Spending hours in front of a computer can be bad for your health and lead to conditions like repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome. Which peripherals you choose can make a huge difference, and that’s why you should consider upgrading to an ergonomic mouse.
What Is an Ergonomic Mouse?
Ergonomic design emphasizes comfort and efficiency above all else. While many products factor ergonomics into the final design, products designed specifically to be “ergonomic” usually go much further.
For example, a standard mouse might be smooth and easy to hold, with a scroll wheel that makes navigation easier. Despite these considerations, the angle at which the mouse must be held could cause injury over prolonged periods. Some tasks might put people at higher risk of these injuries, especially repetitive tasks.
By comparison, an ergonomic mouse is designed from the ground up to reduce the likelihood of such injuries occurring. It might take a radically different approach to the overall design that requires the user to learn or adjust to a new way of doing things.
There are different types of ergonomic pointing devices that have different applications. Some are designed with specific use cases in mind, while others provide a radical alternative to the traditional mouse. Some combine traditional mouse design with flexible accessibility considerations.
Let’s take a look at the different types of ergonomic mice that are available, and how they differ from one another.
Different Types of Ergonomic Mice
If you’re looking for an alternative pointing device, there are plenty of options to choose from. Some are designed specifically with certain accessibility requirements in mind, while others will simply give your wrist a break.
Horizontal Ergonomic Mouse
The most common type of ergonomic mouse, the horizontal ergonomic mouse, doesn’t look or feel that different from a standard mouse. This makes it quite easy to transition over, with no real adjustment period.
The horizontal mouse design is timeless and remains one of the most efficient and productive ways of using a computer. Everyone knows how to use them, which makes them ideal for shared or family computers. They won’t slow you down if you play games either, with the vast majority of gaming mice using the horizontal form factor for a reason.
Horizontal mice incorporate useful features like scroll wheels and shortcut buttons. They usually use a cut-away design that makes the mouse easier to grip, with room for your thumb to rest. These mice are designed with a specific hand in mind (usually the right), so keep this in mind if you’re left-handed.
Since the horizontal mouse shares so much in common with a standard mouse, it’s probably the least beneficial compared with other options. You’ll still need to move your wrist a fair bit, and you’re still locked into a horizontal wrist position. These mice are best suited to people who have issues with hand placement or grip.
Logitech MX Master 3 Advanced Wireless Mouse, Ultrafast Scrolling, Ergonomic, 4000 DPI, Customization, USB-C, Bluetooth, USB, Apple Mac, Microsoft PC Windows, Linux, iPad - Graphite
One of the best wireless horizontal ergonomic mice on the market with fast scrolling, two scroll wheels, programmable buttons.
Vertical Ergonomic Mouse
While a horizontal mouse forces your hand into a flat position, a vertical mouse embraces a more natural-feeling vertical alignment. It’s more like holding a mug than using a mouse, and it requires a unique button layout that could take some time to adjust to.
The vertical mouse uses the “handshake” position and feels a bit like holding a mug or a glass. Instead of moving your wrist left and right to move the pointer horizontally, a vertical mouse requires you to move your wrist up and down instead. Compare how different moving your wrist left and right is to the more “natural” up and down motion that a vertical mouse takes advantage of and you might see why this is beneficial.
There are a few drawbacks to this design. You’ll effectively have to relearn how to use a mouse, and it could take some time before you’re up to speed. If you have a shared computer, other members of your home or office might not appreciate your weird mouse.
They’re also not ideal for gaming, and you won’t have the same breadth of choice available to you when shopping around. The Logitech MX Vertical is one of the best vertical mice that you can buy at a premium price point, while Anker’s Wireless Vertical Mouse is a bargain for the money.
Logitech MX Vertical Wireless Mouse – Advanced Ergonomic Design Reduces Muscle Strain, Control and Move Content Between 3 Windows and Apple Computers (Bluetooth or USB), Rechargeable, Graphite
A wireless vertical mouse from Logitech that uses a 57-degree angle design to prevent forearm twisting.
The term “hybrid mouse” is a bit of a catch-all, but here we’re using it to describe the Microsoft Arc since most other similar designs are no longer available. The Microsoft Arc is a unique mouse in that it combines the functionality of a mouse and a trackpad into a single design.
The latest version of the Microsoft Arc can snap flat for travel purposes or personal preference, but the design hasn’t changed that much since its introduction. The front of the mouse (where the mouse buttons usually reside) is a multi-touch capable trackpad, allowing you to scroll, tap, and control your mouse pointer by only moving your fingers.
The mouse sports a classic horizontal design, which means that you can use it like a regular mouse, too. There are no ergonomic considerations in this regard. It’s a pretty plain mouse to use. The curved shape of the Arc might be more comfortable for users who dislike the standard flat trackpad design seen on laptops.
The Microsoft Arc is a niche product with a fairly broad market appeal. Many people aren’t buying it for ergonomic reasons, but rather, for the convenience of having two devices in a flat-packing design. With that in mind, it’s still worth a look if you’re exploring the world of alternative pointing devices.
Microsoft Arc Mouse (ELG-00001) Black
The Microsoft Arc is a unique and flexible design that provides the functionality of a trackpad and a mouse in a single, curved design.
