Our Top Picks in Ergonomic Chairs
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What is An Active Chair?
As you stand at your desk all day, it may be tempting to plunge back into your cushy chair, or at the very least, lean on your desk to take a load off your back and legs. There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit of rest between standing or walking on a treadmill, but if you find yourself doing that often, you may want to explore intermediate solutions that will help you escape the chair as well as alleviate the hardship of prolonged standing.
Active workstation solutions are evolving so rapidly that even chairs (an old hallmark of inactivity) were bound to get a significant upgrade as well. Active chairs can be divided into two main subcategories — leaning stools and balance chairs. The only difference between them is ergonomics. While leaning stools keep your hips at an angle higher than 135 degrees (some models will practically have you standing), balance chairs allow you to move while seated.
Neither type is better than the other when it comes to raising energy expenditure, as shown by Mayo Clinic’s calorimeter testing, because both engage muscles in your legs and core and require an upright position, which also engages your back. Prices differ all across the board, so choosing one over the other will be a matter of personal preference rather than budget.
On the other hand, you could still want more of a classic office chair, maybe because you know you might not sit all that often at work and you want a place to relax when you do. There are certainly lots of options out there, but we recommend looking to office chair brands that try to focus on ergonomics and healthy posture in everything they do, like iMovR.
How to Choose A Standing Desk Chair?
Before you start shopping for a new active seat, decide on the type you need. A leaning stool makes the transition toward standing easier. It keeps you upright, but offers support to make prolonged standing more tolerable. A balance chair, on the other hand, might be a good option if you’re looking to keep active even as you sit.
When looking for a leaning stool, pay close attention to its seat. Shape, angle, and upholstery will determine its comfort and ergonomics. In our testing, we found the saddle and tractor shapes to work best. They don’t allow users to slip from the edge of the seat, nor do they cut into the back of users’ thighs.
You won’t find a balance chair with a backrest, so if you’re replacing your regular chair, be sure to invest into one that at least provides lumbar support. It will help relieve some pressure from the lower back while sitting.
Chair base and weight limit are the two main factors that determine standing-desk chair durability. If you need a strong, long-lasting chair, steel is the material to choose. Aluminum is both strong and lightweight, so it’s a better option if you need a chair that is easy to move.
Choosing a chair with an appropriate weight limit is crucial. Using one beyond its capacity may cause warping, foam compression, and breakage that may lead to injury. Regular office chairs are normally capped at 250 pounds, but tall options can go up to 800 pounds. Active chairs have average weight limits that range between 200 and 300 pounds.
If you are choosing an active chair for your traditional desk or a fixed-height standing desk, it has to be the right height or have a decent adjustable height range to accommodate your setup, as well as your height.
Doing Double Duty As a TreadTop Seat
A few of these products, plus some specialized ones designed specifically for the purpose, are also ideal “treadtop seats” for setting safely atop an office treadmill. Learn all about those in our reviews round-up of The Best TreadTop Seating Options. Some of our favorite treadtop seats come from manufacturers that specialize in treadmills as well, so they know what is needed. iMovR does this with their treadtop seating options.
Standing Desk Chair (Leaning Stool)
A standing desk chair, or leaning stool, is great because it allows you to rest from standing without letting you sink into bad posture. They also keep the hips at an open 135-degree angle (as opposed to a constricting 90-degree angle). This takes the pressure off the lumbar area while creating a favorable, upright position closer to standing.
It doesn’t mean the stool guarantees you’ll be sitting with good posture. Most of these come with no back support, so it’s up to you to keep your back straight. We recommend using a standing-desk chair as an intermediate solution between walking and standing. During lunch, you can plop on a regular chair to allow your body solid rest. Here are the key players on the leaning stool market:
There are cheaper stools to be found for use with height adjustable desks, but for our money, the Energy Stool is a bargain. After testing dozens of different active stools over the years, we can say most are either too uncomfortable, have too small of a dynamic range, or don’t have enough traction grip for safety on slick floors. The Energy Stool is also perfect for use as a treadtop seat as the soft rubber base will not damage the belt, and it’s so light that it’s easy to move on and off your treadmill desk workstation. A gentle swaying motion isn’t just going to be good for your posture, joints, leg, and low back muscles, but it actually feels great on the glutes. Particularly after long periods of standing and/or walking at your desk. The Energy Stool quickly became an office favorite.
The EffyDesk BohdiStool is not only an active seating solution for people that want to continue to engage their bodies even when they are sitting down, it is also one of the few treadtop seating options that can be used easily and safely on top of a treadmill desk. With a comfortable cushion in either black or red, you can take a break from standing or walking as long as you need, while keeping your core actively engaged and improving circulation to your legs. The primary problem with the BohdiStool is the height adjustment range, which only gets up to 26” – barely above the seating height of normal office chairs. If you want to use it as a proper leaning stool, especially for taller users, you want it to get over 30” minimum.
Price: $200 CAD
Expect to see more and more Muvman lookalikes, and soon. This German made leaning stool has set the bar in terms of functionality, ergonomics, and appearance. Designed as a companion to adjustable-height desks, the Muvman is a logical addition to any ergonomic office. It’s never easy to adapt to a completely new way to work, but sometimes it’s worth it – Muvman chairs help extend time spent on your feet, while still allowing you to settle back down when you need a rest.
