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Introduction to Steelcase ergonomic chairs

Founded in 1912, Steelcase is the largest office furniture company in the world. The company earns billions every year producing furniture for office, education, and retail industries. This article reviews the best ergonomic office chairs in the Steelcase product line. Although designed for enterprise use, there are a few enticing options for work-from-home power users.

Review oif Steelcase ergonomic office chairs
Steelcase is the largest enterprise office furniture company in the world. (L-R: Amia, Gesture, Leap)

In 2019, Steelcase ranked as the world’s largest office furniture company, with $3.4 billion in sales. Second-ranked Herman Miller generated $2.4 billion in sales, while #3-ranked Haworth generated $2 billion.

All top office chair companies focus on B2B sales. Large enterprises, education institutions, and government offices are the primary clients. Enterprise clients generate around 64% of all industry sales.

When the pandemic struck, office leasing space plummeted. As a result, so did enterprise demand for high-end office chairs. In response, Steelcase deployed “design thinking” to find creative solutions for changing workplace dynamics. “How might the office be improved to better include those who work from home? How can the time you spend in your workplace be the safest part of your day?”

Steelcase global headquarters
The Steelcase head office in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

That shift in strategy shows early promise. In 2020, despite the global lockdown, Steelcase reported $3.7 billion in revenue, its highest total since 2001.

Steelcase work-from-home chairs
L-R: Gesture, Leap, and Amia chairs.

Moving forward, Steelcase looks primed to continue its reign as the office chair industry leader. At the heart of its chair collection are $1000+ Gesture and Leap chairs. Both are full-featured ergonomic masterpieces with stunning build qualities and superb seated posture support. Under the $1000, Steelcase offers a range of cheaper models with slightly less intricate features.

Steelcase ergonomic chair overview

For both the work-from-home and shared office crowd, Steelcase offers two high-end chair models. Those are the flagship Leap and Gesture chairs. Both cost over $1000 and come with synchro-tilt, a premium ergonomic chair feature. That angles the seat in proportion with the backrest as the user reclines. It’s a powerful way to switch up muscles and keep the body active while sitting.

Steelcase holiday sales
All Steelcase chairs are now on sale for 15% off from SmartFurniture.

At the lower end of the scale, Steelcase chairs come with a static seat instead of a dynamic synchro-tilt.

Steelcase ergonomic philosophy

Prior to the release of the Gesture chair in 2013, Steelcase conducted a global posture study. It polled 2,000 office workers from 11 different countries at a time when smartphones were emerging.

Unhealthy postures throughout a workday
The study found that excessive screen-based sedentary time encouraged unhealthy sitting habits.

The study found that emerging tech had an erratic influence on users. Instead of focusing on one screen and keyboard, screens and interfaces were multiplying. People were adapting by adopting a wider range of unhealthy postures.

“All day long we move between devices and tasks. We change our focus, shift our bodies, and search for comfort and support in the task of the moment.”

The study found that excessive screen-based sedentary time encouraged unhealthy sitting habits. To address these issues, Steelcase adopted these points into its design philosophy:

  1. Stable core: posture support stabilizes the lower back and allows a broad range of motion.
  2. Seated movement: chairs should encourage fluid movement and dynamic motion while the user is sitting.
  3. User-friendly: an intuitive user interface makes chairs easy to operate.

How to buy Steelcase chairs

As a B2B provider, Steelcase doesn’t sell chairs directly to consumers. Instead, they rely on third-party suppliers. For high-end ergonomic models, ChairsFX offers options from SmartFurniture.

Based in Chattanooga, TN, SmartFurniture offers free shipping throughout the United States. The company also offers a lowest-price guarantee on all Steelcase chairs. That means SmartFurniture Steelcase prices are the lowest allowed by the manufacturer.

SmartFurniture Office furniture supplier
The SmartFurniture customer service team outside the company’s Chattanooga showroom.

Beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, SmartFurniture also offers a 45-day money-back-guarantee on all orders under $2000. Orders over $2000 also qualify for a full refund, minus a small processing free.

