What Is The Best Office Chair For Short People? Fixing The Discomfort Dilemma

When you need to buy a new pair of shoes chances are you know pretty much what size you need to purchase to make sure you get a good fit. Generally speaking it’s likely you will find new shoes will be the same size each time, so it’s easy to find comfortable footwear.

Why is the right chair important for short people?
Buying an office chair is really little different to shopping for shoes. Just as you wouldn’t buy a pair of size 10 shoes when you take a 6, you need to make sure that the chair you choose is a good fit.

There's a problem though. You see office chairs aren't the same as shoes they don't tend to come in set sizes. They might be offered with low, medium or high backs. However that's more of a feature rather than a good fit. In fact, apart from the Aeron, which does come in 3 different sizes to cater for different body shapes it tends to be, one size fits all.

Average built people often get by as chair manufacturers target the typical sized person whatever that is. However, if you're short built chances are buying a one size fits all chair will only lead to disappointment and discomfort. Nonetheless with a little careful planning, it is possible to get a chair designed to suit your build.

What essential features do short people need?
When shopping for a new chair there are usually 2 major problems smaller framed people encounter and need to get right.

First, the majority of chairs have a fixed seat and so the seat depth can't be adjusted. This often presents a major challenge for those with a shorter leg length. Frequently they find that they end up sitting on the edge of the seat because the seat is too deep.

Fortunately there is a simple answer to this problem and what’s needed is to make sure the chairs you consider have a sliding seat adjustment. That way you get to set the seat’s depth to the proper position for comfortable working. Once you have the seat depth right your back is in contact with the back of the seat and so properly supported.

Second, short built people often find standard seat height adjustment ranges don't work for them. Frequently the seat doesn't go low enough and so it’s not possible to place your feet on the floor. This soon makes working uncomfortable.

To get around this problem what is needed is to replace the standard gas lift with a smaller strut. Most good seating manufacturers offer alternative gas lift struts.

Here's a quick tip for making sure you get the right size. Slip off your shoes, stand up and measure from the floor to the inside of your knee joint. Use that dimension to make sure the seat height can adjust at least an inch above and below it and you should be able to get your feet square and comfortable on the floor.

Whilst a change of gas lift won’t add much to the cost of a chair, unfortunately chairs with sliding seat adjusters do cost more, starting around the $300 level. It would be a mistake to buy a chair without these 2 features if you want to escape discomfort. So much for essential features, what should you be wary of?

What features should be avoided?
Although this may seem obvious many people tend to buy chairs on looks. Often something big and bold looks impressive and yet for shorter built people this can only result in disastrous discomfort. So resist buying chairs that merely look great. A good fit is what matters if you want to be comfortable.

Avoid chairs that don’t allow you to adjust the tilt tension. This is the setting that controls the amount of body weight needed to move the chair back. You want to be able to recline in a relaxed way and not feel you have to wrestle with your chair’s back.

Steer clear of fixed arms, they rarely suit the correct height to support your arms and shoulders comfortably. It’s much better to go for adjustable arms or even no arms when your budget is tight. Many chairs allow you to fit them at a later date. So lets see if we can shortlist some good options for seats for shorter folk.

Which chairs will work well for you?
Although you probably don't like the idea you have to realize that to get the right chair for your needs you probably need to spend between $300 and $600 and maybe more. Ouch! That's likely a lot more than you anticipated. Even so if you want to gain working comfort this is the sort of investment you need to be making.

Norwegian manufacturer HAG makes some excellent chairs to suit short people. HAG was the first company to offer sliding seat adjustment and understands the importance of working comfort. Take a look at either its H04 or H05 models

Neutral Posture is another company which specializes in seating for specific people. Its 5000 series chairs come with a huge range of options to suit your needs.

Herman Miller’s Aeron chair should also work well for you. It comes in 3 sizes and it’s likely that size A will be the most suitable model. There's a handy size chart to make sure it’s the right fit. Its open mesh upholstery is great in hot weather, although it’s a firmer sitting position than a foam padded chair.

Lets quickly recap on the key points we've covered:

  • Standard office chairs rarely work well for short people
  • Make sure you can adjust the seat’s depth
  • Check the height range suits your leg length
  • Avoid buying chairs on looks
  • Budget for at least a $300 to $600 outlay
  • Go for tilt tension adjustment
  • Avoid fixed arms
  • Look for manufacturers who understand your needs

Just like buying shoes, the right chair needs to fit you properly if you want true comfort. Here's where you can find more about the suggested seats from HAG, Neutral Posture and Herman Miller.


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10 Responses to “What Is The Best Office Chair For Short People? Fixing The Discomfort Dilemma”

  1. I’ve heard that the ErgoChair and the Capisco are other popular choices for people of very short stature.


  2. can you do an article for the best office chair for tall people?

  3. This article should help. http://www.blog.officechairadvice.com/what-is-the-best-office-chair-for-big-and-tall-people/

  4. The problem with a chair that lets me put my feet on the floor properly is that a standard cubicle desk then hits me mid-chest. Can’t they come up with a foot rest built in (like on a drafting chair) so I can rest my feet comfortably and reach my desktop, too?

  5. Apologies for the delay in answering your question. The point you raise is a very good one and shows how fixing one problem can create another. Here are a couple of potential solutions.
    HÅG produces a product called the Step Up – see http://www.hag-uk.co.uk/products/hag-stepup/ this clips around the base of the gas lift providing a movable raised platform for your feet. Although designed for use with HÅG chairs it would fit a chair with the same diameter of gas lift base.

    A second alternative would be to fit a keyboard tray as some models present you with a lowered work surface for keyboard and mouse – see http://www.officechairadvice.com/office-chair-accessories/desk-accessories/keyboard-trays.html

    Perhaps the best answer is a height adjustable desk, however as they start at around $450 that probably rules it out.

  6. Thanks very much for a very helpful post. I didn’t even know what to look for. Now I can try to find a comfortable chair for my 5’1″ frame after 40 years of misery.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, glad you found the article useful.

  8. Hi I am a very short person (4 foot 2 inches or 1.28 metres tall) and have a desk job with sometimes very long hours. Early on I had some bespoke foot rests made which are about 12.5 inches high (two of them each about 1.5 feet wide, just high density chipboard). These allow me to have my chair at a standard desk level but the chair is still a big issue. As you say the seat depth is a big issue and really I want a depth of about 12 – 13 inches which is much below the standard.

    I have seen no seat manufacturer give these dimensions so can you give advice on any good chairs with this degree of flexibility?

    I usually remove armrests so I don’t pinch arms against the desk.

  9. I understand your problem Michael and have to say I don’t know of any chair that has seat depth adjustment around 12 – 12 inches. The only thing I can suggest is to try using a back cushion or maybe a foam back support to reduce the effective depth of the seat. Not ideal, but it might help you a little.

  10. Michael, I know your comment goes back to January, but perhaps my comment will help someone else searching for chairs for short people. Have you looked at Herman Miller Embody or the Mirra with the adjustable seat? They both can be shortened up quite a bit. The mirra seat sort of drops down out of the way and the Embody sort of rolls in and out (it’s fixed at the back, but you pull or push on the front of it, not sure how to explain it). I’m 5′ and I find the Embody to be a little short on leg support fully extended. It’s quite pricey, but look for used ones. I scored one at a used office furniture place for $300.

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