We recently brought in 10 of the most popular kneeling chairs so that we could compare and rank them. After spending enough time with a lot of different chairs we began to see how the chairs differed from one another and what made the top chairs stand out from the crowd. While there are a lot of positive aspects with a kneeling chair, we also found that there are quite a few problems. During our testing, there were things that we found to be annoying and others that we felt may be potential deal breakers. Oftentimes manufacturers and retailers shy away from showing the problems with a product and instead they just focus on the positives. It is important that we highlight the downsides with a product so that you don’t get something that doesn’t meet your needs. That can result in a bad experience for both sides.
The following is a list of problems that we found when using different kneeling chairs over the course of the past few months. After each problem, I will try to offer some solutions and/or product alternatives that may be better options for that problem.
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After 6 months of testing 10+ kneeling chairs the results are in!
1. Poor range of motion
One of the biggest misconceptions I have seen with kneeling chairs is that they allow for more movement while you work. This is simply not the case. Most kneeling chairs allow for little to no body movement while you are sitting in the chair. I consider this to be the biggest problem with the kneeling chair category as a whole. I found that there are three types of kneeling chairs: sled based, 5-star base and x base. Only the sled-based models allow for a good range of motion, yet the market is flooded with x base and 5-star base models. The x base and 5-star base options lock you in position and offer almost no opportunity to move. The frames are too rigid to allow for any flexibility, so you can’t do much more than wiggle your feet.
If you are looking for a kneeling chair that will allow you to be more active while you work, then you will want to avoid models that feature an x base or 5-star base. The sled-based designs will offer a better range of motion than the other categories. They allow for a front to back rocking motion that keeps you more active and gives you the option to change your working position. I would specifically recommend the Variable Balans® from the sled-based options. Not only can you rock front to back, but the beech plywood used for the frame is very flexible and allows for an even larger range of motion.
2. Low build quality
Only 2 of the 10 products we tested featured good parts and quality craftsmanship. Most of the kneeling chairs that we tested were low quality products that were imported from China. When you have low-end parts and a lack of quality control, it is really tough to produce a good product. Some of the things I noticed on these low-end models were crooked frames and inconsistent paint finishes. Many of them had wheels but often times didn’t function correctly due to a poor frame design or because the wheels themselves didn’t roll properly. Cheap kneeling chairs also have poor quality padding and fabric that is not built to last. It is common to see very basic adjustment systems. Something like manually turning a hand screw to increase or decrease the seat height is found on many of these models.
Cheap kneeling chairs won’t be as comfortable as higher-end products, but another concern is the longevity of the products. Many of these models are sold for less than $100 and some have short warranties. It is not practical to have high expectations out of a product with such a low price. Models like this will often need to be replaced after a year or two of use.
If you are ok with replacing your chair every year or two, then a low-end kneeling chair may work for you. The replacement cost is low enough on the cheapest models that you could end up saving money in the long run going that route over getting a high-end product. If you are the type of person that prefers to get a higher-end product to start, with plans for it to last many years, then I would highly recommend the kneeling chairs by Varier. They offer a few different models, but I specifically like the Variable Balans®, mentioned above, and the Thatsit™ Balans®. They both have good quality parts and a strong warranty.
3. Not good option for big and tall people
Kneeling chairs are not the best option out there for big people. Out of the 10 chairs we brought in and tested, none of them had a weight rating that exceeded 250 lbs. The seats are also pretty small across the board for this category. There are only a couple options that have seats that are the same size as a standard office chair and no options that offer wide seats.
Tall people may want to look for a different type of chair. Many of the chairs we tested had seat height adjustment, but this didn’t always help with the distance between the seat and the knee pads. Tall people may feel like they are squeezing into the knee pads. We have a couple people here that are around 6’2”-6’3” and they did not fit comfortably in all the models we tested.
Unfortunately, I do not have a solution or product recommendation that is a kneeling chair. If you are big and/or tall and you are looking for a more active style of sitting, then you may want to look into a standing chair. Some of the options we’ve tested are rated for 300 lbs. and have huge seat height ranges. Products from the Focal Upright line or the Sitmatic Pogo may be products worth considering.
4. Poor shin/knee comfort
We tested several different styles of knee pads and we found quite a few issues that can arise from different knee pad designs. The padding and fabric are large factors in determining the comfort of your shins. Chairs like the Sleekform and Dragon chose to go with really thick padding. I found this to be comfortable for short periods, but the padding would eventually start to bottom out. The padding would begin to surround my legs which made them uncomfortably warm. On the flip side, chairs like the 1420 had such little padding that they had no chance of being comfortable from the beginning. The fabric is another factor that will affect your comfort. Products like the Flash WL-SB-101-GG have coarse fabric that is uncomfortable to the touch while the Sleekform and Dragonn have soft, smooth vinyl.