Balance chairs have become a niche trend following the fad that was the balance-ball chair. In case you missed it, office workers took up using exercise balls in place of their regular office chairs. Gaiam made huge business by marrying a balance ball and a chair frame. Unfortunately, their product quality is very poor, according to numerous user reviews that report breakage after only two months of use. Quality options available on the market include:
The Ariel active seat from QOR360 is a great ergonomic seating option, as long as you get the right size and use it correctly. While it is marketed as just a replacement for standard office chairs (and strangely with jabs at standing desks), this seat offers a great way to sit while keeping your spine and legs in a more healthy position and your core engaged for improved ergonomic positioning while working. But these benefits are best enjoyed in combination with other positions throughout the workday. While the seat cushion isn’t the most comfortable, even when used properly, customers say it is an encouragement to get up and move more. This stool also makes for a workable treadtop seat for treadmill desk users, as it won’t damage the belt with its gentle foot glides; however it lacks a footring and the cylinder post doesn’t tilt forward so it may be hard to get as close as you’d like to your keyboard without placing your feet on the fragile motor housing. QOR360 also puts their money where their mouth is and basically gives the Ariel a lifetime warranty to fix or replace any broken seat.
In a rare case of the sequel being better than the original, Back App 2.0 raises the ergonomic and aesthetic bar set by the original while still retaining the unique, active imbalance feature that made the first chair such a hit. The new Back App now has impressive customization options equal to the original, and it earns our Experts’ Choice award with ease.
“Active Sitting” is yet another means of fighting the sedentary lifestyle. A healthy work routine involves moving during the day—alternating between sitting, standing, and of course, walking. The CoreChair promises to make your sitting time less sedentary. How well does it perform? Our team of testers tried it out over the last several weeks. Here’s our verdict below.
The Varier Move stops just short of being a leaning chair. While it does encourage active movement, it’s far easier to sit on top of the Move than it is to use it in a leaning position. As always, you’re looking at a trade off – the Move won’t keep you as active as a Mogo or Muvman, but it’s more comfortable than most of its tilt-happy brethren. It’s also made some recent waves as an attention-boosting accessory for the classroom. Attractive and portable, the Move is a fine choice of seat for anyone after an ergonomic task stool.
The Muista chair is a great, non-traditional option for standing desk users. It might be more expensive than it seems like it would be for it seemingly simple design, but it is made with quality materials that will last. It isn’t the most comfortable on your tush, but if you are using it with a sit-stand workstation, it just pushes you to be on your feet more. So that’s an ergonomic bonus beyond the movement it encourages while seated.
Ergonomic Office Chairs
While almost everyone should stand (and ideally also walk) more at their desk, it’s inevitable that some portion of your workday will be spent sitting. Standing or walking too much can also be harmful to your health and the most beneficial approach is to simply change positions often. It’s why doctors say “the best position is your next one.”
We’re all going to sit, the important thing is to sit in a way that takes the pressure off your backs and legs. And, of course, not to sit for too long. It’s important to pick a standing-desk chair with enough ergonomic adjustability.
Usually when we say “you get what you pay for,” it’s meant as a negative point against a cheap product. But with the iMovR McHale, you get what you pay for—in a good way. This chair is superb. Comfort, assembly, all the ergonomic adjustments you need and great quality set it apart from the competition. It comes with an excellent 12-year warranty matching the much more expensive Herman Miller equivalent. Unlike most ergonomic chairs you can buy these days it is built in North America, not China.
The Neemo feels great to sit in and comes with an excellent 12-year warranty matching the much more expensive Herman Miller equivalent. Unlike most ergonomic chairs you can buy these days it is built in North America, not China. While it may not fit the very largest or very smallest users because it only has one seat pan size, it has excellent ergonomic adjustability for 95% of the population.
The OM5 represents a major departure from classic office chair design. Two years of work with a forward-thinking design team resulted in an elegant solution to the adjustable chair. The rollers in the OM5 allows “body-activated movement” as the chair shifts to conform to a seated worker’s body position. The result is almost completely lever-free, but still supremely adjustable. A great choice for those tired of carefully fine-tuning a chair to the right spot.
Odd-looking, but there’s wisdom behind the weirdness. The Discovery’s unique shape helps workers avoid the insidious computer hunch position, and many here at the office have fallen in love with the scapular range of motion these chairs offer. Besides that, they have the strong adjustability, comfort, and quality we’ve come to expect from Officemaster. It’s not for everyone, but chairbound workers may find it a welcome break from the norm.
Anyone interested in an ergonomic upgrade to their sitting situation should consider an Officemaster chair. Anyone put off by the exotic curves of the Discovery, or the passive adjustment of the OM5 should turn to the Yes Executive chair. While it lacks some of the more interesting features of other Officemaster creations, the Yes is still a well-made and comfortable option for anyone after an ergonomic chair.
