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“I had been working at my computer all day, pretty much pounding my head on the keyboard trying to get the job done that had taken me the better part of a month. I honestly wasn’t even close to finishing, but I figured getting lunch (and Diet Coke) would do me some good.
I leaned back in my chair for one of those “I’ve-been-sitting-so-long-I-shrunk-an-inch” stretches, raised my arms above my head and, with a giant *CRUNCH* my head smacked the ground. At first, I thought my chair had tipped over, (it wouldn’t have been the first time,) but I realized my butt was still in my chair and I was just draped over it. The back had literally broken off my chair! I only weighed about 255 pounds at that point! A few days later when I got off work, I went to return the chair (it was a personal chair I bought for work) but was told that it was not actually defective. Most office chairs are only made for people that weigh up to 250 pounds! I was just five pounds over and only able to get away with using a regular office chair for a few months! Since I had been “abusing” the chair, I was not able to return it…”
That story was in one of the first emails I opened last week. While its purpose was mainly a rant, it did bring something to light for me. As humiliating as that experience must have been, it is a fairly common one. In fact, I had a back split off a chair of mine the exact same way when I only weighed 225 lbs! With the prevalence of heavy people, you would think that office chairs for overweight workers would be commonplace. However, I have also seen several “workplace accidents” where some of my larger/heavier coworkers have been the victim of weak office chairs. In fact, chair breakages and accidents have become so common that there is an entire category of YouTube videos dedicated to them!
In my own workplace, I’ve seen legs and castors break off, an arm break off when someone tried to push themselves to their feet and, the most common, the adjustments simply stop working because they are over their weight capacity. Luckily, a high-capacity office chair, built specifically for heavy people, can fix all of these problems!
The 3 Best Office Chairs For Big and Heavy People
If anyone over 300 pounds ever asks me what chair they should get, I recommend this one every time. No matter your size, this is an incredibly well built, heavy-duty chair that will last for years!
Some highlights include:
- Premium Leather Covering. No one likes seeing a chair with a heavy-duty frame that has split seams and the color has worn off. The high-quality leather here (I own this chair) has lasted me for years and still looks great.
- Memory Foam Padding. The padding is great for relieving pressure points and has carried me through many grueling, 12 hour workdays. It also doesn’t seem to be squishing or losing loft like traditional chair padding.
- Tall Back. Works well for both tall and short people. If you’re on the shorter side, you may not realize that tall people can very rarely lean their heads back against their chairs. That’s why we always have our heads on our desks! If you’re 6’1 (or a bit more, depending on your build), you can rest your head on this one!
- Rounded Chair Edge. Office Factor calls this a “Waterfall Edge” because the seat of the chair drops smoothly away in an arc which doesn’t cut off the blood flow in your legs. I have a habit of resting my feet on castors, so this has never been a big problem for me, but shorter people who have taken my chair for a test drive have loved it!
- 500lb Capacity. This the heaviest capacity chair you can find on the mass market without spending an arm and a leg. While I don’t offer any guarantees, I would imagine this chair would hold even more weight (and it’s obviously better than anything else most workplaces offer!).
So, in the interest of time and saving you brainpower for actual work, head on over to Amazon and get yours now!
If the price is more of a concern, this is an excellent option. In fact, I have purchased 3 of these! Two were given as gifts and one is at our family computer desk. If you have never experienced a high-quality chair, prepare to be shocked. This thing is BIG, STURDY, and HEAVY! Unless you have extra cash, just trust me and get this chair. It is similar in price to a regular office chair and will outperform and outlast it in every regard.
- High-quality PU Leather Covering.
- 500lb weight capacity.
- An excellent choice for taller users. In fact, users up to 6’10” report that this chair is perfect for their needs!
- Price. Less than half the price of the next cheapest chair on this list, and ¼ the price of most heavy duty office chairs. If you somehow managed to wear this out in a year (maybe if you worked in a mine-field?) you’d still come out money ahead.
Let me preface this by saying that the Steelcase Leap Plus is the most amazing office chair I have ever seen. With that being said, I know it isn’t for everyone, mainly because of the price. At over $1500 at the time I’m writing this, it will probably only appeal to two types of people:
- Those whose work is so important or whose time is so valuable that they don’t want to lose any time messing with an inferior chair.
- Those who have back pain or other pain when they sit for too long and need extra support.
If either of those describes you, read on because we have the chair you need.
