Finding the Perfect Office Chair: Aeron vs. Swiss Ball vs. the FBI's Pick…

The wrong chair = real health problems. (Photo: watz)

(Total read time: 8 minutes)

In this post I’ll cover how I identified the best high-end chairs in the world, which I ultimately chose, and the tangible results that followed.

In January of 2005, I found myself on a veranda in Panama after the usual afternoon rain, dreaming of the upcoming year and reflecting on lessons learned since leaving the US. Maria Elena, the matriarch of the Panamanian family that had adopted me, sipped her iced tea and pointed at my bruised feet:

“Tim, let me share some advice I was once given. Buy the most comfortable bed and pair of shoes you can afford. If you’re not in one, you’ll be in the other.”

I followed her advice upon returning to CA and the results were sudden: Plantar Fasciitis disappeared, as did shoulder impingement after switching from coil-spring to foam-layered mattresses.

But what about chairs? On January 4th, 2009, I tweeted out the following:

“Is the Aeron chair worth it? http://tr.im/2uxd Do you have any fave chairs for extended sitting and writing?”

Even though I’m financially comfortable now, I didn’t grow up spending a lot of money, which I’m thankful for. To this day, I’ve never paid for first-class airfare for myself. Not that it isn’t worth it — I just can’t do it. Similarly, I had trouble believing a chair could possibly be worth $850-$1,200, but my back pain led me to pose the question to the omniscient Interweb.

How did others feel?

More than 95% of Aeron users replied with “yes, absolutely”, but it wasn’t the only chair with a cult-like following.

Four of the five are manufactured by Herman Miller (HM) and Humanscale (HS). Prices are from Amazon, as are the star reviews, but discounts of $200-400 can be negotiated with dealers. Both eBay and Craiglist offer similar discounts.

In descending order of popularity:

1. Aeron (Fully loaded) (HM)$879 (1 review; average review: 5 stars)

Used at NASA mission control and tech start-ups worldwide.

2. Mirra (fully loaded) (HM)$829 (14 reviews; average review: 4.5 stars) Note: the Herman Miller sales representatives I spoke with preferred the Mirra seat feel for shorter legs vs. the Aeron. Easier to adjust: Mirra is about 9 revolutions from loosest to tightest settings; Aeron is 40+.

3. SwingChair$495 Recommended by a strong contingent of writers, including one of my favorite visual storytellers, Kathy Sierra.

I like the design concept, but I would suggest other forms of “core exercise”.

4. Liberty (HS)$899 (6 reviews; average review: 3.5 stars)

5. Freedom Task Chair with Headrest (HS)$999.99 (1 review, average: 4 stars) Used at the FBI and by other governmental agencies with three-letter acronyms.

6. Embody – $1,800 list price (negotiated with dealer: $1,200-1,300): Basis of chair design – sitting is bad; movement is good. Even in locked position, it still has some backward flex at the top position. No forward tilt option.

For personal testing, I also added a Swiss-ball chair (Isokinetics Balance Ball Chair – $75) to the mix, as seen below:

3 Key Findings

Surprisingly, the Isokinetics chair is more comfortable than most fixed chairs I tested, though there is some minor… ahem… testicular compression that isn’t nearly as pleasant as it sounds. If you don’t have jewels to worry about, this chair could well be an ideal cost-effective choice.

The chair I most wanted to test was the Mirra, which seems to have the best combination of price point (bought used or via eBay) and multiple 5-star reviews. Not to mention it’s also the name of one of the best BMXers of all time. But I digress.

In the end, I bought a used C-size (technically a bit too large for me) Aeron for $450 on Craigslist. I’m impatient and didn’t want to wait over the weekend to schedule sittings for other Herman Miller chairs with a certified dealer. Once I have some conclusive comparable data, I want closure.

Aeron sizing chart. I’m 5′ 8″ and 170 lbs., but the C works with no problem.

3 Personal Lessons:

1) The lumbar support is — by far — the primary determinant of comfort or pain. I’ve lowered this adjustment and found that maintaining the natural S-curve through pressure on the lower back is what prevents pain most consistently. Comfortable sitting time is now 7-8 hours vs. less than 2 hours, with no ill after-effects.

Sliding lumbar support on the Aeron.

2) Seat height (and secondarily, depth) will determine the rest.

If the flats of your feet don’t make complete contact with the floor, you will move your hips forward and slouch, eliminating the S-curve in the lower lumbar. If your seat is too low and your knees are above your hips, you will shorten the habitual range your hip flexors (negative neural adaptation) and end up with severe lower-back pain.

Aim to keep your hamstrings parallel to the floor, and if the seat is too long for your femur (thigh bone) — as is mildly the case with my C-size Aeron — just separate your knees a bit. If you’re not wearing a tight skirt, I’ve found a basketball of space between the knees to provide the best lateral stabilization, which reduces torso fatigue. Take off heels when sitting at a desk, lest you end up with hot calves and Quasimodo-like posture. Not good for mating. If you are wearing a tight skirt, I suggest taking up the Japanese tea ceremony and sitting on tatami side saddle. It’ll be more comfortable than crossing your legs all day.

Parallel hamstrings?! True, I’ve thought more about chairs in the last few weeks than anyone should, but I do it to save you the trouble. Benefit from my OCD so you can obsess on other things.