Smartfurniture shopping experience
Choose from all available colors and upgrades before you buy.

Another thing we like about SmartFurniture is that all chairs are fully configurable online. It’s easy to choose specific features, colors and sizes with a few clicks.

All Steelcase chairs from SmartFurniture

Reviews: Steelcase ergonomic chairs

Below we review the two flagship Steelcase chairs, plus two cheaper variants. The flagship chairs come with synchro-tilt. That moves the seat in proportion to the backrest as the user reclines. The cheaper models have fixed seats and more basic adjustable features.

Leap

Price: $880.60 $1036 (15% off)

Three years after the Herman Miller Aeron debuted in 1996, Steelcase released the Leap chair in 1999. This model made a splash with two standout features. The first is a 3D Live Back. That changes the shape of the backrest to support the entire spine.

Steelcase Leap ergonomic office chairs
Leap chairs come with a headrest addon for an extra $135.15.

For instance, in regular chairs, when the user leans back, a gap appears between the lumbar curve and the chair. To compensate, most users will flatten their lumbar curve so that it continues to get support from the backrest.

Posture problems in conventional chairs
Normal chairs fail to support the lower back when the user reclines.

To avoid that, the 3D Live Back flexes to provide consistent support throughout the recline range. With consistent support, the lumbar curve remains intact, ensuring good posture with proper hip alignment.

Steelcase 3D Live Back support feature
The Leap chair’s Live Back system provides consistent support for the hips and lower back.

The second standout feature is an innovative synchro-tilt feature. As the user leans back, the seat tilts by one degree and also angles forward. That ensures the hips remain in a healthy alignment, with the thighs consistently parallel to the floor.

Leap chair synchro-tilt feature
The Leap chair’s seat moves forward as the user leans back.

As the user leans forward, the seat contracts. That pulls the hips to the back of the chair for closer contact with the Live Back support. The result is that the user can enjoy plenty of movement while sitting.

Summary of features

Complementing the Live Back and synchro-tilt are several robust extras. Those include adjustable lumbar support, 4D armrests and a 5-position tilt-lock.

Steelcase Leap adjustable lumbar support
This model includes a height-adjustable lumbar support.

Summary of features:

  • Synchro-tilt: seat pan angle 1°; backrest 98° to 125°; 3-inch forward seat slide.
  • Seat: height and depth adjustments.
  • Armrests: 4D adjustable (7-11″ height range; 12.75-20″ width range)
  • Functionality: 3-position seat and backrest tilt lock; 4D armrests with a huge adjustment range.
  • Back support: 3D LiveBack (changes shape to mimic the natural motion of the spine).
  • Back support: height and depth-adjustable lumbar; 5-position tilt-lock recline.
  • Warranty: 12 years on parts, lifetime on the frame.

Sizing

The Steelcase Leap is a one-size-fits-all chair that caters to most body types. It has a flat seat with plenty of width between the armrests. The result is a fit wide enough to accommodate extra-large users with wide hips or thick legs.

  • Seat width x depth: 19.25″ (W) x 15.75-18.75″ (D)
  • Backrest width x height: 18″ (W), 25″ (H)
  • Seat height: 16-20.5″
  • Arms: 7-11″ height range; 12.75-20″ width range.
  • Size rating: 5’4″ to 6’2″ tall; up to 400 pounds

If you choose the headrest addon, it has a 4-inch height adjustment range. That provides plenty of room to adjust it to most user sizes. Toggle until it fits in the nape of your neck, then lock into place.

Upholstery options

Steelcase Leap upholstery options
L-R: Buzz 2 and Cogent Connect (fabric); Leather and Elmosoft Leather.

