Comparing office chairs can be hard, especially when looking at two of the top brands in the business. In this review, we are going to compare two of the best and most popular ergonomic task chairs on the market: The Herman Miller Aeron Task Chair vs. the Steelcase Leap Office Chair.
It’s not easy to pick a winner here, but you really can’t go wrong with either of these chairs. Still, a chair like this is a big investment, so you want to make sure it completely meets your needs when it comes to comfort, style, support, adjustability, ergonomics and more.
Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in this chair, so you want to do your research first. That’s where we come in. Beginning with a general overview of each model and summary of our opinion, we’ll cover all the key aspects of each chair, comparing and contrasting their attributes in the sections below.
Steelcase Leap vs. Herman Miller Aeron: Overview
Each chair deserves a full guide in their own right. So, we’ll begin with an overview of each model before diving into the specifics.
The Steelcase Leap
The Leap is a very popular ergonomic task chair from Steelcase, one of the world’s biggest names in modern office furniture. The standard model (462 Series) comes with some innovative features to elevate the comfort and support we all need during a long workday.
For example, the Leap is designed with a patented “LiveBack” technology so the backrest actually changes shape to maintain proper support while you move, change positions, and go about your work. It has both upper and lower back firmness adjustments to make sure your posture is active and comfortable.
And the Leap comes with a natural glide and recline functionality that moves with you as you sit upright, or tilt back into a more relaxed position. The Leap also has a 3D fabric option, which provides a 3-layered breathable and padded cushion system.
The Herman Miller Aeron
The Aeron was originally designed by Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick in 1993. Then, in 2016, the company realized it was time for an update of their original creation. The revised model, designed by Don Chadwick, exhibits a mix of simplicity and high-tech ergonomic design improvements.
For example, the “mesh” on the Aeron is actually a patented material called 8Z Pellicle. This material is engineered to provide full-body support, comfort and suspension no matter what position you’re in. The support is bolstered by PostureFit SL system, which gives you 8 separate zones of postural support while sitting.
The idea is that even while sitting, your lumbar position and spine curvature will be more natural. It gets you closer to a standing posture in order to reduce the typical strains that can develop after long days in an office chair. The Aeron also comes with a natural reclining mechanism that responds to movements in the chair.
As you might imagine, with all this ingenuity in office chair design comes a pretty hefty price tag. And even more so with the Herman Miller Aeron.
When you look at each chair closely, and consider the difference in cost, we’re not really comparing apples-to-apples here. In fact, these chairs are very different.
The Leap, for example, is a slightly less expensive option that comes with more manual adjustability, conventional fabric and padding options, and plastic frame and base materials. It does, however, come with dozens of color options.
And as you’ll see below, the standard version comes with some nice additional features, such as 4D adjustable armrests and customizable lumbar support.
On the other hand, the Aeron does not include any conventional fabric or foam padding. The seat and backrest are made entirely from their high-tech 8Z Pellicle mesh material. The 8Z stands for the 8 zones of posture support. The looks are modern and minimal, with only graphite, carbon and mineral as primary color options.
It also comes in 3 size options: A, B and C. These size options, with B being the broadest and most similar to conventional office chair sizing, along with built-in adjustability ranges, will accommodate pretty much any body-type.
Each chair offers top-end ergonomic support and comfort. And each chair can even boast an strong environmental profile. Though, as you’ll see below, there are differences in all of these categories.
But in the end they are both great chairs and the decision will likely be a matter of: A) your budget and/or B) your style preference.
- If you don’t mind spending a little more and you like sleek and modern styling, go with the Herman Miller Aeron.
- If you want to save a little money and like to have more padding and color options, go with Steelcase Leap.
Okay, maybe that’s a little too simple. Not to worry, if you want more of an explanation and breakdown on the differences between these two ergonomic favorites, keep reading.
Leap vs. Aeron: A Buying Guide
Here’s a breakdown of some key similarities and differences between these two models. And in case you’re interested, we even give you our “winner” after each section.
The Aeron office chair has a silhouette comprised fully of ergonomic curves, with no harsh edges in sight. The back of the chair is made up a see-through mesh material that allows you to see the framework design in the back of the chair.
This framework is thick to as it supports the whole back of the chair. The 8Z upholstery is available in three main colors: graphite (black for a sleek look), carbon (a neutral tone) and mineral (for a fresh modern and lighter look). The aluminum frame is coated with a satin finish for a very sleek and sophisticated look.
Many will appreciate that this chair is available only in stark natural color options. They will blend into pretty much any office environment.
However, if you have a vibrant office or home office setting and you want to keep things bright, or if you’re looking to spruce up a drab environment, you might want to check out the Leap, as it comes in a wide array of fabric colors.
The Steelcase Leap Office Chair has a silhouette that is similar to the Herman Miller Aeron, except for the mesh material, with a smooth back and seat. But the framework of the Leap is less conspicuous. It is essentially a durable black plastic. Though as mentioned, the color options are more extensive than the Aeron.
In fact, there are fifteen different color options to choose from!
All color options of the Leap come with the black framework and a black wheelbase. The overall shape of the Leap chair is both practical and sleek, with all of the necessities of a chair slimmed down to look smart in your office space.
Winner: The Aeron
While we appreciate all the color options with the Leap, it’s hard to compete with the sleek, modern styling of the Aeron.
Both chairs are built with ergonomics in mind, featuring S-shaped backrests, passive edge seats to reduce pressure on the backs of your thighs, and easily accessible adjustments to control the height, tilt tension, recline angle, and even the seat depth.