3) Using a 3′ long and 6″ diameter foam roller three times per day for 5 minutes can eliminate persistent middle-back pain from mediocre chair use; conversely, it can extend your comfortable sitting time by 30-40%.

A Visual Before and After

Knowledge workers often log more ass-in-seat time than sleep. Coders, in particular, are often subjected to a steady diet of Mountain Dew and hunching for 12+-hour marathons. I don’t put in these hours, but I found myself with severe mid-upper back pain from using a non-adjustable chair and craning over a desk that was too low, even for 30-60 minutes per day.

Two doctors suggested various therapies, but a quick experiment (placing a laptop on top of a dresser and writing while standing for two days) proved that posture was the problem.

In less than a week following my switch to the Aeron, all upper middle-back (lower trapezius, rhomboid major) pain disappeared completely. The results: better output during work and writing, faster and deeper sleep, and a huge smack on the forehead. Why the hell didn’t I do this earlier?

In my case, was it worth it at $450? Most definitely. Particularly looking at the value of time per hour and the lost income due to doctor visits, massage, etc., this is $450 I should have invested years ago.

Before:

After:

###

Odds and Ends: Twitter Giveaway Winners

Coming soon! Patience, young Jedi. The travel bag and Fujitsu color travel scanner are gone. More giveaways coming here this week…

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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276 Replies to “Finding the Perfect Office Chair: Aeron vs. Swiss Ball vs. the FBI's Pick…”

  1. flexible chairs , increases my work timings, as well as rough chairs make me bore , so whats to choose ,just sit on and feel that if you are comfortable

  2. Reducing shoulder impingement. As my post name may imply, I’d love to know more. Any links to more on that?

  3. I use Bodybilts. They are more expensive, but again, very comfortable for a long haul. It’s the NASA thing — the angle of how a person curls up in zero-g. As you get more experienced, it’s a semi-reclined, but then pushed up so you’re semi-standing.

    But you’d probably need a full ergonomic workstation to take advantage of that, fully adjustable keyboard tray, trackball, nice keyboard (check out Maltrons) and so on. It’s expensive, but it works out to pennies a day over time. I suppose if you’re only at it 4 hours a week, though, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

  4. Tim,

    Thanks for your research on the chair. I recently hurt my back and have been considering what to do at the office since I am at a desk and at work for more than 4 hours per week.

    I’m leaving for an event called Toughguy http://www.toughguy.co.uk/ and remembered a tweet you left on Shoreditch House a while back. Do you need to know a hedge fund manager to get in? Do you have any other London hacks that you can recommend?

    Thanks,

    Stephen

  5. Tim:

    I really enjoyed the article and it will be helpful in finding the perfect chair for my office. I noticed that you have a greenhouse next to your office. I’d be super interested in hearing about the benefits of this in your life, productivity, recreationally, etc.

    Thanks,

    Rich

  6. I notice you still use an unaided laptop. You might be more comfortable connecting your laptop to a large monitor on a high stand. It can be done cleanly: see my website, I’m not selling anything.

  7. Tim, I’ve had the Aeron for several years now and I know you’ll enjoy it long term too.

    But looking at your new setup I can tell you are going to have more issues. Your laptop is too low. Your head will be bowed down to view the screen and it will be impossible to avoid a crouching dog position – no matter how good your chair is.

    There are stands available that raise the laptop screen, but I wouldn’t use them. Get a docking station and use a large desktop screen. Position it so that your eyes are looking at the middle of the screen. That way you’ll spend hours in blissful comfort.

    There’s some alternate thought that a comfortable chair is not as useful as we think. A British research team discovered that a change of position every few minutes is best for optimum posture, and a chair that causes you to slouch is even better. I agree. I spend a lot of time in different positions on the Aeron, from slump to upright, and always exit for a walk every half hour. Variety of posture seems to work best.

    And if you upgrade to multiple screens, then make sure the majority of your work is done on the center one. I have a 5-screen setup, and learnt the lesson the hard way when my neck ached from working on the side screens for even a few minutes.

  8. If we don’t have our health what can we do? Hardly anything (efficiently anyway). It’s not OCD to find the best deal and the best fit in order to be pain free and take care of yourself in the long run. It’s absolutely necessary and smart. I was rear-ended at 17 and am so glad that I learned that lesson early on.

    Having narrow feet and high arches means I have an absolute disdain for buying shoes (the clogs mentioned earlier wouldn’t stay on if I tried). I rarely wear high heels (aww damn, I know they’re sexy!) but it also means avoiding nerve, tendon and joint damage in the long run.

    If you do a write up on mattresses, you should also include sleeping positions and pillows! That would be a long article, given your attention to detail! 🙂 Let’s face it, injuries are caused by simple mistakes: sitting incorrectly, sleeping incorrectly, lifting incorrectly, standing incorrectly (shoes) etc. and they are especially aggravated when we are out of shape.

  9. Hi, Tim…

    I’ve been using the Herman Miller Eames desk chair for over 30 years. It’s a classic design…very comfortable and it completely eliminated my back pain. Expensive but worth it.

  10. The Alexander Technique came to mind when I read this article. The whole idea behind it is that correct posture allows the bone structure to properly support itself. If the posture is not correct, the muscles must perform extra work which causes much discomfort.