All Steelcase chairs have four upholstery options. Buzz 2 is the default option, while others cost extra. Here is a breakdown of the Leap color and upholstery options:

  1. Buzz 2: tightly-knit polyester fabric with a coarse finish. Choose from 26 variations.
  2. Cogent Connect: softer fabric in an array of fun, bright colors. 18 variations all cost $18 extra.
  3. Leather: genuine leather in a few dark color options. 4 variations all cost $470 extra.
  4. Elmosoft leather: a softer leather in dark colors with distressed patterns. 31 variations all cost $544 extra.

Steelcase Leap advice

The Steelcase Leap looks, feels, and operates like a $1000+ chair. The build quality is superb. One of the few high-end chairs to support 400 pounds, it feels rugged and super-solid.

Steelcase Leap chair review

Features are on par with other world-leading chairs. The Leap chair comes with every adjustment imaginable. That makes it easy to fine-tune the fit to your needs.

There are two downsides. The first is the high price. The second is the fixed back. A height-adjustable back would make the Leap a better fit for users taller than 6’1″. Only those shorter will enjoy a perfect fit.

Steelcase Leap from SmartFurniture $880.60 $1036

The Leap chair is now 15% off. The Leap chair with a headrest is also available from SmartFurniture for $1015.75 $1195. All orders include free shipping in the USA.

Gesture

Price: $939.25 $1105 (without headrest)

The Steelcase Gesture provides effective posture support and opportunities to move while sitting. It has a wide range of adjustments to support long periods of PC, tablet, and smartphone work.

Steelcase Gesture ergonomic chair review
The Gesture is the premium Steelcase chair for full-time computer and mobile device users.

While developing the Gesture chair, Steelcase conducted 11 studies with 732 participants. For the Gesture chair, Steelcase went even further. Its global posture study conducted studies on 2,000 people across six continents.

Steelcase gesture synchro-tilt feature
The Steelcase Gesture’s synchro-tilt feature angles the seat up as the user reclines.

The result was a chair with a slightly revised feature set than the Leap. The Gesture chair has three key differences:

  • Refined synchro-tilt: reclines that backrest while tilting the seat up, instead of forward.
  • Flexible seat edge: the entire outer seat rim is flexible. No matter what position you sit in, the edges will flex to support your legs.
  • Articulating arms: provides a wider adjustment range than other chairs. This ensures support for both PC and mobile device users

The 4D armrests have a height range of 7.25-11.5 inches. They also come with a massive width-adjustment range of 10.25-22.5″. These dimensions let you keep the armrests low and out of the way. In contrast, you can raise them to almost mid-chest and swing them closer to your body. That provides clever elbow support when working with a tablet or smartphone for long periods.

Steelcase Gesture 4D armrests
The Gesture’s 4D armrests have a massive adjustment range.

That provides enough room to swing the arms out of the way when you prefer working without support.

Features summary

Steelcase Gesture computing chair
The Gesture comes packed with ergonomic features that are optimized for computer users.

  • Synchro-tilt: seat pan angle 1°; backrest recline from 98° to 116°
  • Seat: height and depth adjustments.
  • Armrests: 4D armrests. Height range 7.25-11.5 inches; width range 10.25-22.5 inches.
  • Back support: adjustable lumbar; adaptive 3D Live Back system; 3-position seat and backrest tilt lock.
  • Warranty: 12 years on parts, lifetime on the frame.

Steelcase Gesture chair headrest accessory
The headrest addon is pricey but worth it if you enjoy having full-body sitting support.

The headrest is optional, depending on your preference. If you’re used to gaming chairs, the headrest will support your neck’s curve in a similar fashion. Without the headrest, the Gesture’s back support works just fine.

Sizing

Steelcase Gesture chair dimensions
The Gesture chair can adjust to fit a wide range of users.

The Steelcase Gesture has a versatile one-size-fits-all design that should cater to a wide range of body types.

  • Seat width x depth: 19.25″ (W) x 15.75 to 18.75″ (D)
  • Backrest height x width: 24″ (H), 16.25″ (W)
  • Floor to seat range: 16-20.5″
  • Chair height: 38.5-43.5″
  • Size rating: people 5’4″ to 6’2″ tall; up to 400 pounds

Advice

Like the Leap, the Gesture chair stands out with a superb build quality. Its 3D Liveback works as well as other adaptive backrests like the Herman Miller Aeron and Embody. Meanwhile, its 4D armrests have a greater range than all of the other high-end chairs.

