The Best Office Chair for Shorter People

I’m only 5’1″. Sometimes that means things don’t fit me or work for me the way they’re supposed to. (My husband is about 6’1″ and has similar problems but for the opposite reason.)

Finding an office chair that would work for me has been a long process and it can be overwhelming with so many traditional and alternative options available, especially when you can’t try them yourself. But a chair that works for your body is one of the most important components of a comfortable work station, so it’s worth investing some time and money to find the right one.

I’ve been working from home full time since 2018 and have gone through several chairs in that time. I tried to find one that would work for my height and hopefully alleviate the sciatica and leg discomfort I have with most chairs.

I wanted to share my experience with all the chairs I tried to hopefully help someone out there. So these are the chairs I’ve tried that didn’t work for me (but might work for you), plus the chair I’m currently using.

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  1. CLATINA Ergonomic Executive Chair
  2. Soul Seat
  3. Capisco Chair by HÅG
  4. Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair
  5. In closing

CLATINA Ergonomic Executive Chair

I’m currently using the CLATINA Ergonomic Executive Chair, also called Mellet. I found this chair when I watched This Chair is 80% Less Money Than a Steelcase Leap video. In this video, the host talks about how it’s a solid copycat of the Steelcase Leap chair and has many of the great features on the Leap at a fraction of the cost.

When I researched the chair myself, I saw several reviews mentioned how great the chair is for people who are short, and I was sold. I considered getting the CLATINA Ergonomic Executive Chair with Adjustable Head Rest, but the reviews for that chair complained that the head rest didn’t go low enough for them and wouldn’t be suitable for a shorter person.

This chair was super easy to put together, and you only need the included Allen wrench to attach the back. Assembly tip: When you slide the back onto the seat, and it won’t line up all the way. You have to screw it in to get it to line up.

The seat cushion is firm, but comfortable. As always with foam seats, I have concerns that it will flatten out after a short period. I was planning to add a seat cushion to revitalize the seat if needed, but I have read that it’s better not to add a seat cushion to an ergonomic chair because that could change the ergonomics of the chair. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

The arm rests feel cheap and don’t have very much padding; that is, it’s not nothing, but it’s not enough. I bought these arm rest pads to add since I tend to lean on my elbows. They helped a lot, though I’m not sure how long they’ll last. The arm rests can be adjusted up/down, forward/backward, and angled in or out, which is super handy for finding the best support for how you work. The button to adjust the arm rests up and down is in the exact spot where I naturally grab them to move the chair, so I accidentally press the button when I’m pulling the chair closer to my desk. Also, the arm rests don’t need much force to adjust them, so I find myself accidentally adjusting them when I lean over to reach something. I’ve gotten into the habit of checking that they’re in the right spot (all the way towards me) before settling in.

Like many other reviewers, I found the lumbar support uncomfortable, but it was easy enough to remove.

I’ve never had a chair that could be adjusted so much. It’s awesome!

But it is an inexpensive chair, and that shows. For example, the only metal part of the chair is the piston that attaches the seat base to the legs. I didn’t expect a premium product for a fraction of the price, but it’s something to note if you prefer high quality materials or want to avoid plastic.

Also, I don’t like that the arm rests are black while the rest of it is gray, but that may have been by design since that’s how the Steelcase Leap chair is styled. I was skeptical of the gray when I bought it, and when it arrived, I didn’t love it. But I also didn’t dislike it enough to go through the hassle of exchanging it for the black one. If I were to re-order in the future for some reason, I would opt for the black one even though I prefer lighter colors for my work station. On the other hand, compromising on the color is a small price to pay for a comfortable chair that will support me through a full day of work.

Summary

This chair made me realize just how uncomfortable my previous chair was after using it for just a few hours. I’ve only been using the seat part time since it arrived 6 days ago, but so far, this is a solid chair, especially for someone who is on the shorter side. In fact, my 6’1″ husband sat in it and it seems too small for him, even after adjusting it to his height, so that’s something to consider if you’re on the taller side.

It’s too soon to tell if the chair will stand the test of time, but I’ll post an update in a few months.

This chair could work for you if you want an inexpensive, comfortable chair that allows you to sit in an upright position with some reclining options.

If you prefer to have more options when you sit at your desk, keep reading!

Soul Seat

soul-seat-squat-alternative-chair-office-desk
Photo of someone sitting on a Soul Seat by Soul Seat

When I first saw the Soul Seat, I couldn’t stop thinking about sitting in those positions while I worked and how much more comfortable I’d be in a chair designed to sit in the positions I choose naturally rather than uncomfortably fidgeting in a normal office chair.

The chair is well made, but it doesn’t have a ton of padding on either platform. It takes some time to get used to, and you’ll need to take breaks. The company recommends alternating the Soul Seat with another chair until your body gets accustomed to it. I got a little sore in my sits bones from it, like riding a bike for too long when you’re ot use.

If I wanted to sit normally in an upright position for a little while, I couldn’t do that comfortably. I tried by sitting on the bottom platform, but it had very little padding and the top platform dug into my back uncomfortably.

I was so excited about being able to sit how I sit on the floor, but unfortunately, I used the Soul Seat for about 6 weeks, and my knees started complaining. I really liked the chair and wanted to use it, but I was also sitting in these positions at my Japanese-inspired floor desk setup for several hours after work, and that seemed to be too hard on my knees.

I was sad to return the chair, but customer service was excellent, and I had no issues getting a refund. I still recommend the chair because I would have kept it if my body could handle it.