  11. Tim,

    When I took my mini retirement in Arizona, I purchased an Aeron and I absolutely love it. It’s the best work chair I have ever sat in. Well worth the $950 I spent on the upgraded model.

    I really believe that you need to have the right tools to get the job done. You can save so much time and pain just by focusing on the right tool for the job. For me, buying a chair that costs almost the same amount as my laptop was a simple decision, I sit in it everyday! If you are a person still working on a folding chair or something less, spend the money, just think if you can be 5 minutes more productive a day that’s over 30 hours a year (you just added a day worth of productivity!) and remember its a 12-Year Warranty!

  12. Tim, Congrats on the chair purchase. Sort of a modern day coming of age when you can afford an $500 office chair. I’ve used one for over a year and have to say I was disappointed. I didn’t feel like the actual cushioning on the butt was very good, in fact mildly uncomfortable. I ended up buying a gel butt cushion (I fly with an inflatable butt cushion from REI that does wonders). The set up seems ridiculous and I get ridiculed by friends for it, especially when I pack one to fly. But it really makes a difference.

    Anyway, I’ve never tried one, but the Freedom task chair looks like it improves some the butt ergonomics. Hope that wasn’t TMI, I’m just trying to recruit travelers to fly with a butt cushion so I’m not that only one looking ridiculous. Cheers.

  13. I couldn’t fit this on twitter. I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this first from Tim Ferris – it’s crazy Norwegians flying through the air in batsuits, after jumping off cliffs over fjords (skis in the wintertime). I’m sure Tim will be in Norway in NO TIME! Check this OUT! This is what I do when I’m dreaming…

    amp;server

    amp;show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

  14. Hi Tim,

    I had an unbelievable afternoon at The Getty Villa (Pacific Palisades). I marveled at the scenery and enjoyed my tour of Roman inspired architecture and arts pieces of ancient Greece. My tour guide was especially fanatical about her facts and storytelling. I heard Robert Graves is an awesome writer of Greek myths. I hope you get a chance to visit the Getty Villa.

    http://www.getty.edu/visit/see_do/art.html

  15. I ahd lower back problems for a long time. Now I am using kneeling IKEA device. After getting my shins used to it, it’s great! I can seat for hours with a good posture and no pain.

  16. Tim, time to get a 22″ monitor! I traveled to Shanghai without my monitors. Once I was there, I realized how much better working on the 22″ is for productivity and for my eyes. So I bought one while i was there.

    Now when I travel, I bring my laptop and 22″, which happens to fit nicely in my suitcase.

  17. Want to be comfortable for hours at a time at a computer? Break the rules!

    1. Get an executive style chair which can support the head when you lean back. I got a Sampsonite leather chair at Office Depot for around $250 some years back.

    2. The chair must have comfortable elbow rests.

    3. Put your computer on a HIGHER than normal desk. Throw away any stupid “ergonomic” work stations with low keyboard rests. They are a prescription for carpal tunnel.

    4. Rest elbows on elbow rests and have forearms approximately 30 degrees above horizontal. By having the forearms above horizontal, the wrists don’t get bent backwards causing strain.

    5. Lean back and type away. (This works better for desktops than laptops. If I used a laptop, I’d plug in a detachable keyboard and put the laptop up on top of a platform back from the keyboard.)

  18. Hi! Totally off-topic. You claimed in “How to Feel Like the Incredible Hulk” presentation that you would “love” to talk to innovative educators. I am an innovative educator, and I would love to talk to YOU. Please let me know how to contact you directly.

  19. That swiss ball chair looks amazing. I would have pictured that as being an office chair but it probably beats a regular leather computer chair. And I agree with Josh, bigger monitors not only make my eyes hurt less but they make it so much easier to be productive. Especially when you have 13 laptop.

  20. It’s often a good idea to take the arms off of the chairs, that can help posture and prevent injury…. (ref various rsi books)

  21. your blog has ridiculous amount of comments.

    you should contact your VA over India to upgrade your blog to let viewer vote the comments like digg

    there are many gems but I think most people don’t have time to go through hundreds of comments.

  22. I have recently created the ultimate office chair/hospital bed/gurney/lazy boy. It consists of 2 outdoor foldable travel chairs that are face to face. Once you have that set up you place a Yogi Poof in the middle of both chairs. A Yogi Poof is a tube like bean bag chair. In order to get in this contraption you place a step stool to the side and place one foot at a time at the bottom of the Yogi Poof and then grab your Walmart TV tray with your keyboard on it and just fall back into it. I guarantee you it is the most comfortable chair you have will ever sit in and that includes all the ones that have been shown here. I’ve worked, napped, ate, watched tv and if I add wheels I can be wheeled to an ambulance in it and if the legs folded up it could be used as a stretcher. If you want to see a pic of it you can email me at mangoseasoning@gmail.com and if you are ever in Chico California you can stop by and try it out for yourself. It has been difficult to get in lately because my cats have taken it over and they not only are in it when I’m not in it but they take it over when I am in it. A heating pad is optional along with one of those massage mats that can lay on top of the yogi poof.

  23. I had Plantar Fasciitis also and it is not fun. I found that drinking lots of water and Kung-Fu helped me clear that up.