Steelcase makes some of the absolute best ergonomic chairs for heavy people. Their regular Leap is an incredible chair that provides a perfect fit for anyone (provided you weigh less than 400lbs). The arms are adjustable in every direction (including width), the back literally changes shape to support you, and it has a lifetime warranty! (Height adjustment stopped working? Just get it replaced for free!) So what about the Leap Plus? Well, it has all of the goodness of the Original Leap with the added benefit of being wider and being an extra-high weight capacity office chair! The adjustments and build of the Leap Plus are warrantied up to a full 500lbs (although I’m sure the chair would still be great if you weighed more).
But do I really need a special office chair?
One of the most common questions people ask when they notice that my chair is different (and way nicer) than theirs is: is it really worth it?
While I obviously can’t answer that question for you, the answer for me is clear. It is worth it. 10x over.
Not only that, but I expect that my personal chair will last for many years to come. During an unusually slow day at work, I sat down and did some figuring:
My current chair (Office Factor) cost me $349.90. At the same time, I bought a 5 year Furniture Protection warranty for $55.99. Assuming my chair lasts me 5 years (and then turns instantly to dust…) it costs me 31 cents per day to sit in a chair that is way more comfortable, better for my back, rolls better, I can rest my head on, and I can take with me when I leave my current job. I will gladly pay someone $1.55 per workweek to provide me with a highly engineered, body-supporting device that was created with people just like me in mind!
What makes a heavy-duty office chair different?
Since chairs for big guys and girls are usually of the more expensive variety, it begs the question: what are we paying for? After all, most seats look remarkably similar. Well, it turns out that there are a number of highly engineered differences: let’s delve into them.
The typical office chair is designed with one goal in mind: to hold a small butt as cheaply as possible. They have a weight limit of 250 pounds which is hardly ever accurate. If you weigh 200 pounds and plop down onto your seat, you just exceeded the weight limit for a moment. Now, if you are a larger person, fitting into and being comfortable in a standard office chair is just laughable. You are literally trying to use a tool that was not designed for you. You are showing up to the tour-de-france riding on a kids bike. It might work for a bit, but it sure isn’t going to be fun and won’t take you far.
But what weight of chair do you actually need? Well, as with everything, there are different levels of heavy-duty chairs meant for different maximum weights. However, my thought has always been: why get one that’s too close to your weight? The higher the weight capacity is, the slower the chair will wear out and the safer you will be. The last thing I need is for my daughter to come visit me at work and my chair to collapse when she jumps up on my lap.
As there is little-to-no cost difference, I typically buy the most heavy-duty chair available that is both attractive and comfortable. Manufacturers typically label any chair marketed to heavy or “overweight” people as heavy-duty, but some of them barely hold more than the average chair. Be sure to read the fine print as you will find 300, 400, and 500 pounds versions of office chairs, all with varying seat widths.
Firmer and thicker seat padding.
Heavier people compress the cushioning in a regular seat more, which leads to less comfort and support as well as the chair wearing out faster. Nicer chairs naturally have higher quality padding, and more of it. In fact, some seats have too much padding for me! One of my previous chairs had 5″ of padding on the seat and back which felt good for about 15 minutes before my back started aching. Similar to sleeping on too soft of a mattress, it didn’t give me the support I needed. The secret, then, is to find just the right amount of padding for your weight!
Back support! (High-quality build materials)
For obvious reasons, this one is important to me. I tend to lean back in my chair a lot (and have even been known to put my feet up when I’m feeling super managerial). If the back is not constructed correctly (my broken one was just screwed into the wood seat), it will likely break when used. The heavy-duty chairs we recommend typically have a one-piece metal frame construction, and the back wouldn’t break off if a bulldozer sat on it. Let’s face it, a seat made of nothing but plastic and foam was probably never going to support you or me.
Wider Legs and Heavy-Duty Casters
Whether you are stable on your feet or not, your own balance can’t always save you when your seat has a narrow stance. I still remember my burly (okay, he was fat) football coach from high school fell flat on his butt when his rolling chair hit a piece of chalk and tipped over. I think back to that moment sometimes and realize that, as funny as it was, if someone who runs drills at football practice 5x a week can end up on the ground, so can I. For that reason, the best office chairs for overweight people are constructed with wider legs, and heavy-duty casters that won’t crack or break.
Adjustments that don’t work are simply not adjustments. In one of my first jobs, I had to type up a night report. For some reason, the desk had been set on cinder blocks so it was a foot taller that a normal desk. For some other (unknown) reason, the only chair available was one that slowly sunk under my weight. I had to type furiously fast before the chair sunk far enough that my nose was level with the desktop. Needless to say, I now look for a chair that will consistently adjust and hold my weight.
“After my original broken chair debacle, I headed to a local office supply store, planning to sit in a dozen chairs and spend $500 if that’s what it took to find a desk chair meant for a big guy like me.
