the chair.  I’d suggest getting both to maximize the results.

The Locus combines a chair and if so desired, a standing desk. The result is probably the ideal position, as it’s half standing half sitting, allowing for more motion throughout the day which is helpful for blood circulation. And because the seat is pneumatic, and at an angle, it adjusts with you as you make micro movement throughout the day.

And another plus is that the desk portion – which can be ordered separately – has a height range of 36″ to 48″, making a number of other chairs compatible with the setup. And worry not. As the desk is controlled via a hand crank, ensuring that there is no motor to break or parts to replace.

 Freedom Task Chair – Best Leather Office Chair

Price: Check Price | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Adjustable

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Negates manual controls and looks top-tier premium.

If you require both looks and functionality, look no further than the Freedom Task Chair designed by Niels Diffrient for Humanscale.  That and an exceptionally high price tag.

But with that comes a task chair that is designed to automatically adjust to its users’ weight using a set of internal mechanisms that negate the need for manual controls.  So in theory, you just sit and get comfy.  Though, if you’re of the particular type you can set the chair and seatback’s height, or move the seat forward or back to adjust depth and seating style.  There is also a dedicated lumbar support which will help maintain that much sought after S curve that I mentioned at the beginning.

The Freedom chair starts at about $1200.

 Amazon Basics Mid-Back Mesh Chair – Best Budget Office Chair

Price: Check Price | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Fixed

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The budget pick that has solid office chair reviews.

Don’t balk at this chair because of its price, $69.99 as of the time of this writing. It’s super highly rated by Amazon customers, scoring 4.5 stars. Sure, there is no way it can compete in terms of quality, longevity and all-together support as the more expensive options mentioned here, but it’s at such a massively discounted price it’s worth a look.

Features include a pneumatic adjustable seat, a padded seat that is reportedly thick and plush and 5 casters. Okay, the 5 casters shouldn’t be a massive takeaway, but note the mesh back for added breathability and comfort.

This chair retails for $69.99 (currently on sale as of Nov 2015).

 Ikea Markus Chair – Best Office Chair Under $200

Price: Check Price | Reclining: Yes | Arm Rests: Fixed

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Affordable, stylish and yes, it works.

With a 10-year warranty (albeit limited) and looks that Dr. No would approve, the Ikea Markus chair should be at the top of your office chair list, especially if you’re working with a smaller budget.  It lacks the feature set as found in much more expensive chairs.  However, it’s been applauded as an exceptionally comfortable chair, is height adjustable, comes in a variety of fabrics of your choosing, and did I mention that it costs just $200?!

What to Look For in an Office Chair

There are many things to evaluate when you’re looking for a top office chair. These are the key indicators what separates the good from the bad.

  • Ergonomics:
    • We know this goes without saying, but a good office chair will offer proper ergonomic designs to appropriately support your back and body for long periods of sitting. While no chair can negate hip and lower back issues, the best ones can alleviate some of the pain one experiences from sitting for longer periods of time.
    • We found the best solid office chairs offer lower and upper back support and reduce pressure on touch points, such as the butt and upper back areas.
    • Also, take note of your hip positioning when considering a good office chair. For example, the Steelcase Gesture chair’s seat can move forward or back, which in turn adjusts one’s posture. I tend to change this position as well, to ensure as it encourages me to sit correctly through variation.
    • Ultimately, it should create an S shape in the back, as opposed to that not so good C shape. Again, we like to think of a good office chair as one that is analogous to that of a top rated mattress.
  • Adjustability:
    • While adjustability relates to an office chair’s ergonomics, it’s also a big enough factor to stand alone. Bottom line: you should be able to influence a chair’s lumbar support, and you want to also be able to manipulate it enough to suit your particular body type.
    • Moreover, height adjustability is a good factor to consider, as we’re not all built equally, and nor are our desks. The arms should be adjustable as well as the angle of the back.
  • Breathability:
    • Believe it or not, when you sit you sweat. Not heavy sweat, but our body naturally gives off moisture. And when you sit the fabric beneath your butt needs to have some breathability. Otherwise, it’ll become uncomfortable for you, and the chair will begin to garner an odor.
    • The rest can be said about the other points of contact on the chair, including the back, but the leg area is key. So look for a chair with mesh or a specially designed breathable fabric.