Steelcase Gesture task chair review
Enjoy a lifetime of perfect working posture with a Gesture chair.

If you can afford a Gesture chair, put it at the top of your list. It can adjust to fit most users and shines in the key areas. First, it provides excellent posture support throughout all recline ranges. Second, the synchro-tilt feature allows for plenty of seated movement. Third, the controls are intuitive and very easy to use.

Gesture from SmartFurniture $939.25 $1105

A fully-loaded Gesture with headrest costs $1088.85 $1,281 on SmartFurniture (15% off).

Think

Price: $683.40 $804 (without headrest)

Steelcase Think ergonomic chairs
Choose the headrest addon for an extra $98.60.

The Think chair first came out in 2004 as the simplest chair in the Steelcase chair collection. In 2013, an upgraded version added a 3D Live Back and a dual-spring lumbar support system. The latest version with a reasonable price and fully-loaded ergonomic features.

Summary of features

Steelcase Think chair features

The Think chair has most of the same features as the more expensive Steelcase chairs. The key missing feature is a variable recline tilt-lock backrest. Instead of that, the Think chair comes with a weight-activated recline. To engage, push back with your head while pushing up with your feet.

  • Live Back: an upgraded dynamic backrest with linked flexors for more reactive support.
  • Dual-energy lumbar: adjustable lumbar support powered by dual springs for greater structural integrity.
  • Adaptive bolstering seat: the foam seat pad is cored in some areas. This allows more compression in certain areas. This improvement lets the foam better adapt to the user’s size and shape.
  • Advanced synchro-tilt: the backrest reclines in sync with the seat at a 2:1 ratio. This allows the user to recline and lean forward with fluid, consistent support.
  • Variable recline modes: switch between four modes. Those are: weight-activated recline; weight-activated with a 20% boost; mid-stop recline; upright back lock.
  • 4D armrests: adjust height, width, pivot, and depth.
  • Seat: height and depth-adjustable with flexible seat edges.
  • Warranty: 12 years on parts, lifetime on the frame.

Think chair sizing

Like other Steelcase chairs, the Think is a one-size-all chair that supports most body types:

  • Seat width & depth: 20.25″ (W) x 15.5 to 18″ (D)
  • Backrest height & width: 24″ (H), 16.25″ (W)
  • Lumbar adjustment range: 6-10.25″
  • Armrests: height range 7-11″; width range 14-21.25″
  • Size rating: 5’4″ to 6’2″ tall; up to 400 pounds

Think chair advice

The fully-loaded Think chair includes optional 4D armrests ($145.35), adjustable lumbar support ($34), and a headrest ($98.60 extra). Both the 4D amrrest and adjustable lumbar support addons are essential. Without those, the Think chair loses a lot of its ergonomic potency.

The height-adjustable headrest depends on your preference. Some people prefer having their neck supported, others prefer having no headrest. Whichever option you choose, expect superb lower back support.

Steelcase Think chair review
Pay extra for the headrest addon or go without, depending on your preference.

Stacked with 3D Live Back and Synchro-tilt, the addons help to deliver high-end results. Expect powerful ergonomic support, amazing durability, and excellent value for money.

Think chair from SmartFurniture $683.40 $804

The Steelcase Think with headrest costs $782 $920 from SmartFurniture. Both models are now on sale for 15% off.

Amia

The Amia chair is one of the most basic in the Steelcase collection. It lacks a synchro-tilt feature, meaning that the seat pan remains fixed as the user reclines. It also lacks the adaptive Live Back system of the other Steelcase chairs. Instead of a flexible, adaptive backrest, the outer back out outer seat are hard plastic. That’s a big loss, which removes the key advantage of high-end Steelcase chairs.