I was sorely disappointed.
When I told the sales guy what I was after he told me he, “had one that might work.”
One?! Well, if it was really good I guessed that was fine. I only had one butt after all.
I sat in the chair he showed me and, to be honest, it felt pretty good! Then I tried to roll…it didn’t. Turns out it didn’t have wheels! When I asked the guy helping me what made him think it was the best one for an apparently overweight person like myself he replied, “well…that one just seemed stronger than others we have.”
We did end up checking the box and found that it had a 300lb capacity, but the lack of castors was a total deal-breaker for me. Not only that, I couldn’t find a single chair meant for larger people! They did have one other with a 300lb weight capacity, but the seating part wasn’t any wider than a normal desk chair, so that wasn’t going to work for me.“
A quick note: extra-wide vs. high capacity desk chairs
It’s worth noting here, that there is a big difference between heavy-duty chairs for large people and extra-wide chairs for large people…
I have a friend who ordered a chair with a weight limit of 450lbs. When it arrived and he got it assembled, he could have fit only a single butt cheek on it. Since it had arms, buying two chairs and tying them together wasn’t an option. For some reason, the maker of this particular piece of furniture had decided that the user of the chair was made of iron. Very heavy, but the same dimension as a much smaller person. Any reputable seller will include the width of their seat, so be sure to measure a chair you use (and your own “chair”) to be sure it’s wide enough.
Since those dark days, I have owned several office chairs which are stronger and more comfortable than any office provides its employees. During that time I have also sat in dozens of nice (and hundreds of terrible) computer chairs. After my wealth of experience (and several hours of additional research), I believe I am eminently (perhaps uniquely) qualified to have brought you my recommendation for the best office chair for large and heavy people!
Now, this list isn’t perfect. No list of the “best” office chairs for fat people could be. I could have included many more options, but it was a shortlist out of design and kind of by necessity. It may come as a shock, but even with the large number of people who exceed the capacity of normal chairs, manufacturers and employers still go the cheapest route, resulting in weak chairs that are only comfortable for the smallest people. So if there are only 10 options on Amazon, why would I list all 10? My purpose here was to narrow it down! However, even with limited options, I have found several that I believe anyone could be happy and comfortable in.
Because of the additional cost of these chairs, it is unlikely that your boss or workplace is going to foot the bill for something different than what you already have (at least that has been my experience). Before you drop the money on a chair, be sure to talk to your boss, mention that it’s safer and more productive for you to have an ergonomic chair that is actually DESIGNED for larger people and that you’ll be taking the chair with you when you leave. I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem bringing in their own chair. After all, how much work could you get done if you weren’t fighting your puny chair?
If you disagree with my chair choices, that’s okay! While I think all of my recommendations are excellent choices that will be a good fit for the majority of people, you might have some personal preferences that lead to a difference of opinion.
In fact, here are some of my own personal preferences that influenced my recommendations:
Mesh vs. Fabric vs. Leather
I prefer mesh chairs over fabric and will take leather over either of them. I find fabric chairs to be scratchy and less durable than leather chairs. Mesh chairs do have the advantage of being slightly less sweaty, but this comes at the cost of them being, in general, less supportive. While this really comes down to what you want to sit on, the highest-rated chairs are almost always leather and that is what we included here.
As I mentioned above, I prefer chairs that are comfortable, yet supportive enough to see me and my body through an 8, 10, or even 12 our workday. Softy and floppy is not how I like my padding. I prefer a healthy level of comfort (for the benefit on my behind) and a healthy level of firm support (for the benefit on my back). I believe that the best office chair for big guys allows you to be comfortable but not sleepy. You’re at work after all!
I tend to set my work chair at a certain height and never mess with it. However, if I did that at home, my wife could barely see over the desk since there is a foot difference in our heights. So, in my choices, I favored chairs with a high degree of adjustability. This is both useful for me and more likely to fit a broad range of people.
In closing, I will mention – unless you have specifically sought out a chair that is built for a large/heavy person, any of the chairs I mentioned are better than what you currently have. While one may beat the other in a side to side comparison, the most important thing is simply to have an office chair that is meant just for you, whether that means the most budget or the most expensive. I hope this has been helpful. Happy working!
You’ve made it to the end and there is literally no more information to be had! You have the knowledge, now GET THE CHAIR!
Also, if your chair is for your home office, gaming station, etc. don’t forget that you probably need a heavy-duty floor mat. Normal ones are just not up to snuff, and typically crack within a few months. Check out our new article which reviews The Best Chair Mat For Heavy People (up to 1000lbs).
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