    I have not had back problems in particular but I do get stiff and sore sitting at my computer for long periods of time. Now that I have reduced my workspace to a small laptop for portability I was wondering of you have any recommendations on what to do for your back while traveling. It seems that I am either stuck with a wooden chair, or a terrible plastic chair at most places that I work now (coffee shops, temporary studio apartments, hostels, parks, etc.) Is there a good blowup lumbar support, or just a seat cushion that will align your back the proper way?

    Thanks for the help

  24. TIM, I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS

    You still need an office chair?? You are working toooo much. 🙂

    (enjoyed your book in the christmas holidays in thailand…..)

    keep on the good work, but with this post you disappointed me 😉

  25. I have been using the HAG Capisco chair for several years now and would never use anything else. It’s kind of like the Swiss Ball chair, but much more “guy friendly”. It has a saddle design so your knees can be below your hips which is crucial for long term comfort and a healthy back.

    You can get them for around $ 329 US over at CSNChiairs.com and other places.

    Keep up the great “work”!!!

  26. Tim,

    I am actually surprised by your delayed revelation on the importance of proper ergonomics. 🙂 The chair is critical, then the desk followed by proper monitor, keyboard and mouse placement.

    Everyone should take note on how they lean and position themselves. I switch mice regularly. I go from a trackball to a regular mouse and that has removed a lot of overuse injuries. I also stopped using a laptop in bed or on the couch. I found when I “laptop’d” I would be in a funny position for long periods of time. Now I just laptop on a desk and chair only.

    Its also really important to get outside and do cardio. We are all spending way too much time behind keyboards and flat panels for work or play. Nothing like a good bike ride or run to snap you back in the healthy groove.

  27. Tim Ferris!

    I’ve tried the ball balance chair and it’s actually more comfortable (i’m a girl) than it looks. Don’t know how long I can sit on it, but it’s just a fun chair! I need to get the right chair though for my annoying back..

    Anyway, your blog is always fun and interesting to read.

    You’re pretty talented and I believe you’re close to being a genius. 😉 I’m jealous of how you accomplish much in little time and it seems like you’re always on an adventure! Keep it up!!

    ???? ??? ??? ? ???..?! hmm. 🙂

  28. Dear Tim, back on topic with a great affordable chair. Designed by Henrik Preutz, the MARKUS chair is available at Ikea for ~$200. Fully adjustable base, great lumbar support, high back that you can lean your head against. It may challenge your leading choices successfully, and is much more broadly available / affordable (though I agree that an incremental $700 is worthwhile if amortized over many years). The website link above should take you directly to the chair.

    Off topic, I agree with other commenters that you could consider elevating your laptop and using a wired mac keyboard/mouse, or getting a larger display and connecting your keyboard/mouse to that. Much better to have the display at / above eye level.

    Doc M.

  29. Hi Tim,

    I know you are really busy, but this is about my personal challange (just like the one you give to your students).

    I met this guy, his name is Timothy Seitz. He will give me a job if I convince you either to post on your blog or to mail him a message about his personal response to the “What do you do question” (He said you are gonna like it).

    WDYD (What Do You Do) Answer from Tim Seitz is:

    When I’m having fun, relaxing, don’t feel like talking about “work”

    Tim: Hi, I’m Tim

    Person: Hi, Tim, What do you do?

    Tim: As little as I have to and as much as I want to (usually gets a laugh and I can change the conversation)

    (when I’m looking for new clients)

    Person: What do you do?

    Tim: I get paid to mind other people’s business

    Person: ??? (they always want to know more)

    Please just post it in your blog!

    Or email to timothyjseitz@aol.com

    I hope you make me win my challange, so I will get the job! Thanks!

    PS. Fammi sapere quando vieni in Italia

    1. @Alessandro,

      My answer to “what do you do?” is simple these days: I’m a writer. If I’m feeling the urge to be vague, “I’m an entrepreneur” also works well.

      Good luck!

      Tim

  30. Tim,

    Quick question, at the beginning of this post you mention “the best shoes and mattress you can afford”. Just curious, what shoes did you go with?

    Thanks,

    Brad

  31. from my perspective, i’m afraid you’re looking for an answer to the wrong question, tim. i had back trouble many years ago, and the solution for me was to stop sitting in a chair. if you work in an office, you may not be able to help it, but if you work at home, there’s no reason to do that.

    i use a laptop (or work on paper) and alternate between two positions: sitting on the floor on a meditation cushion (about $40) in full or half lotus with the work on a coffee table (which i already had, or $20 on craigslist) and standing in front of a dresser (or an elevated table, if you need a lot of space) with the work on top. in both positions, the back works naturally to support itself, and doesn’t grow weak and sore from artificial support. after making this change and getting more exercise, i never had pain again.

    thanks as always for all your work!

    sincerely,

    jeff

  32. How very, very apt and timely! I have been arching my back for hours now to alleviate the pain in my lower back. I want a chair that feels like heaven but is fiery red! 🙂 Same goes for my shoes. haha.

    Tim, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Claudia

  33. Tim, I totally agree with the value of having high quality shoes, bed and yes an office chair. I didn’t quite have the budget to buy any of the expensive ergonomic chairs you listed (with the exception of the isokinetics chair), but I conducted an experiment of my own. It basically involved sitting in every office chair in all my local stores. What did I end up with? A $100 task chair from OfficeMax. It’s the most comfortable chair I’ve ever had (although I’ve yet to have a sit in those expensive chairs). Price to comfort ratio, this chair has it! And I’m a computer guy, so I’m in front of a computer for 40+ hours a week. So here it is:

    http://www.officemax.com/omax/catalog/sku.jsp?skuId=21491315&category_Id=31

    A good hold over until I can afford something a bit nicer! Not to mention a great alternative to anyone looking for a good chair for $100.