With both chairs, you get a natural tilt mechanism that allows you to find a balance between a comfortable recline angle and a healthy head and neck posture while working.
Beyond these ergonomic features, there are a few things that stand out with each chair.
For example, the Aeron comes with a PostureFit SL system designed to stabilize the sacrum and support your lumbar region. You control the firmness level and location of support by adjusting individual pads located on the back of the chair and sliding the unit up or down.
This is a very customizable system that allows you to find optimal mid and lower back support. The idea is that you can maintain full contact with the chair and keep an upright and open posture that mimics a standing position even when you’re sitting.
This provides you with better comfort than a standard office chair would. And the cool, breathable 8Z Pellicle mesh adds to the comfort factor by giving you constant contact and varying levels of suspension on different parts of the seat and backrest.
With the Leap, you get Steelcase’s number one selling ergonomic chair. Its “LiveBack” technology is designed to flex with your every movement when you are sitting on it throughout the workday to keep you supported and comfortable.
This LiveBack system mimics the shape of your natural spine, changing its shape to support your contours. Since this lumbar support is fully attached to the back of the chair and not a separate panel, the whole chair responds to the contours of your moving back when you are working for prolonged periods of time at your desk.
This is integrated into the frame of the chair so does not need to be a separate segment added onto it. You can easily adjust the lumbar height and firmness via two handles located on the back of the chair.
Here is an adjustment guide to check out so you can learn about all the customization options that come with this chair.
Related: Check out some of these less expensive Herman Miller alternatives.
You can purchase the Aeron with fixed, height adjustable, or fully adjustable armrests. With fully adjustable armrests, which come at an extra cost, you can change the height, depth, and pivot angle. This feature allows you to keep your elbows closer to your body while working.
When typing at the computer, this will reduce strain and help you maintain a more active and upright posture. The armrests also have soft vinyl arm pads that increase the comfort of your elbows while you are typing for hours on end.
Unlike the Herman Miller Aeron, the leap comes standard with 4D armrests that can be adjusted in four different ways.
Winner: The Leap
Each chair gets top marks in ergonomics. But for less money, the Leap gives you standard 4-dimensional armrest adjustments, independent lumbar support, natural glide and tilting. Plus if you get the 3D fabric, you have a 3-layered padded backrest and seat with breathability and cushioning.
Framework and Wheelbase
Both models come with a sturdy and durable frame and wheelbase.
The metal framework of the Aeron chair is visible mainly from the back. The main supportive framework of the chair spans the outer edge of the back, providing the housing for the adjustable lumbar support.
The wheelbase is the standard 5-star wheelbase with durable 2.5 inch nylon castor wheels. These wheels are best suited for low to medium pile carpet.
The Leap’s framework is not visible in the same way as the Aeron’s. The plastic back of the chair has slits that act like a human spine when the back of the chair is adjusted. There are more pieces of framework that protrude from the back and allow the lumbar support to be adjustable.
The Steelcase comes with 2.5 inch diameter hard composition dual wheel casters. These are also good for most low to medium ply carpets. But as many users will be purchasing these for home offices, make sure the castors are suitable for your floor surface.
If you have hardwoods for example, you can get replacement soft rubber based castors for better compatibility.
Winner: The Aeron
You can’t go wrong with the Leap’s black plastic base. But the metal and satin finished aluminum on the Aeron is in another class.
Both chairs are made from a percentage of reclycled content. And both chairs have earned several environmental certificates based on design, materials and emission factors. Below is a summary of the environmental features of each chair.
Herman Miller Aeron
- Recycled content: 39%
- Recyclability: 91%
- Certified to BIFMA Level 3
- Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver
- Greenguard Gold Certified
- Recycled content: 34%
- Reclycability: 94%
- SCS Indoor Air Quality Gold Certified
- BIFMA Level 2 Certified
- Crade-to-Cradle Certified Bronze
Winner: The Aeron
Both chairs have impressive environmental credentials. But due to the minimal use of materials and Cradle-to-Cradle Silver Certification, the Herman Miller has a slight advantage in the sustainability category.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here we have brought together some frequently asked questions that prospective customers may have, we hope that they help:
Are the armrests comfortable?
The Steelcase Leap has armrests that are not padded, but the Herman Miller Aeron has vinyl padded armrests that are more ergonomic for your elbows when you are typing for hours on end at your desk.
What are the dimensions of the seats on these chairs?
Herman Miller Aeron
The Herman Miller Aeron’s seat width is 20 1/4 inches, and the depth is 17 inches.
The Steelcase Leap’s seat width is 20 inches, and the depth is 18 ¼ inches.
What’s the difference between the A,B,C sizes available with the Aeron?
A unique selling feature of the Aeron is that you can get it in three different size options. Here’s a handy chart that shows which size is best for you depending on height and weight considerations.
With each size, you get different adjustabilty ranges. For example, here are the different height ranges:
Size A: 14⅘”–19″
Size B: 16″–20⅖”
Size C: 16″–20⅖”
As we mentioned, both of these chairs are excellent choices if you’re looking for a modern task chair with full adjustability, comfort, ergonomic shape and posture support. Both brands are among the best in the business. But the Leap and Aeron are different animals.
If you like the looks of a sleek and minimal chair with an engineered mesh that will keep you cool and supported throughout the day, check out the Herman Miller.
But if you’re not ready to spend that kind of money on an office chair, although still a bit pricey, you can find more color options, full lumbar support and thicker padding with the Steelcase Leap.