Steep Seats

$1,000 for an office chair? Why some wheeled wonders are worth their extravagant price tags.

Your shoulders are burning, your neck is aching, and your back hurts like hell—all because you’re at the office. That time spent hunched over the computer is wreaking havoc on your spinal cord (to say nothing of your posture). As Roger Moses of high-tech furnituremaker Herman Miller says, “You can always get two sawhorses and a piece of plywood for a desk, but if you’re spending 10 hours a day at work, you should splurge on a chair.” Several companies have invested in years of ergonomic R&D to create the ideal back-friendly task chair. Costly? Yes. But much less than a lifetime of shoulder massages.

1. Mirra, Herman Miller
The younger sister to the iconic Aeron, the Mirra was designed with “passive adjustability” technology to mirror body movements. Its frameless backrest is made with a symmetric 567-hole pattern that supports the back’s thoracic, lumbar, and sacral zones. $599–$899, Creative Office Pavilion, One Design Center Pl., Boston, 617-956-4100,

2. Aeron, Herman Miller
Named one of the best designs of the 1990s by the Industrial Designers Society of America, the Aeron has taken on an almost-clichéd status among task chairs—you’ve either coveted one or heard colleagues brag about theirs. Creators Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf drew from designers George Nelson and Charles Eames’s earlier aesthetic, but replaced foam and fabric with a form-fitting mesh and engineered the chair’s tilt to support sitters’ ankles, knees, and hips. Using field studies that sampled 224 people, Chadwick and Stumpf designed three Aeron sizes to accommodate different body types. $749–$1,049, Creative Office Pavilion, One Design Center Pl., Boston, 617-956-4100,

3. Amia, Steelcase
It’s alive! Or at least that’s how Steelcase has trademarked the seating system for this brand-new task chair, available in February. Designed by IDEO’s Thomas Overtun, Amia moves and flexes with you, and never leaves your lower back unattended. It’s specifically designed for super-long sits—which is why the Alive technology has also been licensed for use in airlines and automobiles. The chair is built according to the strict McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry protocols, following the “cradle-to-cradle” philosophy of incorporating as many recycled materials as possible. $442–$560, Office Environments of New England, 22 Boston Wharf Rd., Boston, 617-439-4900,

4. Freedom, Humanscale
Unlike most of its rivals, Freedom boasts the pedigree of an Eero Saarinen–trained designer, and Niels Diffrient has indeed applied his aesthetic and engineering know-how to the chair’s architecture. Its sleek, swooping contours provide constant support, and reclining is a full-chair experience: The armrests stay with you while the chair adjusts the angle between your legs and torso to help you maintain a consistent viewpoint. And you never have to adjust the tension: Freedom’s counter-balance system automatically responds to your size and weight. $1,055–$2,220, Humanscale, 179 South St., Boston, 617-338-0077,

5. Life, Knoll
Put a little Kiwi style under your keister: This chair, designed for Knoll by the New Zealand firm Formway, is almost as green as the country it comes from. It’s made with 64 percent recycled content (mostly aluminum) and is Greenguard-certified, which means its nonvolatile paints and adhesives won’t toxify your work environment. Formway also specifically designed the Life chair to support your lumbar region while you change positions—it moves smoothly beneath you and erases any strain on your pelvis or vertebrae. $1,140–$3,311, Showroom, 240 Stuart St., Boston, 617-482-4805,