  34. When compared to the Aeron, I believe this chair is much better value. I found the chair to be more comfortable, a little “softer”, and had a better recline mechanism. My biggest complaint is the lack of a headrest for reclining.

  35. The only thing I miss about my last job is my Aeron chair. I wish I could have taken it with me. Instead I did the next best thing and gave it to a co-worker 3 days before I left for good to make sure the vultures didn’t get it.

  36. Tried most of those. Really liked the design of the Liberty, but was awful for me (too short, hit in all the wrong places). Also did six months at a standing desk.

    Ended up with the Aeron and it has been outstanding for the last year & a half or so. Yes, it’s more expensive than a cheapo from the office supply store, but will end up being the same cost if your cheapo (like mine) ends up having to be replaced every couple years. There is a pretty swamped market of used Aerons, if you keep your eyes open, and they tend to hold up pretty well used, too.

  37. Anyways, 6 hours isn’t enough to make much of a judgement.

    Something very important I figured out this year was that having the wrong chair may play a very big role in carpel tunnel.

    I had an old ergonomic chair at my home office. I had various problems over the past few years, ended up spending several thousand dollars just trying all kinds of keyboards (including the iconic datahand.) After spending several months away from home, my problems vanished.

    During this time I was using either a normal keyboard or laptop keyboard — and sitting in an Aeron chair. The last time I had used a normal keyboard I had reached the point I thought I would have to stop using computers completely.

    So yeah, office chair matters big time. More than just your back will thank you.

  38. Tim,

    May I suggest moving away from a laptop if posture is of utmost importance?

    A desktop is much better for your posture. The menu bar in OS X should be at the same height as your eyes. With a laptop, this is not possible.

    Perhaps something to elevate your laptop and an external keyboard may be ideal.

    Regards,

    Siebre

  39. Back in the 1980s, I went to a call center in Maryland that had the most comfortable chair I have ever sat in. I have an Aeron now but would prefer one of those liquid filled chairs. After sitting in the chair for about 10 – 20 minutes, ALL STRESS would be gone from your back. I wish I would have noted the make/model of those chairs.

  40. I second the Steelcase Leap chair. I’ve used the Aeron for years at my jobs and to me, they weren’t comfortable for a few long-hauls I had at the office (I’m an IT worker). The Steelcase is much more comfortable and solid for my tastes.

  41. Hi Tim,

    I’m a big fan of your book. I have recommended to everyone I met and personally offered to at least 25 people. I am presently reading a second time. Thanks for the inspiration.

    As for posture and back pain, you have to visit the Postura Clinic on Montreal’s South Shore (www.postura.ca – their current Website isn’t great but they are presently working on a new version). Their work on proprioception blew me away and I’m sure they’ll impress you too. If you happen to visit Montreal, give me a buzz, I’ll be glad to give a hand. Take care.

  42. Now that you have a chair that is adjustable and providing you lumbar support, maybe I can get you to get an external keyboard and mouse and raise your monitor up to your eye height. That can also allow for better posture, help you sit more upright and help improve the neck and shoulder area, which in turn, since everything is connected help the whole spine.

  43. Tim

    To get thebest out of the Aeron chair you need to replace the lumbar support with the adjustable pelvic support, the new chairs have this feature. This is available from HM (not cheap at £75 / $105 per chair).

    The effect of removing the lumar support is to take the shear stress off the lower back and revieve the strain on the lower back muscles= no pain.

    I have one at work and one at home fitted to two chairs bought on Ebay for 1/4 the HM price. Used this setup for 4 years withiut problems -try it; lumbar support is one of the dumbest ideas ever to come out of orthopedics, it messes up the biomechanics and adds stress to the lower back just where you do not want it.

  44. Saw some mentions of computer keyboards on this thread. Don’t get me started on Dvorak vs QWERTY now… 🙂 I’ve been on Dvorak for about 6 years and haven’t had any of the repetitive stress/carpal tunnel you get from QWERTY. It may not be your keyboard, simply your layout. For an entertaining read, and possibly a nudge to convert you to Dvorak, read this comic about the topic:

    http://dvzine.org/zine/index.html

  45. Re the shoes, although I’m rather loathe to admit it, I picked up some crocs at Costco and they are fantastic. I do have to run the gauntlet of snarky comments though.

  46. I’m surprised you went with the Aeron, and I’m SHOCKED that your findings said 90% of people interviewed about it gave it a good deal. Our office bought about 30 or so of these kinds of chairs (OMG, spendy.) and almost every single one broke within 6 months of owning them. The backs no longer stay upright and the height of most of the chairs is no longer adjustable. They are absolute junk.

  47. Hi Tim!

    We reassessed office seating a few years back and chose the Neutral Posture 8700 with the deep contour seat. Got a two fer deal from Office Organix, so we got two $1300 chairs for $650 a piece. Best office decor money we ever spent!

    I’ve worked deadline pressure in this chair for 13 hours a day and never had more than mild discomfort. No matter how perfect the chair, eventually you just need to get up and move around more, more often!