Trackballs first emerged post-World War II and have been commonly found on home computer systems since the 1980s. They’ve made their way into air traffic control radar systems and aircraft as well as arcade game cabinets for titles like Marble Madness, Centipede, and Missile Command.
A trackball requires almost no wrist movement from the user to manipulate a pointer. They’re either designed for use with a thumb or two fingers, with additional scroll or jog wheels for scrolling and zooming. Finger-operated trackball mice are usually ambidextrous, whereas thumb-operated ones aren’t.
These types of ball-based pointing devices don’t rely on a flat or smooth desk and thus, can be used almost anywhere and at any angle as long as they’re comfortable for the user. They’re ideal for use on uneven surfaces, in bed, or on a surface that’s in motion, such as a boat or plane.
Using a trackball is fairly straightforward, but still requires an adjustment period. While most users have little problem getting the pointer to do what they want, getting up to speed can take much more practice. Trackballs are great for users who struggle with wrist or arm mobility, and some people might just prefer the experience over a standard mouse or trackpad.
The Logitech Wireless MX Ergo is one of the best-selling thumb-operated trackball mice still available. Kensington also makes the devices designed to be used with fingers, like the Kensington SlimBlade and Kensington Orbit, which are both ambidextrous in design.
Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse Adjustable Ergonomic Design, Control and Move Text/Images/Files Between 2 Windows and Apple Mac Computers (Bluetooth or USB), Rechargeable, Graphite - Black
The Logitech Wireless MX Ergo is a thumb-operated trackball mouse with an adjustable hinge, cross-platform support, and up to 70 days of battery life.
Kensington SlimBlade Trackball Mouse (K72327U)
One of the coolest looking computer peripherals you can buy, the Kensington SlimBlade is a finger-operated wired trackball mouse with a striking low-profile design.
Pen Mouse or Graphics Tablet
A pen mouse is, as the name implies, a pointing device that takes the form of a pen. You hold it like you would a pen, with finger- and thumb-operated buttons allowing you to click and scroll.
A graphics tablet works in the same way, except that the pen component is usually much smaller because most of the hardware is tucked away in the tablet. These devices are typically aimed at professionals and digital artists, but entry-level models should be good enough for basic pointer use.
It’s hard to say who pen mice are for, but if you find writing less tiring than using a standard mouse, you might be interested in trying one out. You’ll find plenty of pen mice, like the Jhua Rechargeable Pocket Pen, at very cheap price points, as well as more expensive models, like the Penclic D3. For tablet input, something like the XP-PEN StarG640 should be good enough for desktop use.
Penclic D3 Ergonomic Mouse - Wired. Patented Ergonomic Design Relieves Pain Related To Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Ambidextrous button layout, for PC or Mac.
With its patented ergonomic design the Penclic D3 allows you to keep your hand in a more naturally comfortable position while controlling the pointer with its adjustable sensitivity and ambidextrous design.
XP-PEN StarG640 6x4 Inch Ultrathin Tablet Drawing Tablet Digital Graphics Tablet with 8192 Levels Battery-Free Stylus Compatible with Chromebook-Rev B (for Drawing and E-Learning/Online Classes)
Usable as both a graphics tablet and a pointing device, the StarG640 is designed for digital art with its battery-free stylus and cross-platform compatibility.
A joystick mouse is a pointing device that uses a joystick grip to move the whole peripheral. These mice are usually considered accessibility devices, but they might appeal to anyone who finds the shape comfortable to hold.
These mice are similar to vertical ergonomic mice in that the sensor is at the bottom of the unit. To move the pointer, you must move the entire device (unlike a joystick on a gamepad), which engages stronger arm muscles rather than relying entirely on your wrist.
Posturite Wireless Penguin Mouse - Large (9820103)
Posturite's Penguin Mouse comes in several sizes and is designed for both right and left-handed use.
What About Trackpads?
Trackpads sit flat on a desk and require far less wrist movement than a mouse. They might be perfect for users who struggle with wrist movement, and they provide access to gestures that can help you be more productive, especially if you’re a Mac user.
For Mac, there’s no beating Apple’s Magic Trackpad. It works natively with macOS, delivering smooth, two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom as well as more complex gestures, like switching between desktops and accessing Mission Control.
For Windows, the Magic Trackpad is an option, but it doesn’t work well natively. Out of the box, you’ll be limited to one- and two-finger taps and gestures. You’ll need a free driver like Trackpad++ or a subscription to Magic Utilities to really make the most of it.
Apple Magic Trackpad 2 (Wireless, Rechargable) - Silver
The Apple Magic Trackpad 2 is a rechargeable trackpad designed specifically for use with macOS.
Consider an Ergonomic Keyboard, Too
Typing can put just as much stress on your wrists as wiggling a mouse all day. It can be difficult to manage a condition like carpal tunnel syndrome when it arises, so prevention is always the best strategy.
Check out Review Geek’s best ergonomic keyboard roundup, which features both high-end mechanical and cheaper standard keyboards to choose from. Or, for more mouse options, head straight to our guide to the best mice that you can buy.