Most Important Features

  1. Adjustable Back
    • Sometimes known as “spring tilts”, an adjustable back is a must for any quality office chair. This allows you to adjust the chair’s back to any degree you see fit. When seated you should be able to lockout the chair’s back at any angle, or leave it “open” such that leaning allows for a free range of motion.
  2. Adjustable Arms
    • While not as important as an adjustable back, adjustable arms are still key to comfort and a proper sitting position. Additionally, each desk has a different height, so being able to fully adjust the armrests ensures that you can sit comfortably at your desk. To that end, the arms should accommodate a variety of seating positions and with that devices.  Looking at a computer, then move the arms out of the way. Looking at a table or phone, then you should be able to raise the arms up to reduce strain on shoulders.
  3. Adjustable Base
    • Many of today’s office chairs offer something called a “five-point base.” Look down at the base of your chair and you should see five points of contact to the floor. This results in greater stability while moving and sitting. I’d also look for an office chair with casters, enabling easy movement.
  4. Materials
    • Leather will last the test of time, but mesh is probably ideal as it allows the body to breathe during long periods of sitting. That said, you’ll want to make sure it’s quality material, as seen on Herman Miller chairs. Moreover, if the material is too stiff or wound too tightly, it won’t have enough give. Conversely, it needs to have enough support, but just enough to reduce strain.
  5. Adjustable Seat and Area
    • You’ll want to note the seat size and padding. Some chairs have smaller “seats”, which can make them incompatible with the user, especially if you have a lot of mass and area to support.
    • Also, take note of the seat’s areas of softness and support. The Gesture chair of Steelcase offers a large seat and is both supportive and soft in all areas, allowing for a variety of leg positions.
  6. Headrest
    • While this is less important than the aforementioned, an appropriately placed headrest can reduce neck fatigue and provide more restful breaks. If you tend to suffer from stiff shoulders and next, look for a chair with a headrest, such as the Humanscale Freedom chair.
  7. Price
      • While far from a feature, the price is still something to remain cognizant of. Don’t be surprised by sticker shock. I know I’ve said it before, but a good office chair is an investment much like a bed. It should pay dividends to both your body and mental wellness. That isn’t to say you need to blow your savings. But don’t skimp so much that you’re tossing the chair out in 6 month’s times.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Thinking Mesh Is The Only or Best Choice:
    • While a mesh chair can be a great choice, it’s not the only game in town. Which is to say, don’t discount other designs/fabrics, as they too can be breathable. For instance, our top pick, the Herman Miller Embody Chair, while not distinctly mesh, it’s designed in a such a way that it keeps you cool and all the while is still supportive.
  • Buying a Chair Based on Looks
    • Although it might be tempting to buy a chair based on its looks – after all who doesn’t want a stylish piece of furniture in their office – don’t do it. Looks alone are only a fraction of the story when it comes to ergonomics. Moreover, there are a number of imitation chairs that are designed to look like our top picks but when it comes to actually efficacy they lack the necessary support and adjustments to make it a comfortable and supportive office chair. Moreover, case in point: the Steelcase Gesture chair has countless hours of research underpinning its development. So in other words, make sure you do your research and ensure the chair your buying is the real deal and can provide hours a day of sitting comfort.
  • Any Chair is a Good Chair
    • Even though our list is heavily vetted, you’ll want to make sure your chair is not only comfortable but provides the necessary lumbar support. For some, lumbar support is less of a necessity while others will require it more. Put another way, your body type should dictate the type of chair you decide to purchase. For example, the Aeron Chair, while an excellent choice, is not ideal for heavy set people because its mesh design isn’t supportive enough. The alternative chair you ask? I’d recommend either our top pick or the Steelcase Gesture thanks to its large seat and wide back.
  • It’s Not Just About The Chair
    • A chair is a great start. In fact, it will dictate for how long you can sit. But you’ll also want to make sure you take a look at your desk and its relative ergonomics. Being able to sit at your desk relative to your chair is key to comfort. Arms too high? Your shoulders will hurt. Monitor too low and you’ll experience neck and eye strain. The ideal option, in our opinion, is a standing desk, since they’re height adjustable and also allow you to stand, promoting greater blood flow throughout the workday.
  • Skimping on Price
      • We get it: it’s just a chair. But it’s actually much more than that. In fact, a great office chair is an investment. And yes, while they can cost over $500 or even $1000, they actually will offer a return on your investment, especially if you sit for more than 5 hours a day. Why? You’ll see an increase in productivity. And not only that, you’ll leave the office, or your home office, feeling less fatigued and with fewer aches and pains because a great office chair should promote movement and with that blood flow.

