Do you have discomfort or pain while typing? Find the perfect keyboard for you!
Today, almost 70% of the American workforce uses a computer for their day-to-day responsibilities. For many people who make a living by typing for any length of time, staying away from the keyboard is not an option. However, repeated and extended use of computers over a long period of time begins to wear at the body and can lead to a host of enduring conditions including bad posture, stiffness, headaches, arthritis, and many muskoskeletal disorders. Several of these conditions leave people with chronic pain and some extreme cases may require physical therapy or even surgery for relief.
These issues are preventable
By cultivating an ideal and comfortable work station, an individual may reduce the risk of developing lasting negative effects. Solutions can be as simple as aligning desk, chair, and monitor height to the correct position for an individual. Selecting the proper ergonomic mouse for extended use can also save your mouse hand from carpal tunnel. But one of the most important, however, is finding the right keyboard. Using a standard keyboard can put unnecessary strain on your hand and wrists, but this strain can be alleviated by investing in an ergonomic keyboard.
Table of Contents
Why do I need an ergonomic keyboard?
If you let yourself sit in a relaxed, normal position, your arms will fall naturally to your side, a shoulder length apart. Reaching for a non-ergonomic keyboard from this position forces your hands together in a tight, unnatural position. Standard keyboards also tend to have a positive tilt built into them, so that your wrists have to bend upward unnaturally. These issues lead to awkward typing postures that put significant strain on the hands, wrists, and shoulders.
Ergonomic keyboards allow your hands to sit in a wider, more natural position, which feels more comfortable and allows you to be more productive. Furthermore, using an ergonomic keyboard may reduce or prevent serious harm to the wrists, tendons, and fingers. Overtime, an investment in an ergonomic keyboard will pay for itself by increasing individual productivity and by preventing unnecessary visits to the doctor.
After typing on a keyboard for an extended period of time, do you feel strain in your shoulders, wrists, or fingers?
Even if you do not feel pain after typing, using a standard keyboard for an extended period of time may cause long-term and even permanent issues with your body. Use of a non-ergonomic keyboard may cause a plethora of issues including muskoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and rotator cuff injuries.
The Sooner the Better
If at the moment you do not feel the need to put effort into researching and purchasing an ergonomic keyboard because you feel comfortable typing on your standard keyboard, then now is the perfect time to invest in an ergonomic keyboard. You may not notice in the beginning the use of a standard keyboard wearing on your body; it’s only a matter of time before you will start to feel the effects. By switching to an ergonomic keyboard immediately, you will preserve your health as it is now and your body will thank you later.
How do I know which keyboard is right for me?
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ergonomic keyboards on the market and why we think they make a great keyboard. Here you can weigh the pros and cons of each keyboard and choose the keyboard that best fits your lifestyle. Or you can skip to the very best keyboard for hand ergonomics here.
The Best Ergonomic Keyboards for Carpal Tunnel, Tendonitis & RSI
The best ergonomic keyboard for carpal tunnel syndrome, Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), tendinitis, & peripheral neuropathy is the one that relieves discomfort of the wrist and forearms. Placing pressure on the wrists and forearms during the typing means placing pressure on the median nerve and finger flexor tendons that travel through the carpal tunnel in your wrist.
That’s why you’ll find that when typing for long periods of time on a normal keyboard, you will start to experience tightness & cramps in the forearms, hands, and fingers. After a while, you may start to feel pain, numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation.
That’s because with the incorrect typing posture, the repetitive motion of typing squeezes the carpal tunnel and causes the tissue inside it to become rigid and swollen. In turn, this causes the median nerve to become pinched, compressed, and to have reduced space to glide in.
Furthermore, If you keep straining your wrist and forearm with carpal tunnel or RSI, then scar tissue may form in the carpal tunnel, causing the RSI, wrist pain, or carpal tunnel syndrome to become permanent.
So to avoid this, you need a carpal tunnel keyboard that is ergonomically designed to conform to the contours of the hands, that reduces the strain placed on the wrists, and that promotes the correct typing angle for the wrist & forearms. Such types of keyboards include contoured keyboards, split keyboards, and low-profile keyboards. Such as the ones below:
- The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard – [On Amazon]
- Kinesis Freestyle2 – [On Amazon]
- Kinesis Advantage2 – [On Amazon]
Low Profiles Keyboards
Low-profile keyboards are ergonomic by being closer to the ground, which helps you keep your hands in a neutral position while you are typing. When you type on a normal keyboard, you end up bending your wrist in an awkward upward angle to type. This places strain on the carpal tunnel, and the strain becomes even worse when you kick the keyboard feet up. So low-profile keyboards that relieve stress on the carpal tunnel include:
The Best Ergonomic Keyboards for Arthritis
The best ergonomic keyboard for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, and fibromyalgia is the one that is easy on the joints of the hand, given that those medical conditions cause the painful inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and sensitivity of the finger & thumb joints. So you need an adaptive keyboard that is designed for a reduced range of motion and a lower actuation force for pressing a keycap. That means you need a keyboard that has a shorter traveling distance for key presses and keys that responds to even the softest touch of the finger tips.
