You bought yourself a great standing desk, but now you have a problem. After standing for a while, you don’t want to sit down again, but you don’t want to remain in the standing position either.
You want to perch. You want to be in a position between standing and sitting. Have you considered the benefits of a standing desk chair or a stool?
You’ll find a few different product types in this category, and I’ll review them all here.
They promise to keep your spine more mobile throughout your day while preventing the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Let’s see how they fare.
Type: Balance Stool.
Cheap, cheerful and very effective at encouraging movement. Desky calls this smart-looking balance stool a “wobble stool”.
Compared with the Ariel stool (below), it’s quite stable thanks to its weighted base and the modestly sized flat contact patch.
You can use this balance stool for sitting or for perching. When you’re ready to stand again, it’s small enough to shove it underneath your desk.
Assembly is easy, with just three pieces clicking into place. I also like the smart, minimalist aesthetic, adjustable height (between 63 and 88 cm) and the built-in footrest.
The price is usually just under $200, but you can often find it on sale.
Type: Active Stool.
This drafting stool is the best option if you have a larger home office. Unlike the Desky (above) and the Ariel (below), it features a wheeled base that allows you to cover distance quickly.
This is particularly handy if you have corner desk setups.
The castors have a weight-activated lock, preventing the stool from sliding around unnecessarily.
Endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association, it features a moulded foam seat base that will keep your butt comfortable for longer time periods.
Think of the Desky as a stool you sit on for 1-2 hours, while the UpDown will keep you going for 2-3 hours.
A circular footrest is also a nice touch.
3. Ariel Stool.
Type: Balance Stool.
Touted as the ultimate active sitting stool, Ariel is very impressive.
Featuring a unique omnidirectional tilting mechanism created by retired surgeon Turner Osler, it allows you to tilt and spin in any direction. The stool itself, meanwhile, remains firmly planted on the ground.
The sitting experience is very different to the one you get with Desky and UpDown.
Because Ariel’s pivot point is closer to your body than the ground, it’s more unstable than the two stools I’ve mentioned above. It’s a true active stool that makes you engage your abdominal muscles to stay upright.
The Ariel will set you back between about $500 and $650 Aussie dollars, depending on spec (prices on the website are quoted in USD).
Type: Drafting Chair.
I’m a sucker for good aesthetics, so I’d buy this just for its looks alone. It’s no secret that I don’t love the traditional Aeron chair, but there’s something about their Stool that grabs my attention.
The name “Stool” is probably a nod to Herman Miller’s artisanal roots – but is quite misleading.
- There’s nothing stool-like about this product.
Rather, it’s a fully blown drafting chair based on the ubiquitous Aeron Remastered. It truly is one of the best standing desk chairs you can buy.
In the stability vs movement equation, the Aeron Stool is at the polar opposite end of the spectrum to the Desky, Ariel and UpDown products.
(Related: Most Expensive Office Chairs In The World).
It’s stable and supremely comfortable. While you won’t be able to wobble in this chair, you’ll certainly perch – in a very dignified way.
The price is hefty. Don’t expect much change from $3,000.
Type: Drafting Chair.
There’s a Herman Miller “stool” for every budget. If you can’t stretch yours to the Aeron, the cheaper Mirra 2 could be a good alternative.
Less bulky and more modern-looking than the Aeron, the Mirra 2 stool will look great in the home offices of architects and graphic designers.
- There’s something very hipster-chic about its design that I find appealing.
However, I don’t love Mirra 2’s build quality. The plastics don’t feel as premium as they should, and I don’t get the feeling that I’m sitting in a premium office chair.
Like the Aeron Stool, the Mirra 2 has a very chunky footrest to make long stretches of work more comfortable. The price tag? Slightly north of $2,500.
6. Saddle Medi.
Type: Saddle Stool.
The Medi is the best budget saddle stool you can buy. No-nonsense but highly practical and adjustable, it keeps you snugly locked in with its raised front lip (or is it a horn?).
- Don’t expect outstanding build quality at this price point.
The vinyl seat is durable but feels inexpensive to the touch, while the chrome legs remind me of window trim on a 1994 Holden Calais.
It’s a functional standing desk stool with an adjustable back that will suit home offices, laboratories and workstations.
Type: Saddle Stool
How can something be both so ugly and so expensive? By providing an uncompromising focus on ergonomics – that’s how.
Unusual in the sense that it offers a comprehensive range of adjustments, including seat depth, the HAG Capisco is a hybrid standing chair that connects the worlds of standing stools and pure ergonomic office chairs.
- You can think of it as a perching stool, an active sitting chair and a traditional office chair – all in one.
Indeed, apart from drafting chairs, the HAG is the only “stool” that can realistically replace your current office chair.
Type: Active Stool
I don’t care what you say. Ikea office furniture is very good value for money. I challenge you to find a better-looking and more practical stool for $169.
It offers adjustable height, 360-degree swivel, smart design and a choice of black or beige (ugh) colours.
Maybe they know you’re much more likely just to throw it out when it breaks, rather than drive back to the shop and argue with them about reliability.
Jokes aside, it’s the best standing desk chair for under $200 – if you don’t like the very utilitarian-looking Saddle Medi.
Type: Drafting Chair.
Do you like the idea of working from a drafting chair, but don’t have more than $2,500 to spend on one of the Herman Miller options I reviewed above?
- You’re not the only one.
Thankfully, you can buy a very decent drafting chair from Aveya for about $700.
You get fixed lumbar support for tasking and a synchro-tilt mechanism for reclining.