How We Tested Our Office Chairs

Hours and hours of sitting. In other words: long-term testing. Seriously. But it’s actually more than that. We received a number of chairs and used them every day for hours and hours at a time. More than 300 hours in fact. We paid close attention to the actual seat (and the seat cushion) of the chair, measuring the base and its relative comfort for long periods of sitting.

We also evaluated and tested each office chair’s ability to accommodate different body types, from light to heavy to short and tall. This is necessary since some chairs work well with only certain body types.

Our #1 pick, the Embody, works well with all body types thanks to Herman Miller’s material choice, design and promotes blood flow, which is also what we looked for. Lack of blood flow occurs when a chair doesn’t promote movement.

Movement you say? Indeed we did. For instance, the Steelcase Gesture seat back allows you to sit upright but also lean back, providing the perfect balance between support and posture and all the while promoting movement to increase blood flow.

Beyond that, we stress tested each chair to make sure that they didn’t squeak or pop over time. Some chairs, when new, won’t make a sound but after use will begin to creak, which can be distracting when you’re trying to concentrate.

All of our top picks didn’t exude any of these qualities after standing to sitting in an overly exuberant fashion or sitting back and forth in the chair.

Why You Should Buy a New Office Chair

You might have an office chair and because of that, you might be thinking that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But you see, it’s probably broken. Not explicitly broken. What we’re specifically getting at is its ergonomics are broken or incorrect.

Take for instance the Herman Miller Aeron Office Chair. It has long been the gold standard in office chairs. And don’t get us wrong, it’s still a great chair. But it’s not ideal for all body types and doesn’t afford the same level of support as our top 2 picks.

Beyond that, we’re no longer just interacting with a computer while we sit at our desk. Today it’s a smartphone, a tablet and perhaps other devices. Take for example Steelcase’s Gesture chair. It was designed around a multitude of devices, accommodating them by way of a fully adjustable set of arms and a seat back that is perhaps the best in the industry.

Beyond rationalizing things in terms of the advancements in office chair tech, ergonomics, and design, odds are that your chair could be worn out. It may sound too obvious, but like a mattress, which we touched on in our introduction, an office chair can wear out over time, offering less support.

Worse, certain functions may have broken. And instead of trying to fix it, which could be a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, sometimes it’s just a good idea to invest in a new one and reap all the benefits of today’s office chair advancements.

Which office chair is right for you?

Which is the right chair for most people will probably boil down to three factors: looks, price, and ergonomics.  That said, our list of office chair reviews should provide you with a wide enough range to suit just about anyone’s needs.

At the end of the day, we’re a big proponent of standing, and a good standing desk will get you there.  But there is no disputing how damn cool the Herman Miller Embody looks and the tech that has gone into that chair.  If your wallet doesn’t have that kind of padding, Ikea and Amazon are always a good back up, but odds are you’ll be replacing those chairs 3-4 times faster than some of our top picks.

If you have any questions or would like to nominate a chair to be in our next top 10 office chair review list, please leave a comment below. And don’t be shy – we encourage you to bookmark us and read more of our cool furniture reviews to find other items for your office or home.

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