The type of keyboards that use such short & light presses include flat contracted keyboards, low-profile keyboards, and soft touch keyboards. And you can also find mechanical keyboards with lighter key switches that are easy on the fingers.
Flat & Contracted Keyboards
Contracted keyboards are miniaturized keyboards designed for fingers with a decreased range of motion. Usually contracted keyboards have the keys closer together, and the keys don’t require a lot of force to press down. Contracted keyboards that are good for arthritis include:
The Apple Magic Keyboard is flatter & lower than most other keyboards. Apple Magic Keyboard uses Scissor switch which allows the keyboard to be extremely low-profile while maintaining keys that are easy to press down (actuation). The keys have a short traveling distance, which means that the fingers don’t have to move as much. Because the keys are easy to actuate and have a short travel distance, it will allow you to type very fast compared to normal keyboards that tend to have stiff, rubbery keys that are painful to use when you have arthritis.
Additionally, the low-profile of the Apple Magic keyboard makes it a lot easier on the wrists and keeps your fingers at a more comfortable typing angle.
I personally have used the MoKo Ultra-Thin Foldable Keyboard, and I find that is very easy to type on. It has a “V” shape that accommodates for the angle of the arms so that you position your hands and fingers ergonomically. The keys have a very small travel distance, so you barely have to move your finger tip up & down. And the keys are small & close together such that you don’t have to move your fingers a lot, but without being cramp.
Soft Touch Keyboards
Ergonomic soft touch keyboards are probably what you are looking for if you have arthritic, delicate, and sensitive fingers. The best soft touch keyboards for arthritis is the one that is very sensitive to the slightest touch, such that gently placing a finger on a key with a gentle nudge is enough to register a key press. I talk about it more below with mechanical keyboards.
And as an added bonus, soft touch keyboards can also be quite quiet to type on. Such keyboards that require the least amount of force to press down a key also include:
If you are suffering from arthritis, but you still want to use a mechanical keyboard, then what you need to do is look for a mechanical keyboard that uses key with very low actuation force. Meaning that it’s very easy to press down with your finger, such that even a soft touch would be enough to register a key press. The keyswitch that is light as a feather to press down are the Gateron Clears. These are the best ones for arthritis and sensitive fingers.
Alternatively, you can try using a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. The benefit of these Cherry MX Brown switches is that you do not have to fully bottom out when pressing down on a key, which can be painful for arthritic fingers.
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard
A Well-built Keyboard from an Established Brand in Ergonomics
Microsoft makes some of the best ergonomic keyboards on the market and the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Wireless Desktop Keyboard is a prime example. Even on first glance, the Sculpt appears well built and very well designed. And it is. When it comes to ergonomics, Microsoft is one company that has definitely done their research.
The keys are placed at an angle that feels comfortable for the average user even after an extended period of time. The board also has a curving slope that feels very natural especially in the outer fingers, which generally face the most strain when typing. The tilt is adjustable allowing for the user to find the perfect position for their chair to desk height ratio.
Some of the key placement is a little unusual and it doesn’t always make sense so the keyboard definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it as the keyboard has been shown to significantly reduce strain on the fingers and shoulders.
The keyboard is sleek and quite a pleasant design, but looks aren’t everything and Microsoft might have overdone it with the aesthetics on this one as the glossy finish leaves it prone to fingerprints and smudges anyway.
The High Price of Style
The Sculpt clocks in on the slightly more expensive end, but it easily justifies the price tag especially for those who spend eight or more hours at their computer every day. Microsoft knows that most people—even those that care about quality and ergonomic support—are either unwilling or unable to drop several hundred dollars on something that is generally seen as inconsequential and ordinary. With the Sculpt, Microsoft walks the line between the ideal “high-tech” ergonomic keyboard and what is familiar and affordable for the average user. Priced at barely over one hundred dollars, the Sculpt is there for people who care about long-term effects on their body, but don’t want to break the bank.
Microsoft Sculpt Pros & Cons
- Well designed
- Great batter life
- Moderately high price tag
- Relatively steep learning curve
An Unusual Design for Maximum Flexibility
With this keyboard, Kinesis takes a rather unusual approach to solving the ergonomic problem. The Kinesis Freestyle2 Ergonomic Keyboard is not only a split keyboard, like most ergonomic keyboards, but is literally split into two separate pieces connected only by a cord. This unique solution allows the user to easily adjust their hand positions to the exact position that they find most comfortable. While other split keyboards do provide ideal comfort for the average user, fringe body types, especially users with either very broad or narrow shoulders may find more comfort using this two piece keyboard.
