Most office chairs are built to accommodate an average frame. If you are petite or short in stature (under 5’3” for women and under 5’8” for men), your so called ergonomic chair could be exacerbating your existing aches and pains – or potentially creating new ones.
In this guide we take a look at all the important ergonomic factors that short people need to focus on when picking an ergonomic chair, followed by a comprehensive list of the best office chairs for short people. All of these chairs are appropriately sized in the key areas that make all the difference for short people, from seat depth, height, to seat pan width.
Please note that we will be using terms such as “short”, “shorter” or “petite” to describe people that are under the statistically average height for men and women. This post will not focus on chairs for little people, or people with dwarfism.
What Does “Ergonomic” Mean?
Simply put, ergonomics refer to the design of products for optimal human use. One of the most important applications of ergonomic design is in the workplace. If you have an office job, you’re likely sitting in your chair all day. If you’re short, you’ve definitely noticed that office chairs are not “one size fits all”. A chair that’s designed with your frame and stature in mind can make all the difference in reducing stress on certain parts of your body while alleviating future medical problems.
Most Important Features to Consider in an Office Chair for Short People
If you’re short or small-framed, your choice of office chair is going to be limited. The one universal consideration to keep in mind when you’re petite is adjustability. Proper ergonomic support will depend on the adjustment of the following:
If a chair’s seat pan is too deep, it can cause circulation problems for short people, as your legs will be dangling off the floor and applying undue pressure to the soft underside of your thighs.
For shorter people, we recommend a seat depth of around 18” or less. It should also be depth adjustable to allow further personalization.
To calculate the ideal seat depth for yourself, in a seated position, measure the distance from the end of your buttock to the end of your inner thighs. There should be 2″ of space between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair. The best seat depth leaves that space at the end of the seat’s edge to prevent cutting off circulation in your thighs.
The seat height of an average office chair is adjustable between 18”-22”. If you’re short, look for a chair that can at least be lowered to 18” or even lower. The good news is, seat height is not nearly as important as seat depth for short people, as you can always just use a footrest if the chair doesn’t go low enough for you.
Proper seat pan height can be calculated by sitting in your chair and calculating the distance from the floor to the backs of your knees. Be sure to take into consideration the thickness of your shoes as this can affect your measurements.
Back Height and Forward Tilt
The backrest should be adjustable to meet your height requirements. Ideally, it should also adjust to tilt forward – this avoids you having to perch precariously on the edge of your seat and adding pressure to your lower back.
Your backrest should adjust to support your lower back. Short people should be able to fully adjust the lumbar support on their chair and make sure it rests properly against the delicate curvature of the spine. Proper lumbar support should keep your lower back from rounding.
Your armrests should not only adjust up, down, front and back, but if you’re petite, also be narrower (adjustable in width) to avoid neck and hand issues. It might seem obvious, but your armrests should also be padded and lie against the fleshy part of your forearms. As a result, they could press against the ulnar nerve in the bony part of your elbow, leading to cubital tunnel syndrome, among other wrist and arm injuries.
With those prerequisites out of the way, the following are the best office chairs for short people that meet most if not all of the criteria laid out.
- Adjustable Height Range (from seat to floor): 14.75-19”
- Seat Width: 25.75″
- Seat Depth: 15¾”
- Seat Depth Adjustable: No
It’s rare that a desk chair is available in three different sizes to accommodate a wider variety of users – including the more diminutive crowd. But then again, we’re talking about the Aeron, the pinnacle of ergonomic and comfortable sitting.
The Aeron is available in sizes A, B and C, with A being the smallest. Size A has a seat height range of 15-19”, which is recommended for someone who measures 4’10-5’9” and weighs between 90-150 lbs. This is a fantastic range for shorter employees in desperate need of ergonomic support. If you’re slightly larger than that, go for Size B instead.
Users are supported through a wide range of motion in this chair, whether reclining or leaning forward. An adjustable seat and backrest provide eight “latitudinal zones” of varying tension to hold you when seated, as well as a tilt limiter with seat angle adjustment. No matter how short you think you are, this chair has literally got your back.
The Aeron also boasts adjustable individual pads in the backrest that can adjust lower for petite sitters and provide lumbar support to your spine while maintaining the natural forward tilt of your pelvis. The result is a firmer and more powerful seating position. One user claimed that these individual pads are a marked improvement over standard lumbar support and provided him with additional comfort in the sacro area.