The E-WIN Flash XL Ergonomic Computer Gaming Office Chair comes with cushions for comfort and a wide variety of adjustments for different working or gaming positions. However, the packaging is not very good and will likely result in a decent percentage of product being damaged on arrival. The assembly instructions could be improved. More than anything, there is an instability issue that can result it tips and falls that can easily create safety problems for users.
Discontinued Ergonomic Office Chairs
At WorkWhileWalking we’ve been lab testing and writing reviews of ergonomic office furniture and accessories for over a decade. In that time, we have seen many of the products we reviewed fall by the wayside. This is inevitable due to the cycle of continuous improvement, with new models supplanting their predecessors. Of course in some cases products weren’t as competitive as they needed to be, or their manufacturers ran into financial challenges (which very much accelerated as a result of the post-pandemic economy).
For whatever reason, these products now fall into the discontinued category, but we will still keep their reviews published and available to read. Whether you want to know more about the desk, monitor arm, etc. that you bought years ago, need more info because someone is selling one second hand, or just want to compare current offerings with what was available in the past, these reviews will remain here for your reference.
iMovR’s two Tempo TreadTop™ seating solutions address a huge problem that many treadmill desk users contend with—how to take a break from walking or standing when your treadmill desk isn’t wide enough to accommodate a good chair alongside the treadmill. Compared to the Tempo TreadTop Office Chair, the Tempo Sit-Stand Stool is the less costly, and more versatile—in fact, we’d unconditionally recommend it as a “perching stool” for standing desk users who don’t have a treadmill. With similar ergonomic adjustability as the TreadTop Chair (only lacking a full-sized back rest), the Stool offers surprisingly good comfort—whether used as a seat, or as a standing “perch”—and is ideal for office workers looking for a portable seat they can move from the cubicle to the conference room. Boasting a lifetime warranty, the construction quality and durability of this American-made chair is exceptional.
A handy, well-designed little seat. Mogos can plunk down on any surface to act as a leaning seat. A correctly used Mogo active chair also encourages small, beneficial correcting movements from a sitter’s legs, preventing the user from becoming truly sedentary – always a bonus for those concerned about sitting disease.
Another winner from Focal. Investing in a Mobis stool is an easy way to get up on your feet without risking the aches and pains of a standing workday. While it takes some time to get used to a new way of working, the leaning position encouraged by the Mobis is ergonomic and relatively intuitive. Accessibility, combined with portability and a slick, modern aesthetic, make the Mobis the ideal entry-level seat for an upright office.
The Fin’s a gorgeous product with a fatal flaw. The black-and-silver body looks lovely, and would do any office proud. We’re also major fans of leaning stools, as they inject a little activity into a seated workday. However, Biofit’s inexplicable decision to equip the Fin with a non-contoured, edged seat negates their otherwise excellent design, and we currently cannot recommend it as a long-term seating option.
An ergonomist’s dream realized by a craftsman. Focal owe themselves a pat on the back – the Locus really is an impressive piece of work. We’ve seen leaning chairs before, but most follow a somewhat Spartan mold. Not so with the Locus; the pairing of desk and chair makes this the first integrated leaning workstation we’ve tested. Well-designed, well-built, and supported by a friendly, dedicated company – the Locus should be the first port of call for anyone interested in a leaning workday.
Price: $ 1,106
At $159, the Birdi is a well-priced, lab-tested perching stool great for active workstations. The thick, high-resilient foam also makes the Birdi noticeably more comfortable than many of its leaning stool competitors. While a no-back perching stool-style may not be for everyone, the benefits are particularly noteworthy for those seeking to reduce back pain, increase circulation, and promote core muscle activation throughout the day.
One of the most practical ergonomic chairs we’ve seen, the Officemaster Paramount is affordable, comfortable, and very, very adjustable. Those levers aren’t just for decoration – the Paramount is among the most customizable thrones our rears have ever graced. Once past the learning curve (three or four accidental reclinings are normal) users will find they have an unprecedented degree of control over their working posture. Always a good thing, if you ask us.
Completing Your Ergonomic Workstation
Acquiring the best standing desk for your decor, budget and performance requirements is Step One. But making it a true ergonomic workstation involves adding the appropriate accessories you’ll need to keep your body in a correct posture, and have a neat-and-tidy setup. Check out our comprehensive guides to monitor arms, keyboard trays, anti-fatigue mats, ergonomic seats, cable management kits, power management modules, foot rests and under-desk treadmills for both expert advice and lab-tested product reviews of options in each of these categories.
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- Alera AE35PSBK Sit To Stand Perch Stool
- Begin Chair (Ball Chair) by Balanced Body
- Motion Stool by UPLIFT Desk
- Active Collection FWS-1000-BK Pivot Stand-up Leaning Seat by Focal Upright
- Learniture Adjustable-Height Active Learning Stool
- Safco Products 3001OR Twixt Active Seating Chair
- basyx by HON Perch, Active Ergonomic Sit to Stand Seating
- NEW Wobble Stool Active Sitting Chair / Ergonomic Standing Desk Swivel Stool
- VARIDESK Standing Desk Chair VariChair
- Stand Steady Active Motion Up Wobble Stool
- Stand Steady Active Motion Up Jr. Wobble Stool