If you haven’t seen them before, kneeling chairs are all the rage right now — especially on social media. Designed to support optimal curvature of the spine, initial studies(Opens in a new tab) on kneeling chairs demonstrate that they show promise…but are they actually comfortable? Do they promote good posture? Are they worth the switch from traditional office chairs?
As someone who has perpetually terrible posture — and loves fidgeting —I first heard about kneeling chairs from TikTok, after I saw a creator talking about how these chairs were incredibly ADHD-friendly. Not only do they claim to support fantastic posture, but many are also built with fidgeting in mind, which fans of kneeling chairs claim helps them stay more productive throughout the workday. Obviously, this meant it was time to put kneeling chairs to the test, so I decided to start with one I’ve seen all over social media: Sleekform’s The Austin(Opens in a new tab).
What is a kneeling chair?
When I first started talking to people about kneeling chairs, I was surprised to discover that most people had very strong opinions about them — one person on Twitter told me they’d been using a kneeling chair for years and swore by them, while others said they would never make the switch. And at first glance, it makes sense. Kneeling chairs are much different than “traditional” office chairs — with a uniquely tilted seat and knee rest — so it’s hard to see how that kind of position would be comfortable.
However, kneeling chairs are built with posture in mind, and Sleekform’s The Austin makes this clear. Instead of a flat seat, The Austin’s tilted seat reaches a 120-degree angle, pushing your hips forward and keeping your posture upright. According to Sleekform’s website, this helps you engage your core and removes pressure from your lower back, so you can sit straight without any pain or discomfort.
The second key feature of kneeling chairs is in the name: the knee rest. While some offer a single knee rest, The Austin uses separate knee cushions — and offers the ability to rock — so you can change your position throughout the day without sacrificing optimal posture.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable
Are kneeling chairs good for you?
According to Dr. Rosmy Barrios, who is an MD and medical advisor for the Health Reporter(Opens in a new tab), the answer is a resounding yes.
“Kneeling chairs are a brilliant alternative to regular office chairs,” Barrios explains. “When you sit on a kneeling chair, your pelvis tilts forward and aligns with the spine, which reduces pressure on your lower back. Plus, this sitting posture creates an open angle between your abdomen and thigh, which improves circulation in the area.”
Not only does this help you maintain optimal posture, but rocking kneeling chairs — Barrios’ favorite — also help keep you moving throughout your workday.
First impressions of Sleekform’s The Austin
I decided to test Sleekform’s The Austin(Opens in a new tab) over different kneeling chairs for a few reasons. Obviously, I first discovered it on social media — with several glowing recommendations — but I liked The Austin’s minimalist, wooden frame as well as the curved base that allows for rocking. This gives the chair a unique, futuristic look without being too weird, and I was glad to discover the wood matched well with my adjustable bamboo standing desk.
Immediately after receiving The Austin, I was impressed by the quality of the materials. The wooden frame was incredibly sturdy and well-built, the cushions were firm, and the material covering the cushions was soft and durable. Unfortunately, my positive first impression quickly went downhill as assembly began.
While Sleekform included simple, easy-to-follow assembly instructions, they didn’t include directions for where the curved horizontal support bar should be facing. It was a subtle enough difference that I didn’t notice until the end of assembly, which meant I had to completely disassemble — and reassemble — the entire piece.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable
Switching to a kneeling chair is complicated
Straight away, I loved how The Austin felt. My back was straighter, I loved being able to rock slightly, and the chair looked absolutely amazing in my office. As a taller person, I was worried that the knee cushions would be awkward for my 5-foot-9 frame, but I was surprised to discover that Sleekform’s height range of 5-foot-2 to 6-foot-2 seemed pretty accurate. My 6-foot-2 partner tried it out too, and it just barely fit his frame.
The first few days of using The Austin were both wonderful and terrible. Sleekform warns users to keep their old office chair nearby and to make the switch gradually, and that’s advice you should absolutely follow. Every morning I sat down at the chair with excitement, but even though I could feel the immediate difference in my posture, the adjustment period was real. The company recommends an adjustment period of 14 to 30 days, and the process isn’t fun.
“With kneeling chairs, you train your body to sit straight without taking any support. With time, your core and back strength improve, which benefits your posture,” says Barrios. “However, keep in mind that you should still take breaks in between, ideally every two hours.”
As Barrios explains, this transition takes time, and while I certainly noticed I was sitting straighter on The Austin than my traditional office chair, I experienced soreness if I used it for more than a few hours. Even after a few weeks of trying it, my shins still felt sensitive to the padded knee cushions, and my upper back would inevitably start to ache by midday.
It definitely helped my posture, but my productivity tanked
The more I used The Austin, the more I noticed a difference in my posture when I used the kneeling chair versus my normal chair. However, my struggles with soreness kept me from really loving the chair.
I wanted to use it regularly, but I struggled to get comfortable. I found it helpful to frequently adjust how I was sitting, but it was frustrating to have to move constantly. I did learn that taking breaks to shift my legs off the cushions helped, as did staying higher on the seat cushion. However, even with less weight placed on my shins, I slid down easily. While the seat and knee cushions are nice and thick — something many online reviewers raved about — my shins were a little sensitive to the pressure over time.
This kind of constant upkeep was annoying. I knew it was good for me to stay moving and change position constantly, but it really tanked my productivity. Over time, I found myself switching back to my traditional office chair more and more — especially when my workload was higher — so I wouldn’t have to “fight” with it.
But, even with my frustration, I still appreciated having The Austin. Yes, it’s frustrating to have to move more often to stay comfortable, but that’s not the worst thing. We all know that sitting for too long in one position isn’t good for you, and The Austin practically forced me out of that bad habit.
Is it worth the switch?
It really depends. For people who are trying to improve their posture — or take preventative measures to maintain good posture — then it might be worth switching to a kneeling chair like The Austin(Opens in a new tab). However, if you’re looking for a quick fix or have knee pain, this might not be the chair for you. The transition takes time (and patience), which can make it difficult for people who are used to “locking in” to work for long periods of time.
For me? I love starting my day with The Austin, but I’m still on the fence. The postural benefits are obvious, yes, but I don’t like that it’s taking me so long to truly adjust. However, my experience does seem to be abnormal compared to other reviews online. Sleekform also offers a 90-day trial period, so I’ve committed to keep trying.
The Austin is a little pricier compared to other kneeling chairs available, but it’s a surprisingly beautiful piece of furniture. I might not enjoy the process of getting used to it, but — just like going to the gym — it’s going to take some work. When you factor in the immediate posture benefits, however, the result is clear: My back will definitely thank me for sticking with it.