The keyboard itself is fairly basic and, as such, it is easy to adjust to using the Freestyle2 as opposed to other ergonomic keyboards, which may place keys in awkward or unusual places in order to fit their design. The keys are responsive even to light touches, which prevents extra strain with extended use of the product. The keyboard on its own is also rather small and therefore usable in tight office spaces where other ergonomic keyboards, which tend to be on the larger side, will not fit. The Freestyle2 is not wireless like many of the other keyboards listed here and the extra wire that connects the two halves can easily get in the way. It also prevents the keyboard from being an easily portable option as it takes some extra effort to set up or stow away.
The Freestyle2 is fairly inexpensive relative to other ergonomic keyboards—but that’s only if the basic keyboard is purchased on its own. Some users may require a number pad in addition to the basic keyboard, which is sold separately. Additionally, Kinesis makes extra pieces that allow the user to position the keyboard at an angle rather than flat on a surface. For full ergonomic comfort, it is recommended that the consumer use these angle adjustments, which, unfortunately, are also sold separately. All together, the price of the keyboard and accessories does drive the price quite a bit higher than other basic ergonomic keyboards.
Unfortunately, some of the accessories are not built to the same level of standard as the keyboard and users have reported that the angle adjustment add-ons have collapsed under extensive use. A home-remedy (i.e. duct tape), however, is easy and some users have even forgone the purchase of the angle adjustments for simpler solutions such as a door jam.
While the Freestyle2 has quite a wide range in terms of adjustability, some users have found that the nine inch cable that connects the two halves of the keyboard is not enough. Kinesis, therefore, does provide cables up to 20 inches for those who wish to purchase the extra flexibility.
Excels Where Others Do Not
Overall, the Kinesis Freestyle2 is a unique design that has been shown to alleviate many common issues associated with extensive typing. The Freestyle2 excels where many other ergonomic keyboards do not providing comfort for fringe users and working even in tight spaces. This keyboard is limited in part by its accessories and should ideally be a wireless keyboard with its split design, however it certainly gets the job done.
Kinesis Freestyle2 Pros & Cons
- Easily adjustable/customizable for every user
- Relatively small size
- Easy learning curve
- Full ergonomic support is only available through extra purchases
- Some parts are fragile, though workarounds are available
- Too many wires to be conveniently portable
Kinesis Advantage2 Contoured Keyboard
The Best Ergonomic Keyboard
The Kinesis Advantage2 Contoured Keyboard is one of the best keyboards for typing. Anyone who types for long periods of time will benefits by using one of these keyboards, because the Kinesis keyboard was designed for the human body. The Kinesis keyboard reduces RSI and wrist pain by lowering the strain in the wrists. This is done by form-fitting to the contours and shape of the hand and leaving enough space between typing hands. Customers on Amazon testify that the keyboard reduces and eventually cures tendinitis, carpel tunnel, RSI, and related keyboard injuries for many customers.
Who needs this keyboard?
This keyboard is for typists, programmers, software developers, transcriptionists, and pretty much anyone who uses a keyboard for extended periods of time. Customers on Amazon say it’s one of the best keyboards for alleviating many keyboard related injuries.
Our hands are naturally a shoulder width apart
The Kinesis Advantage2 allows your hands to rest on the keys in a natural position, such that your hands sit naturally in their respective wells. This keyboard comes at a high price, but remember that it pays for itself by preventing doctor’s appointments and surgeries due to keyboard-related strain injuries. Furthermore, the unique and comfortable design allows for insanely fast typing speeds, once the user adapts to using the keyboard.
Ideal Ergonomic Design
The Kinesis keyboard’s ergonomic design means minimum movement of the arms, maximum comfort, and zero strain. Rest pads on both sides of the keyboard and more flexibility of the wrists than with your hands fixed parallel to each other means released pressure on the tendons. The keys are placed logically so that they fall naturally under the human hand. The two wells fix the hand in one place instead of allowing your hand to slide all across the keyboard.
Keys curve up to your shorter finger and deep down for your longer finger
The keys are positioned at differing depths to allow for minimal reaching with your shorter fingers so that each finger is under as little strain as possible. The keys are laid out vertically so that fingers mainly move up and down and side to side motion is reduced. This further allows for faster tying speeds along with the very little pressure required to push the keys.
Other ergonomic keyboards are extremely long, placing the mouse towards the end of your reach. But the Kinesis is compact in comparison, reducing unnecessary strain on the shoulder caused by repetitively reaching for the mouse.
