The oft-imitated Herman Miller Aeron (Est. $730 and up) is still the most formidable entry in the office chair market, more than 20 years after being introduced. Reviewers say the durable mesh is comfortable and breathable, and the chair comes in three sizes to better accommodate all workers. The chair's sleek look also has fans, though some say it's starting to seem dated. The Aeron is available with three base/frame combinations, though one (polished aluminum/graphite) is a $200 upgrade. The seat's mesh comes in either black or gray.
Reviewers like the Aeron's breathability, but some complain that the seat base has a hard plastic edge that can put too much pressure on the thighs. The chair offers adjustments for seat height, forward tilt and lumbar support. A tilt limiter (Est. $38), adjustable lumbar support (Est. $70) and height- and width-adjustable arms (Est. $137) are among optional upgrades. There is no headrest. The Aeron is offered in small, medium and large. Reviewers say picking the right size can be crucial in keeping a user comfortable. A helpful sizing chart on the Herman Miller website can help you determine the size that's right for you.
Though most reviewers say the Aeron is sturdy and durable, a handful report issues such as persistent squeaking. Herman Miller backs the chair with a 12-year warranty and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee that allows customers to return the chair for a full refund within 30 days. The company receives positive customer-service reviews and provides a question-and-answer forum on its website.
If you're not sold on mesh and want a chair that packs a bigger ergonomic punch than the Aeron, the Steelcase Leap (Est. $945) could be your chair, despite what reviewers say is a ho-hum design. The Leap's extensively adjustable features mean it can be customized to fit even the most pressure-sensitive worker's preferences. The Leap is available in either fabric or leather, and you'll have plenty of choices: There are 28 fabrics and six types of leather, though the latter is a significant $520 upcharge. There are also three frame and base colors, but you'll pay more for anything other than black.
Most reviewers are satisfied with the Leap's breathable foam padding, although a couple of users complain that the seat cushion is too hard. The chair's adjustability is where it truly shines: The seat back flexes with a user's spine and the Leap offers adjustable lumbar support, upper-back force and lower-back firmness. A variable back stop allows users to set the recline angle in two positions. Seat height and depth are also adjustable, as are the pivoting armrests. A headrest (Est. $140) is optional. The Steelcase Leap can accommodate most larger workers, but the company recommends the Steelcase Leap Plus (Est. $1,420) for users from 300 up to 500 pounds.
Owners report few durability complaints with the Leap, saying the chair feels solid and materials are high quality. Steelcase backs the chair with a limited lifetime warranty. Few reviewers report interaction with Steelcase customer service, but the company actively responds to complaints and provides a question-and-answer forum on its website.
A slightly more budget-friendly ergonomic option can be found in the aptly named Ergohuman High-Back Swivel Chair (Est. $625). Made with breathable mesh, it's available in roughly a half-dozen colors, including black, blue and burgundy. Owners especially appreciate how much adjustability this chair packs in for the price. Leather lovers can get the similar Ergohuman Ergonomic Executive Leather Chair (Est. $650) for a small price bump.
Like most mesh chairs, the Ergohuman does a good job of keeping air flowing and minimizing sweaty backs and legs during long work sessions. Most reviewers say the seat is comfortable though some note the mesh may irritate bare skin. All of the following are adjustable: tilt tension, tilt lock, seat angle, back angle, back height, synchro tilt, seat height, seat depth and arm height. A head rest is included as well. Reviewers appreciate all this, but a few do wish for adjustable lumbar support. It's also worth noting that weight capacity is a bit lower than comparable chairs at 250 pounds.
Though most reviewers are satisfied with the Ergohuman's durability, there are a few reports of broken arm rests, cracked castors and failing cylinders. The chair is backed by a limited lifetime warranty on components and a five-year warranty for upholstery and foam based on a 40-hour workweek.
The Herman Miller Sayl, praised for its comfort and style, is also worth a look for those who don't want to break the bank on a quality office chair, but you'll need to resist costly upgrades to keep the price from escalating. The Sayl is ideal for a design lover because it is so customizable: A rainbow of colors are available for the chair back (some cost an extra $40), seat material and even armrests, and there are three possibilities for the base (although anything other than black is extra).
The Sayl's distinct webbed back was inspired by suspension bridges, and owners say they like the way it conforms to and supports their weight while still allowing plenty of airflow. Reviewers have few complaints about the seat padding and fabric. But many of the ergonomic adjustments standard on pricier chairs cost extra with the Sayl, and for that reason, some experts say it's best in home offices and other non-full-time settings. Adjustable arms range from $50 to $100 more, while adjustable seat depth and lumbar support tack on another $50 each. A tilt limiter is standard, but adding a seat angle adjustment will add $40 more. There is no headrest. Weight capacity is 350 pounds, but a handful of very tall users say the chair is uncomfortable for them.
Some reviewers say they're willing to accept fewer adjustments in exchange for Herman Miller's reputation for durability. Though most say it lives up to the brand in this regard, a handful of owners complain that the chair squeaks, and a few say the foam on the padded armrests breaks down too soon. Like other Herman Miller chairs, the Sayl has a 12-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.