    I checked out the Aeron’s and they’re fine chairs. But after 8 years of ownership, I’m glad I bought the Neutral Posture.

    Be well,

    Ben Fury

    Bettercise

  48. Hi Tim,

    I’ve always loved the look of the Aeron, but how will your back be in a few months? I’d like to have a part 2 to this post in the near future, I’m curious because… I have a friend who is a dancer and yoga expert. I asked him about sitting for long periods of time and what a good position was a his response was quite surprising. The thinking that there is a “perfect” position is the problem. Our bodies get sore when any position is held for a long period. Also, I once spoke to a office chair salesperson, who sold the Aeron, but told me to buy a $200 standard office chair with the 3 adjustment levers, so you can change your position up every few days. Stretching also helps. Thanks for this post.

  49. Hey Tim,

    I am a local ergonomist and would be happy to come by sometime to assess your workstation — no cost to you. This way you can figure out what products you might actually need to help you to work in a neutral position. Check out my website and contact me if you are interested.

  50. Hola Tim… Fijate que te vi en puerto vallarta having fun en el ZOO around the 16th de enero, I wanted to talk to you so Bad, soy fanatica de tu libro y todavia no puedo creer que no tuve el valor para acercarme. I didn’t want to bother you, you were having fun with your friend and some chicas mexicanas… especialmente la del vestidito morado…. you are a very good dancer too….Pero me dio gusto que te sepas divertir!!! y todo esto te lo digo en buena onda!!!! Espero que me contestes este mail… se que es casi imposible, pero please, please dime como puedo encontrar un trabajo online that is legit…. I really, really need your help… me imagino que todos los dias recibes miles de correos como este… pero yo te vi en persona y fui una cobarde, por eso meresco tu atencion….

    Cuidate mucho y te deseo lo mejor del mundo

    1. Hola Lupita,

      Gracias por tu comment! Lo del trabajo online es un tema muy individual, pero con tiempo y practica lo puedes lograr sin problema. I apologize if my Spanish is a bit rusty, but that’s is hysterical that you saw me at ZOO! Next time, we’ll need to grab a drink and catch up. I loved PV and hope to be back soon.

      All the best y un abrazo gordo,

      Tim

  51. Muchas gracias por contestar Tim…. and I will keep looking for a job online, cause I refuse to work for the man 8 or 10 hours a day and be tied up to a place…. and let me tell you that your spanish is very sofisticado…. I don’t live in PV, I’m in vancouver Ca now, but I love it there too…. Bueno gotta go now, where are you by the way????

    Cuidate and have lots of fun

    Ciao bello

  52. Tim

    I find it interesting you are writing on a laptop. I think you would find it much faster to be using two monitors and a regular keyboard and mouse. Time yourself typing on a regular keyboard and then on your laptop. It is not just about being handy to travel if you spend much time in your chair I think you would be more effective with better tools.

    Allen

  53. My back problems also disappeared after a few weeks with an Aeron. But a few years with the Aeron gave me pelvic floor neuralgia with possible pudendal nerve entrapment. Herman Miller, I want my $1000 back!

  54. I am a 20 year trained interior architect living very happy, mostly in part to my Aeron chair and stool. For many years I suffered agonizing backpain and frustration because I could not see myself spendind this kind of money; except my clients’, then one day, I added (totalled) all my medical bills and realized that I could have had 10 aeron chairs if I had made my mind long time ago. But It is never too late…I am still very happy.

    I don’t understand this dud who want his 1,000.00 back…I think his problems is deeper than his argument.

    Peace to all!

  55. Great post! I have never seen such a comprehensive comparison between office chairs. Reading through these wonderful comments should be a blog post in itself. How has the Aeron worked out for you? Great setup, and I agree that Lumbar support is key. Thanks for sharing!

  56. I have recently purchased the new polished aluminum/black seat Aeron stool for a new hire in my office, unfortunately, he is on a medical leave. I would like to trade my Aeron stool for a B/size Aeron with the same finishes. please respond if you or someone is interested.

    Thanks!

    ed

  57. Tim,

    I’m as late in reading this post as you are to realizing that good chairs and good shoes make a difference! I have to shake my head a bit when a guy as smart and savvy as you seem to be only gets around to investigating such things.

    I’ve been avoiding shoes with raised heels for 30 years. I’ll even admit to having owned negative heel shoes back in the day. They were a bad idea ultimately, but I loved ’em at the time. My current favorite shoe brands are Ecco and Keen. I recommend Eccos with reservations, as they seem to be inconsistent aesthetically and in comfort. I have a pair of (“Euro-looking”) cork-soled Ecco sandals which are well-worn because I can have them on all day and not be dying to take them off as soon as I get home.

    The Keens are awesome, sandals are tough, protect your toes even in lava fields, are machine washable and look far less dorky than most of my other shoes. Same goes for their slip-on leather shoes, though they probably would rather forego a trip through the washing machine.

    Sheesh, I’m starting to sound like Tim here. Maybe I should start my own product review blog! Tim, will you help me get samples? 😉

  58. Ah, forgot the other comment:

    I’m writing from my Aeron size B chair, I’ve tested most of the high end ones, and despite its drawbacks, (wobble, difficult armrest adjustment, too hard lumbar support), it’s still the best. Kudos to designers Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick!