Summary

The Soul Seat was thoughtfully designed and a lovely chair. It is a great concept, but it didn’t work for me for reasons that were no fault of the chair. The company has great customer support and a solid return policy if you want to try it.

If you like to sit with your legs folded, tucked under you, or basically want to bring the floor to you while you’re working, this chair could work for you.

Capisco Chair by HÅG

I’ve used the Capisco chair for my full-time job from September 2020 to June 2022. Its unusual shape and features allow the user to sit in multiple different positions, like sideways and backwards. If you haven’t already, check out Fully’s video showing how people use their Capisco.

I thought I needed the foot ring to make it more comfortable since I am 5’1″, but I should have known better since I don’t like sitting at bar stools. I bought the shorter 150mm lift and have the chair low to the ground like a normal chair. It’s more comfortable than sitting at stool height, but I definitely stand less than I did when it was at standing height.

The chair is great quality and comfortable. The entire base is metal, the fabric feels nice, and as an added bonus, I found that hooking both of my arms behind the chair’s back provides a great chest-opening stretch!

I also really appreciated the foot rests above each of the wheels. Although they could be uncomfortable to use when barefoot, I definitely set my feet there all the time, and I miss these foot rests on my new chair.

After less than 2 years with the Capisco, I ended up on the search yet again for a new chair for 2 main reasons.

First, the seat foam flattened out and became uncomfortable. I’m disappointed that the foam in such an expensive chair lasted less than 2 years. And because of the unusual saddle shape of the seat, I couldn’t simply slap my favorite seat cushion on it and call it a day.

I would have reached out to the company to check if the warranty covered a replacement if the flattened foam was the only concern; alas, it wasn’t.

Second, my theory is that this just wasn’t the right chair for my sitting style. The Capisco is meant for people who shift and move around. I don’t. I basically stay in one position most of the day. I know that’s not ideal and it’s better for your body to be a little more active, even if you’re still seated, but I get too absorbed in my work and don’t remember to move until I need more water or a break.

The Capisco forces you to switch positions every few minutes, and that’s why it didn’t work for me as a chair to sit on for several hours straight in the same position. The saddle shape was great sometimes, but if I just wanted to sit normally, I couldn’t close my legs. They naturally fell to the sides of the middle part of the seat, and that ended up being uncomfortable on my hips for long periods of time.

The default for the chair is also stool height, so it seems you’re supposed to spend as much time off the chair as on it.

When I finally gave up on making this chair work for me, my husband tested the chair for himself. The short lift is probably not ideal for him, but he observed that the chair really doesn’t want you to sit still.

Summary

The Capisco Chair is a well-made chair, the customer service was excellent, but it didn’t work for my working and sitting style.

If you like to shift around and change positions a lot when you work, this could be a great chair for you.

Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair

The Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair was my work companion for I used this chair for almost exactly 2 years. I was excited about it because I have sciatica, and I thought the soft surface would ease the pain.

I also imagined I would use the yoga ball for exercise and stretching when I needed a break from work (spoiler alert: I didn’t).

I actually really liked this chair. It definitely helped with my sciatica, but I eventually had to find a new chair for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s hard to adjust the height of the chair. You can remove the casters, but that makes moving the chair a pain, or you can deflate the ball a bit, but it feels unstable if the ball isn’t fully inflated. Even though I bought the smaller ball, the height was not ideal for me and I couldn’t comfortably reach the floor when I sat on this chair. I solved this by using a foot rest, which would have worked, except that I couldn’t comfortably keep my legs together to keep my feet on the foot rest (see below).

Second, the ball was pretty unreliable. My first ball had to be re-inflated every single day, so I emailed Gaiam and they sent me a replacement ball. They sent me a new ball in the color of my choice (orange), and it worked much better. I only had to pump air into it every few weeks for over a year. But eventually, the new ball sprung another leak, and I was out of warranty this time. I wasn’t able to find the hole to patch it, and it was just generally a pain.

It was tough to get the ball to the correct fullness and keep it there. When I was having to pump the ball up every day, it was not possible to keep it a consistent fullness. I tried to count the number of pumps I used to fill it, but the ball would lose some amount of air every time I opened it or removed the pump, which I couldn’t account for.

Third, this chair doesn’t have much to lean back on. If you like to lean back while you think or work, this may not be the chair for you.

Finally, the ball would not allow me to comfortably keep my legs together. I had to actively close my legs to sit with them together, so I would more often sit with them open. This eventually caused a problem with my hips, and I couldn’t reach the foot rest with both feet, which was a problem since I also couldn’t reach the floor comfortably.

Though I didn’t have an issue with it, another thing to note is that a lot of people in the reviews complained about their chair breaking where the metal wire (that holds the ball) connects to the base. I solved this issue by simply not using the metal wire, but I don’t know if that wire is there for safety, so I wouldn’t recommend doing this without checking with Gaiam about safety.

Gaiam has released a newer version of the chair called the Gaiam Ultimate Balance Ball Chair, but I haven’t tried it. A few reviewers said the chair broke while they were in it. That’s a huge hazard, so I wouldn’t try the chair myself.

Summary

This is a comfortable chair, but only if you’re taller than me (5’1″). It’s entirely plastic, and the ball is easily replaced if you need to, but overall, it needed too much maintenance to be worth it.

In closing

Like all ergonomic equipment, which chair works for you is very personal depending on your body, how you sit, how long you work, your budget, and many other factors.

If you’re setting up or making changes to make your work space or home office more comfortable and efficient, check out 10 Essentials For a Great Work-From-Home Day and The Ultimate Home Office Setup for Short People too.


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