There are a host of cushy extras on this chair that are beneficial to shorter people. Upholstered foam arm pads are fully adjustable in height, depth and angle – perfect for narrower frames. A mesh chair back means that no matter how low your smaller figure rests, the free air circulation regulates your body temperature.
All of the comfort and top-tier design features do come at a cost. Some might find the price point prohibitive, but this chair is an investment piece, as evidenced by the 12-year manufacturer’s warranty. If you’re petite and looking for holistic comfort backed by years of professional engineering, we think you’ll keep it forever.
- Individual backrest pads for increased lumbar support
- Forward tilt ability
- High tech fabric and mesh with 8 different tension zones
- Available in smaller size (Size A)
- Made of 53% recycled materials
- Seat depth not adjustable
- More expensive than other office chairs
- Adjustable Height Range (from seat to floor): 18.5″ to 21.5”
- Seat Width: 20.5”
- Seat Depth: 18″
- Seat Depth Adjustable: No
If you know the Serta brand, you also know that comfort is their specialty. They understand that work days are long and can be even longer if you’re in a chair that’s too big for your small frame.
That’s why Serta designed the Verona Manager Chair with a 5-layer cushioning system. Layers of foam on individually-wrapped comfort coils keep your body relaxed and improve your posture every time you sit (the seat width measures 20.5”). A recent convert said that she struggled to find an office chair that suited her petite frame. She went on to praise the Serta Verona for it’s full-body support, emphasizing that she has never liked an office chair this much.
The adjustable height range (from seat to floor) measures 18.5” at its lowest point, which not only accommodates shorter people, but still allows the contoured lumbar zone to rest comfortably against your spine. One satisfied customer who maxed out at 4’11” said his feet could touch the ground at the lowest setting – obviously an important feature!
While the seat depth (18”) isn’t adjustable, Serta’s Verona chair meets all requirements from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its subgroup BIFMA. Clearly, the manufacturer understands that workforce seating is not a “one size fits all” arrangement, and has kept all of their shorter clients in mind with this innovative and comfortable design.
- Easy to assemble
- Extra cushioning for back comfort
- Adjustable armrests
- Low seat pan width and depth
- Seat depth isn’t adjustable
- Some customers find the front tilt uncomfortable (though they accept that it’s an ergonomic feature)
- Adjustable Height Range (from seat to floor): 18” to 22”
- Seat Width: 18.7”
- Seat Depth: 16″
- Seat Depth Adjustable: No
With a small, modern profile and low-back, Amazon has created a simple, elegant task chair with fully-adjustable settings for its shorter shoppers.
The height range can adjust as low as 16”, so there should be no issues with your legs dangling off the floor – even without heels! While the seat depth isn’t adjustable, since it’s only 16”, when partnered with a narrower seat width (18.7”), really helps encourage proper posture in petite frames. Recently, one client said that this was a great chair for proper posture and definitely well-suited for smaller frames.
This chair offers a full range of motion with 360-degree swivel capabilities. When paired with durable casters and lower seat height (so your feet can actually touch the floor), it encourages multitasking and smooth mobility from one work area to another. While some customers mentioned that the seat doesn’t have enough padding for longer “sits”, a short person looking for simple-straightforward comfort to complete basic tasks will find that this chair has them covered.
- Low 16″ seat depth and height setting
- Easy to assemble
- No armrests
- Seat padding is thin and will eventually flatten out
- Adjustable Height Range (from seat to floor): 16″ – 21″
- Seat Width: 19.25″
- Seat Depth: 15.5 – 18.5″
- Seat Depth Adjustable: Yes
If there was a perfect chair for short people out of the box, the Steelcase Amia might just be it. From the chair’s ultra robust lumbar support, versatile range of height adjustments, to seat pan width and depth that are tailor made for shorter people, this is the chair to get if money is no object.
The hallmark of the Amia chair is theLiveLumbar™ mechanism in the chair’s backrest. What does this mean for their petite following? It means this is a chair that contours to your specific frame, with adjustable seat depth (15.5-18.5”) and a flexible seat edge, which relieves pressure on the back of shorter legs when you recline or sit forward. The seat width is narrower than other chairs (19.25”) and won’t cause circulation issues if you’re shorter.