    I first used an Aeron back in my dot-commer days. It was intense work, daily, deadlines, and during the peak of activity in my dept. Luckily, the honchos did not skimp on the furniture. It was the first time I ever had a work chair that wasn’t in the way, and it made me covet my own for years after that. I finally had the cash, and got mine used on Craigslist.

    Tip- How to tell what size an Aeron chair is:

    Put your fingers under the the “handle” at the top of the backrest; on the surface facing the back side of the fabric, you will find 1 (A), 2 (B)or 3 (C-size) raised dots.

    Most in my family believe in spending “a little extra” for quality. It saves money in the long run, because you don’t have to replace broken second-rate stuff over and over again. Yep, that includes a lot of the crap you see in Wal-Mart, et al.

  59. love your book, it changed my life….

    As for the chairs I think a swiss ball without the the chair mount would be a great choice as well.

  60. I second your choice in chairs. My previous job had those and I’ve never been more comfortable. I also use a roller at home and stretch at work. However, have you tried assisted stretching? It will rock your world but requires an assistant to perform the stretches on you 🙂

  61. Hi Tim,

    I’ve done a little research after reading your post and all the comments and I think the following is the perfect “chair” if you can still call it a chair:

    http://www.varier.dk/default.aspx?menu=686

    It can be used as a kneeling chair, office chair and zero gravity recliner by just changing your body position (see product sheet for pictures) to maintain the natural 130 degrees hips-to-back position at all times. Not only that, but it looks very cool. The Aeron and other fancy office chairs pale in comparison in terms of ergonomic design, style and simplicity. But all that comes with a hefty price tag.

  62. Hi Tim,

    regarding the Varier Gravity chair, I just went to a store in London to try it out myself but I was personally a little dissappointed. I am 5″ 8 and weigh 155 pounds and the chair seemed a big too large for me and I had the feeling that I was too light for it. I also found it quite uncomfortable because the cushion seemed very hard especially for the neck (it just didn’t feel right even after adjusting it to every possible position). Everyone has to try it out themselves though. It might be just perfect for a larger and heavier person that likes it hard.

  63. i can’t live without my aeron. I had it mde with polished aluminum base and carbon mesh…ah, and leather harmrests. Totally awesome. It took me some time to save for it but it was worth it.

    edin

  64. If you are in Europe or Germany and looking for a good chair try these:

    http://www.schwipp.de/

    They are manufactured by a physicist from my old institute. Might be that I’m a bit baised here but matter of fact is that we had them in the institute during my PhD time and there were little wars fought about who could get one next (10 chairs, approx. 28 people).

    After I left the university I had to use a normal office chair and developted severe problems with my lower back in the first two weeks. They disappeared three days after I bought a schwipp chair for myself. Prices are between 400-500 Euros, they are worth it.

    Anja

  65. I decided to buy Swopper Muvman Plus Extra High after going to a store and actually trying out every possible sitting solution mentioned here. Swopper (formerly Aires) Muvman is based on the same principle of movement as schwipp.de, but in my opinion better implemented since it leans forward to get you in the best sitting position and the height can also be easily adjusted. The cheapest site with free shipping I’ve found is http://swopperwelt.de/ which is also based in Germanyth. It’s 400€ there. But I think it’s also available in a lot of other countries.

  66. Looks like you definitely put a lot of time and effort into picking your perfect chair out. I personally really like the Humanscale Freedom and Humanscale Liberty that you mentioned in the article. Another good way to reduce back pain is to take breaks every hour or so to walk around and stretch. Also if you rotate between sitting in different ergonomic chair options such as an exercise ball or a kneeling chair can dramatically reduce back pain.

  67. @Herrmann, who wrote:

    “Swopper (formerly Aires) Muvman is based on the same principle of movement as schwipp.de, but in …….”

    No, this two chairs can not be compared, as the Schwipp office chair A3S has got a back rest with an “active” lordose support, which is more or less unique. There is no back rest at the Swopper Muvman. The swopper muvman could thus only be compared to the Schwipp Runner, also without back rest.

    Look at this link: http://www.lehrerforen.de/thread.php?threadid=17757&hilight=schwipp , and here you will find, that the back pain of a teacher got worse!!!! sitting on a swopper – whereas the Schwipp office chair with back rest is the only chair she can sit on when she suffers from her back pain – because of it perfect back rest system (two seperate joints, tandem arrangemant).

  68. @Maren: No, you got it wrong. The teacher does not have back problems, but problems with her muscles tightening up. No surprise, she has weak back muscles, which comes from using chairs with back rests. Back rests are unnecessary.

  69. Tim – the University of Queensland did an interesting study looking at a variety of health-related parameters and found that sitting, as a whole, contributed quite negatively to health. I was fascinated by their findings and, as a result, have tried to incorporate standing into my office/work routine.

    A quote from this article: “[c]hair time is an insidious hazard because people haven’t been told it’s a hazard.” Hamilton has studied the fat-absorbing mechanism of lipase and said that, “if you can perform a behavior while sitting or standing, I would choose standing.”

    Check out the article here: http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Link-Between-Sitting-and-Poor-Health&id=3603437

  70. @Herrmann: The situation is more complex.