Steelcase Amia chair review
These are simple chairs with adaptive ergonomic support hidden under the upholstery.

To compensate, the Amia chair uses an integrated Live Lumbar hidden under the upholstery. That unit flexes every time the user moves, providing consistent low back support. You can adjust its height, and also its support tension. Stacked on top of that feature is an “Air Liveback Technology”. That basically flexes the plastic shells across two dimensions for (slightly) more personalized support.

Amia chair features

The Amia chair’s ergonomic features are solid but not spectacular. There are two key omissions, compared to pricier Steelcase chairs. First, the Amia has a recline function, but you can’t lock it at angles. Second, the backrest is hard plastic, which gives a much stiffer, less responsive feel than 3D Live Back chairs.

  • Seat: height and depth-adjustable.
  • Synchro-tilt: backrest 100-120 recline range; -3 to 3-degree seat pan angle.
  • Lumbar support: height-adjustable (6.2-10″ range).
  • Recline: 2-stage tilt-limiter lets you sit with a slight or deep recline at varied tensions.
  • Armrests: 4D (height, width, depth, and pivot-adjustable).
  • Warranty: 10-year warranty on parts; lifetime warranty on the frame.

On the plus side, these are durable chairs that provide the ergonomic support that full-time workers need. Instead of luxury, expect a consistently comfortable experience without any stiffness or back pain.

Amia chair sizing

  • Seat: 19.75″(W) x 21.75-24.75″ (D)
  • Backrest: 26.5″ (W) x 25″ (H)
  • Floor to seat range: 16-21″
  • Armrests: 4″ height-adjustment range; 2.25″ width range.
  • Chair height: 37.25″ to 42.5″
  • Size rating: 5’4″ to 6’2″ tall; up to 400 pounds

Amia chair advice

In the high-end ergonomic chair world, the Amia qualifies as a cheap chair. In the gaming chair world, its price could get you the swankiest pro esports gaming chair on the market. From a corporate perspective, Amia chairs are a great option for low-level staff.

Steelcase Amia chair advice
Amia chairs provide intuitive ergonomic controls that help workers to be more productive.

One attraction is that they don’t cost as much as higher-end models. Another is that these chairs work. They will help workers to sit with better posture and more movement. As a result, staff will be more productive.

Amia chair from SmartFurniture $643.45

The Steelcase Amia is now on sale from SmartFurniture for %15 off the list price of $757. Buy now for only $643.45

Jack

Price: $340 $400 (15% off)

Steelcase Jack ergonomic office chair

The Jack chair is a ‘Steelcase Turnstone’ product. Turnstone is a sub-brand of Steelcase that produces cheaper ergonomic chair variations. The Jack offers a build quality comparable to other Steelcase chairs, with stripped-down ergonomic features. Even so, this is a potent ergonomic chair. It has synchro-tilt, 4D armrests, a height-adjustable seat, and a hard-shell backrest with contours to support the lower back’s natural curve.

Features

The Jack chair is a streamlined ergonomic chair with adjustable features that are intuitive and easy to use. You can adjust the height of the backrest and depth of the seat to suit your size. The armrests are also fully 4D-adjustable. This model even comes with a built-in synchro-tilt: when you recline, the seat tilts up.

Steelcase Jack features
You can adjust the height of the backrest, and also lock the backrest at angles.

One limit with previous Jack models was a backrest that could rock, but not lock. The latest version lets you rock with variable tilt-tension, and also lock in variable recline positions. Few ergonomic chairs in this price range offer a variable-recline tilt-lock.

The most telling feature giving this away as the budget chair is the hard shell back. It’s less breathable than mesh back chairs. Even so, the fabric covering does a decent job keeping the back cool over sitting sessions.

Summary of features:

  • Synchro-tilt: built-in 2-1 ratio. When the backrest reclines with a 2-degree tilt, the seat angles up by one degree.
  • Backrest: lock upright or various angles; rocking with tilt-tension; adjustable height.
  • Lumbar support: integrated lumbar (adjust the height of the backrest to customize the fit)
  • Seat: depth-adjustable with a 1.5″ range.
  • Armrests: height, width, depth, and pivot-adjustable.
  • Warranty: 5-year warranty (covered under ‘Turnstone simple seating‘).