I found that the placement of the knee pads was crucial for my comfort. You do not want to have your knees pressed on the pad. You also do not want your knees raised up. You want your shins to be even across the pad without your knees making contact. Since most kneeling chairs do not have any flexibility with the knee pads, this may be a problem for some people. Along with having proper shin positioning, you want to make sure you go with a model that does not feel like your legs are falling off to the sides. There were a few models, like the Jobri Jazzy, that made me feel like my legs were falling off the sides.
If you like thick padding, then I would recommend the Office Star KCW773. It has thick, high-density foam and received a higher overall score during our testing than the Sleekform and Dragonn. The most comfortable knee pads we tested were on the two Varier chairs we discussed earlier, the Variable Balans® and Thatsit™ Balans®. The padding is not overly thick, but it holds its position well enough to stay comfortable for a few hours at a time. The flexible wood base also helps to put your shins in proper alignment. The Thatsit™ Balans® has the added bonus of adjustable height knee pads. Changing the height will also change the angle slightly.
5. Bad sitting mobility
Some of the kneeling chairs that we used were lacking in the sitting mobility department. This is going to be true for all sled-based models. Since they do not have wheels, they are not very easy to maneuver around your desk while you are sitting in them. There are also models with wheels that do not move easily. We mentioned earlier that we tested some chairs with poor build qualities that featured casters that didn’t function properly. Those models were even more difficult to move than the sled-based models at times.
Being able to easily move your chair while seated is important for a couple reasons. The first is to give you quick access to items that would normally be out of your reach. Wheels allow you to roll over to another section of your desk with very little effort. The second reason good mobility can be helpful is when you are getting into your typing position. Being able to move very small distances in any direction makes setting up at your keyboard easier. This is a much tougher task without wheels.
The kneeling chairs with the best seated mobility are the chairs that feature a 5-star base. A 5-star base is what you find on most normal office chairs. There are 5 spokes with a caster wheel on the end of each spoke. If your biggest concern is sitting mobility, then I would check out the Jobri Jazzy and the Office Star KCM1425. The Jazzy is the better quality product between the two but the KCM1425 is less than 1/3 of the price of the Jazzy.
6. Little adjustability
Knee chairs lack adjustability overall. Some models will have a couple of adjustments but nothing like you would see on an ergonomic task chair or even many executive chairs. The lack of a backrest and armrests on most models are big reasons for this. The adjustments on these two additions will usually encompass about half of the adjustments on an entire chair. If you are the type of person that needs a ton of adjustability to customize your sitting experience, then a kneeling chair probably isn’t for you.
The two kneeling chairs that I tested with the most adjustability are the Jobri Jazzy and the Thatsit™ Balans®. Each model features a height and depth adjustable backrest. The Jazzy also has pneumatic seat height adjustment and 360° seat swivel. The Thatsit™ Balans® has knee pad height adjustment, on top of the backrest height and depth adjustment. If you need more adjustability, then I would recommend looking into the traditional ergonomic office chair category. There are chairs, like the 100MC, that provide great lumbar support and good adjustability for around $200.
7. Uncomfortable seats
The final problem I found with the kneeling chair category is that the seats were not that comfortable. The seats are smaller than the seats you’d find on a typical office chair. They also often times have a non-standard shape. The most common one I saw was a c shape that faced toward the direction you were sitting. The shapes can be a bit awkward compared to a rectangle, found on a typical office chair. The padding was the last reason why I wasn’t a huge fan of the seats. The padding was almost always thin or overly thick. The thin padding provided little support. The overly thick foam was not good quality, so it slowly sank down over time. This made these seats warmer than the others, a bit like the knee padding discussed above.
The most comfortable seats I tested were on the two Varier chairs that I have recommended multiple times already. They had rectangle shaped seats that had good quality padding. The seats were still not as large or padded as good ergonomic chairs, but they were still the most comfortable kneeling chair seats I used.
Sharing all these problems with you may seem like I am anti kneeling chair. That is not the case. I am a fan of kneeling chairs. I have mixed one into my sitting rotation since I finished testing all the different models we brought in. With that being said, I think that there are several potential problems with a kneeling chair. I think that this is a niche product that is not meant for the masses. When in the right situation, I think a kneeling chair can be a fantastic tool to give you a new way to sit. But, if any of the problems on this list are red flags, then you may want to consider other options.
Something you will notice is that I recommended the Thatsit™ Balans® and Variable Balans® quite a bit. This is because I found them to be in a class of their own in the kneeling chair category. They performed so much better than all the other chairs I tested, that I would highly recommend looking into one of those two models if you are looking for a kneeling chair that will have the shortest list of potential problems.