The build is somewhat plasticky, but this is to be expected at this price point. Also, a seat depth adjustment would be nice to have.
Which Standing Chair Is Best?
Well, I suggest you ask yourself a different set of questions – because your preference for each of these products will depend on your need for comfort and appetite for movement.
- How much do I value comfort?
- How much do I want to move throughout my workday?
- What is my budget?
- Do I want this to be my only chair?
Use the table below to answer these questions and find the best chair type for you.
|Type Of Chair||Comfort Level||Range Of Movement||Price||Can It Be Your Only Office Chair?|
The Four Types Of Standing Chairs And Stools.
All standing desk chairs and stools fall into one of four distinct categories. Each has different features, pros and cons, which I’ve outlined below.
The most significant difference is the amount of stability that the chair offers.
1. Balance Stools.
Offering the least amount of stability, balance stools keep your body moving while seated. They require you to balance on them at all times to prevent yourself from falling off.
That said, your home office can also benefit from a balance stool. Will it replace your normal ergonomic office chair?
Probably not, unless you work in short 1-2 hour stints (e.g., you’re a physiotherapist).
2. Active Stools.
Active stools don’t have any back support and they don’t recline, which makes them very effective at encouraging movement.
You sit on them like you would on a normal stool, but their relatively small footprint means they’re likely to move underneath you, causing you to shift your weight to compensate.
Active stools are also the most affordable type of standing desk chair.
3. Saddle Stools.
As the name suggests, saddle stools hold you in position by providing you with som back support and a padded seat.
- Think back to the last time you visited a nice bar – it’s likely that the chairs that ran along the bartop featured a saddle stool design.
Saddle stools offer a sweet spot between active stools and drafting chairs.
More comfortable than the former and better at encouraging movement than the latter, they’re a great compromise for someone who wants the best of both worlds.
4. Drafting Chairs.
I love drafting chairs.
Apart from adding an unusual and very cool visual element your home office setup, they have back support and adjustable seat height, which means you can use them as both a stool and a very comfortable office chair.
The downside is that they’re usually the most expensive option, and don’t encourage movement as much as simple active stools and saddle stools.
Can You Use A Normal Office Chair With A Standing Desk?
Yes. If you buy a “normal” ergonomic office chair like the Ergotune Supreme or a Herman Miller Aeron, your workday will be spent in one of two modes:
- Fully seated in your office chair.
- Fully standing (you push the chair aside and stand).
While seated, you’ll be using your standing desk as a normal desk, except you’ll be able to use its height adjustment function to dial in the most ergonomically correct desktop height.
What Is Active Seating (And Why Should You Care?)
Active seating refers to a range of stools and chairs that allow you to move around while in standing or seated position.
By perching yourself on top of a secure, but-so 100% stable standing stool, you force yourself to engage your core muscles and rely on your internal balance mechanisms to keep upright.
Are Standing Desk Chairs Uncomfortable?
Yes – but that’s the point.
By not supporting you 100%, standing desk chairs force your body to stay alert and move more frequently.
That said, nuance is important. Different types of standing desk chairs offer drastically different levels of comfort:
- Balance stools are the least comfortable.
- Drafting chairs can be more comfortable than most traditional office chairs (I’m looking at you, Aeron Stool!).
- Active stools and saddle stools are somewhere in between.
Can A Standing Desk Stool Replace My Normal Office Chair?
It can, but I don’t recommend it.
Think of a standing desk chair as a complementary accessory to your office chair, not a replacement for it.
Very few people will want to spend 100% of their workday in a standing desk chair because:
- Standing desk chairs put you in quite an upright position and force you to hold a decent proportion of your weight. You’ll feel it in your feet, legs, shins and hips.
- This is very different to the ergonomic seating position that you’re probably used to, with your muscles fully relaxed and your elbows, hips and knees at 90-degree angles.
The only exception to this rule is a high-end drafting chair. Some models are extremely comfortable, and supportive and feature generous, ergonomic footrests to take the pressure off your feet.
(Related: How To Choose An Office Chair).
What Are The Benefits Of Standing Desk Chairs?
Active stools, saddle seats and drafting chairs allow you to sit, perch, and move during your workday.
- Improved Posture. The higher seating position allows your thighs to slope downwards while forcing your pelvis and lumbar into a neutral position.
- Better Metabolism. You may not realise that in the last 50 years, the number of jobs that require physical activity has declined from 50% to less than 20%. While the increased emphasis on exercise and well-being offsets this trend, your 1-hour gym session won’t fully counteract the 8-hour marathon sitting session you had just before it.
Did You Know?
By forcing you to move, standing desk chairs fight against workplace inactivity, keeping your metabolism elevated and electrical signals in your lower body firing.
- Stronger Core. Do you tend to slouch after just a few minutes of sitting? This happens because your posterior chain and abdominal muscles fatigue quickly. Active seats encourage you to engage your muscles to stay upright.
Will you sit your way to a six-pack? Probably not – but you will improve your longevity.
How Long Should You Stand At A Standing Desk?
It depends on your existing lifestyle. As a rule of thumb, the more active you already are, the more rapidly you can dive into standing at work.
Start with equal 1-hour standing/sitting intervals and calibrate from there.
If, however, your current lifestyle is mostly sedentary, start standing for 20 minutes, then sitting for 60 minutes – and gradually increase the duration as your fitness improves.
Final Words About Standing Desk Chairs.
Most Australians were raised sitting in traditional office chairs, and we tend to view them as essential pieces of office furniture.
However, sit-stand chairs, leaning chairs and wobble stools add a new dimension to our workplace experience. They complement – not replace -traditional chairs.