Abstract Both with respect to the aspect of pressure sores and of comfort, the inclination of backrest and seat are, amongst other factors, important design criteria. In this study the combination of seal and backrest inclination which reduces shear forces on the seat in passive seating forms the centre of attention. A biomechanical model was developed to predict these combinations and a new measurement apparatus was used for verification of the model on 10 healthy subjects (age 24.4 S.D. 2.1 yr, height 1.77 S.D. 0.08 m, mass 66.3 S.D. 11 Kg). For chairs it was found that when little shear is accepted, a fixed inclination between seat and backrest can be chosen between 90° and 95°. For beds a parabolic relationship was found between seat and backrest inclination with a maximum seat inclination of 20° at a backrest inclination of 50°. When lying with the knees bent to a position with equal inclination of thighs and shanks, the model predicts a shear force on the seat that shoves the person into the bed for every combination of seat and backrest inclination.