    Sitting o a chair without backrest is not advisable. The „Institut für Hygiene und Arbeitsphysiologie“ of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Swizzerland, gives lots of precise recommendations in its article “Was ist ein ergonomischer Stuhl? / What is an ergonomical chair?” for healthy seating.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20011130210249/www.iha.bepr.ethz.ch/pages/ergo/sitzen.htm

    I am citing (german / translated) e.g.:

    Die Rückenlehne als Entspannungshilfe! / The backrest as an aid for relaxing.

    „….. Ein ergonomisch durchdachter Stuhl sollte Entspannungsmöglichkeiten nicht einschränken. Die entspannteste Sitzhaltung bietet die Möglichkeit, in einer aufrechten Haltung an eine Rückenlehne anzulehnen. Man soll deswegen nie auf eine Rückenlehne verzichten!”

    Translation:

    “… An ergonomical well designed chair should not restrict the possibilities to relax while sitting. The most relaxed sitting position is given if there is the possibility to be supported at a back rest in an upright sitting position. Therefore you should NEVER abstain from a backrest!”

    The cited ETH Zürich article starts with:

    “An chair should not restrict the wish of the body to move”, which means e.g., that you need a backrest which follows the movements of your body as good as possible. Therefore I think Anja wrote above that she was FIGHTING for one of the Schwipp office-chairs in her institute and lost pain sitting on it within a few days and Meike wrote in the teachers-forum, that she can only sit on a Schwipp when she has PAIN in her back caused by tensions of her muscles.

  71. note added later:

    in the cited German teachers forum there are TWO teachers comments whose back-pain worsened when sitting on a swopper …

  72. Amsterdam is nice, the chairs may be nice too.

    But if you would visit Antwerp (in Belgium) we would host you and it ‘ll be better !! If you need a guide or help of any kind, please let me know. Amsterdam is lucky to have you!

  73. Swiss Ball – Downfall

    Hours of use on a Swiss Ball is similar to riding a road bike for extended perionds of time. There’s to much pressure to the under-carriage, which can make sitting for extended amounts of time on any surface hurt.

    Eliminating the Swiss Ball and standing at my desk has cured all before mentioned problems.

  74. Thanks for this chair,i hope it will really helpful in preventing back problem.I like your idea,i took too much time to read the comments on your blog and i won’t think it’s waste.

  75. Just reviewed your chair article and have a follow-up question regarding your suggestion of the use of a 3′ long and 6? diameter foam roller: how do you use/incorporate this?

    Thanks, Steve

  76. I had an Aeron, and loved it. It was a great leap forward when it came to market (mid 90’s).

    Now I’m in the furniture business and get to think about chairs more than most people care for… While I believe there are better value for money propositions out there, I am convinced there are no better office chairs on the planet than those manufactured by Interstuhl, a German company.

    Their Silver line is a design milestone and can be seen on many hollywood movies.

    I personally work on the Mitos office chair, and have yet to try anything that comes close in comfort. Its 2005 design is beautiful and ergonomically orgasmic.

  77. That is a beautiful Asian Yokeback Rosewood Dining Table Set you have, it appears to be vintage? Did you get handed that down to you from a relative? I use a rosewood dining table for my work desk as well. Except a 47″ is sitting on top =) Anyways, that’s lifetime furniture you have there, and although I personally chose a Mirra chair, the previous and great chair used was an Aeron in size C (I sold it due to it being too wide, a B size would be better).

  78. I have used chairs like the Aeron before, and found that I needed additional lower back support. I ended up buying a lumbar support pillow, that really helped me a lot! It is an easy add-on for just about any office chair.

  79. As a physical therapist, my focus is to encourage people to make sitting an activity. Not simply to improve postural awareness, endurance and conditioning but because most Americans are sitting too much as is. By focusing on these things aches and pains fade as the body resumes a more biomechanically sound orientation.

    The theraball (sans frame) or simply a stool that allows for increased recruitment of deep spinal muscles is the optimal choice. These chairs you present are great but most folks dont have the money for them. And you will be hard pressed to find a company that is willing to make such a significant investment in wellness and prevention of progressive injuries resulting from prolonged sitting.

    Cheers to your health, everybody!!

    E

  80. Hello,

    I am using the Aero for a while, but the pain in my back has only become much worse!!! Specialist have adjusted the settings, but this is the worst chair I have ever used!! Terrible!

  81. I prevenatively maintain and repair over six thousand office chairs (no joke) a year and this chair out of the bunch definately stands up above the rest. I saw one the other day six years old and it still looks like the guy just took it out of the box. Definately a quality chair. You could replace a 2 to 300 dollar chair every three to five years and pay the same over the long term and you will because the foam in the chairs of that price range bag out so quickly but it doesn’t compare to the longevity that this chair has. Dont mess around. If you want an office chair to last you have to spend a little bit more. Buy Comfort and Quality. The old style chairs that lasted 20 years are not being made anymore. However, I can say this chair may be the resurgence of that old school mentality.

    1. cool is cool…!

      googled about back ache using a dining chair as a computer chair and found you…good writing style good content good information has helped me a lot… just one problem I live on a tiny tiny island and apart from trips to the local supermarket and such all other items shopping home decor etc done via the laptop, the post and couriers have sent their kids to private school thanks to me, so the “try before you buy thing” is impossible for me that’s why googling and researching … even found a chair and emailed could somebody go and sit in it and email me back turned out not comfortable… your list just made me more confused and btw new widow on pension so price is a BIG part of it sadly and love ebay!