Hand Angle is Key to Comfort
The Kinesis keyboard has your hand in the optimal wrist-bend angle to prevent wrist pain. The position your hand naturally falls into might be described as the “handshake position,” as demonstrated in the figure on the left. Using a standard keyboard, and even some ergonomic keyboards, may force the hand into the unnatural claw position shown on the right. Over time, this position may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or other issues.
Additionally, you can see from the images that the Kinesis Advantage2 is a split keyboard with two keyboard wells on either side. The most used function keys are centered in between the wells. Both sides have the CTRL and ALT keys while the Windows, Space, Enter, Page Up, and Page Down keys are located on the right and Backspace, Delete, Home, and End are on the left.
The Advantage2 is built so that the typist will be more inclined to use a strong finger for the common function keys (i.e. the thumb) as opposed to a weaker finger (i.e. the pinkie). This setup allows for greater comfort and speed of typing by reducing the length that your hand has to stretch to reach these function keys, which is one way typists tend to run into pain and discomfort. In the end, the goal is to eliminate all unnatural hand movements and finger reaching to facilitate faster and more comfortable typing.
Other Quality Features
- Programmable macro keys to help you in accounting, programming, etc.
- Up to 48 macros of up to 56 characters each
- Macros are stored in the keyboard, allowing for easy transitions between computers
- Mechanical keyboard that uses Cherry MX Brown Mechanical key switches
- Sounds like the vintage IBM keyboards
Kinesis Advantage2 Pros and Cons
- The ideal keyboard for comfort and speed. Period.
- Encrypted wireless communication with computer
- High price tag
- Steep learning curve
- Noisy (good or bad depending on personal preference)
- No separate number pad included
Goldtouch Go!2 Mobile Keyboard
The Portable Option
The majority of ergonomic keyboards are large and inflexible. They take up most of your desk space, they’re heavy and hard to fit in a briefcase, and even if you feel like lugging one around on the subway back and forth every day, they’re too complicated to set up to be practical for someone who needs to work on the go.
The Goldtouch Go!2 Mobile Keyboard is designed to solve all of these problems. It’s a Bluetooth enabled keyboard that folds in half neatly in order to be packed away. It’s light and easy to store and it’s durable enough for travel. When you’re ready to use it, pull it out, unfold it, and connect it to your device. It’s that easy. The ergonomic aspect also comes from its folding capabilities—the two halves of the keyboard are connected at the top and center and form a sort of teepee that can be adjusted to your comfort.
It’s perfect for commuters who only want to buy one ergonomic keyboard to split between work and home or for those who are constantly traveling for work and need to get tasks done at rotating jobsites or on an airport floor.
The Go! is obviously not going to be as reliable as the keyboard that just sits on your desk all day every day, but it does the job as good as any other portable keyboard, ergonomic or not.
Goldtouch Go!2 Pros and Cons
- Connects to any Bluetooth enabled device
- Folds neatly into a small 6” x 7” x 2” dimension
- Wireless connection is less reliable than wired
- No number pad included
Budget Ergonomic Keyboard Options
All these fancy keyboards are so expensive!
The Adesso Tru-Form Contoured Ergonomic Keyboard is simply one of the best ergonomic keyboards on a budget. It is a very standard ergonomic keyboard with few bells and whistles, but that’s exactly what most people need in a keyboard. The hand position is very natural and comfortable for most people and it has great wrist support. The keys are sometimes a bit clunky and that might bother some people, but that’s what you’re going to get in the lower price ranges. It’s also not very adjustable so while the Tru-Form is satisfactory for the average user, what you get is what you get.
The Natural series from Microsoft is another great option when it comes to the cheaper side of ergonomic keyboards. The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 on ebay is generally only slightly more expensive than the Adesso Tru-Form and is a very similar design. It’s an extremely popular keyboard and with good reason. Overall, it’s very familiar and easy to use for the average user.
Less can be more
While a $30 keyboard may not be as effective as a $300 keyboard at preventing and curing pain caused by typing, even an inexpensive keyboard is the first step towards preventing long-term issues and having any ergonomic keyboard in the first place is significantly better than not having one at all. It would be ideal for the health of our hands not to type on a keyboard all day, but that isn’t exactly an option in our modern era. So being smart about the keyboards we use extensively can reduce or prevent long-term effects from destroying our hands even just a little bit.
It’s very easy for us to say that our favorite keyboard is the Kinesis Advantage2. While there are a lot of ergonomic keyboards on the market and many different and creative solutions to the same problem, there are few that have taken comfort and health as far as the Advantage line. We recognize, however, that the Advantage2 is not the keyboard for every consumer. The truth is that as long as you as a typist are aware of the effects of extensive keyboard use and do whatever you can to prevent long-term harm to your body—even just a little bit—then you are better off than you would be otherwise and the sooner you start the better. The Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard is probably the best on the market for protecting your hands from repetitive strain injury.