One client said that “vertically challenged” people like her would really benefit from this model. As a result of using the Amia, she no longer has a nagging backache at the end of her day.
The height range goes down to 16” at its lowest point, which is perfect for smaller frames, and pairs nicely with the adjustable and flexible backrest system. Both allow for continuous lower back support regardless of your day-to-day movement.
Steelcase has also incorporated 4-way adjustable armrests: side-to-side, up and down, back and forth and side pivoting. This amount of customizable adjustment gives people who are more petite full control over the width and height of their arm support.
While the Amia is priced at the higher end of most task chairs, the Amia’s design and functionality will serve the needs of its shorter consumers for years to come.
- Livelumbar technology, perfect seat height and dimensions for shorter people
- Armrests adjust 4 ways for full comfort and even weight distribution on shorter frames
- Weight tested and can hold up to 300 lbs.
- Offers a 10-year warranty
- More expensive than other task chairs on the market
- Adjustable Height Range (from seat to floor): 20” to 28”
- Seat Width: 18”
- Seat Depth: 16”
- Seat Depth Adjustable: No
As a drafting chair, the Modway is great for standing desks without compromising on ergonomic safety and lumbar support for short people. As a satisfied client recently stated, while he currently has a standing desk, sometimes he just wants to sit. The Modway allows him to do both with the high level of height adjustments.
A tall gas cylinder offers hydraulic lift to adjust the height range between 20-28” from seat to floor. While that seems insurmountable for a petite person, there’s an adjustable foot ring to keep you stable and ensure proper posture.
Five dual-wheel casters and full 360° swivel means you can multitask and transfer between multiple work surfaces with minimal effort. While the 16” seat depth isn’t adjustable, the generous width (18”) and dense padding properly contains a smaller frame, ensuring you won’t suffer any circulation issues in the thighs. A customer commented that the hydraulic lift is easy to adjust and he really enjoys the support offered by the minimalist back design.
Normally, we wouldn’t recommend a drafting chair in a list of office chairs for short people. However, many petite people use drafting tables, standing desks and work in studio spaces, so a drafting chair becomes necessary. In this light, the Modway drafting chair provides simple, ergonomic comfort and support, no ladder required.
- Breathable mesh back with lumbar
- Large height range makes it perfect for standing and regular desks alike
- Height adjustable foot ring
- Not recommended for all day sitting.
- Adjustable Height Range (from seat to floor): 15.7” to 18.7”
- Seat Width: 18.5”
- Seat Depth: 18.5”
- Seat Depth Adjustable: Yes
Sidiz estimates that 1 T50 chair is sold every 1.3 minutes. A fan favourite of IBM, the T50 offers full ergonomic design, fully-adjustable features that benefit people with smaller frames, and great value for the money. In fact, the Sidiz made our list of one of the best Aeron Chair alternatives.
One owner of the T50 took a chance on this model and remarked over it’s high-end quality construction. His favorite feature is the adjustable lumbar support, which he customizes to alleviate an existing back problem.
The high back and adjustable height range (15.7” at the lowest setting from seat to floor), combined with an elegant S-shaped backrest keeps your spine in perfect s-formation. For petite people, this design feature prevents back pain and encourages proper lumbar distribution.
Multi-tilt adjustment on the seat depth means that smaller people don’t perch on the edge of the seat pan. The seat slide and slope are also customizable so that a short person’s hips are properly aligned with their knees.
Some customers aren’t a huge fan of the memory foam seat pan, and are perhaps looking for more cushioning support. While simplistic in its design, the T50 has considered every aspect of human seating and comfort. Described as “the chair that changed chairs”, the T50 passes all BIFMA standards and will likely exceed yours as well.
- Compares nicely with the Aeron chair at a fraction of the cost
- 3-way adjustable arms (up/down, left/right, in/out)
- Adjustable seat depth and forward tilting
- Breathable mesh back
- Some users report a clicking sound in the mechanism under the chair
- Memory foam seat gets dirty easier than mesh
As a short person, you have additional comfort issues to contend with when selecting an office chair. Remember, you’ll possibly be using your chair for more than 8 hours, so it’s important to know not only the seating measurements, but your own as well.
Thankfully, the companies we’ve listed have all recognized the importance of avoiding an “average” chair suited for the masses. While it takes an extra bit of research, finding a chair with the right support features and sturdy framework for your petite frame can carry you through the professional work day and beyond in style and comfort.