Sizing

The Steelcase Jack is an average-sized chair suitable for slim figures. Those with wide hips or thick legs may find the space between the armrests too narrow.

  • Seat width x depth: 18.5″ (W) x 16.25″ to 17.75 (D)
  • Backrest width x height: 17.5″ (W) x 19.5″ to 21.7″ (D)
  • Floor to seat range: 17.25″ to 22″
  • Chair height: 35″ to 43″
  • Size rating: 5’5″ to 6’1″; up to 300 pounds

Buying advice

The Steelcase Jack costs around the same as a high-end pro esports gaming chair. Would you rather buy a high-end gaming chair for $400, or a low-end ergonomic chair? It depends on your needs.

Steelcase Jack review

Gamers will find the Jack chair design underwhelming. However, it’s hard to argue with the build quality, comfort, and ergonomic support that this chair provides. As a work-from-home chair, this is a cheap, effective, and durable solution.

Jack chair from SmartFurniture $340

The Steelcase Jack is now on sale from SmartFurniture for %15 off the list price of $400. Buy now for only $340

Steelcase chair alternatives

Steelcase is the largest office chair manufacturer in the world. Based on market numbers alone, its flagship Leap and Gesture chairs would rank #1 and #2 in the world. The company’s bread and butter is B2B sales to corporations, government offices, and schools.

Herman Miller

The #2 company is Herman Miller. Its iconic Aeron and Embody chairs are among the most popular high-end models in the world.

Herman Miller gaming chair collection
Herman Miller’s collection of ergonomic chairs for gamers.

Recently, Herman Miller unveiled a gaming collection of its flagship chairs. The new models have the same robust features as the originals, with new gamified skins.

Herman Miller chair reviews

Humanscale

Another multi-billion-dollar brand producing high-end chairs is Humanscale. This New York-based company makes chairs that use the laws of physics, instead of complex controls.

Humanscale executive chair reviews
L-R: Humanscale Freedom and Liberty chairs.

The result is a line of weight-sensitive, self-adjusting chairs that provide plenty of chances to move while sitting.

Introduction to Humanscale office chairs

Conclusion

Steelcase chairs make a lot of sense from a corporate buyer’s perspective. CEOs and others in the elite circle would get Gesture chairs. The chief management level below the higher powers would get Leap chairs without headrests. Promising up-and-comers would get Think chairs. Low-level grunts would get Amia chairs. Across the board, the entire team is assured of crisp posture, more energy, and greater productivity while at work.

Steelcase Gesture ergonomic chairs
Steelcase Gesture chairs in a corporate production room setting.

From a work-from-home perspective, two models in this review really shine. At the highest level, the Steelcase Gesture has all the rich features of the world’s best chairs. What makes it stand out is its massive armrest adjustability range. No other high-end models come close. If you spend long periods shifting from PC to mobile devices, this chair is perfect.

Steelcase Gesture and Think chairs
Out of all Steelcase chairs, we find that the Gesture (L) and Think (R) chairs offer the best value for money.

From a budget perspective, the Steelcase Think chair gives you everything the high-end models do, with a much lower price. The key missing feature is the lack of a backrest tilt-lock. That means you can’t lock the backrest at recline angles, but only rock through a fluid range.

Best ergonomic office chairs for your back
ChairsFX reviews the world’s best synchro-tilt task chairs (priced between $450 to $1500).

At the highest levels, the best ergonomic chairs come with synchro-tilt. Several models from Herman Miller and Humanscale are comparable with Steelcase chairs, but are more expensive. Check out Steelcase chairs versus other top brands in our comparison mega-review:

Best high-end ergonomic chairs ($500 to $1500)

Ergonomic office chair holiday discount sales specials

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