Ergonomic mice have a bad reputation, mainly because trackballs and other ergonomic options look ridiculous and come with a steep learning curve. But vertical mice promise to deliver ergonomics and prevent wrist injury without throwing you out of your comfort zone. And yeah, this claim is mostly true.
I say “mostly true” for a good reason—replacing your mouse isn’t a one-way ticket out of wrist pain. But a vertical mouse can contribute to your prevention or treatment strategy, and unlike trackballs, vertical mice don’t have a crazy learning curve. They’re just sideways mice.
Repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel are common among daily computer users. And while doctors know a lot about treating and preventing these injuries, some questions remain unanswered or inconclusive.
That said, experts generally agree that vertical mice are more ergonomic than traditional mice. They aren’t a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for wrist injuries, but they can contribute to a prevention or treatment strategy.
That’s because vertical mice place your hand at an angle in a “handshake position.” Most office-based wrist injuries are the result of two things—pressing your wrists against a desk and twisting them at uncomfortable angles. Ideally, your wrists shouldn’t press against anything, and your whole arm (not just your wrist) should move with your mouse.
Holding a vertical mouse in a “handshake position” keeps your wrist off the desk and in the air. It also prevents you from twisting your wrist from side to side, as you need to move your whole arm (from the shoulder down) to push a vertical mouse around your desk.
Unfortunately, there are several factors that can contribute to wrist injury. Your mouse isn’t the only suspect in this lineup—it’s joined by your keyboard, your chair, the height of your monitor and desk, and your overall posture. If you’re serious about preventing or treating a wrist injury, a fancy mouse may not be enough.
Place one hand on your mouse and another on your keyboard. If your wrists are “floating” and your elbows are parallel with the desk, then you already have a fairly ergonomic setup. Adding something like a vertical mouse to the mix can help take things a step further, contributing to your prevention or treatment strategy.
But most people will find that they’re leaning forward and stabilizing themselves with their wrists. If you fit into this category, a new mouse will only do so much. You’ll still find yourself pushing weight on your wrists when typing, and your hunched posture could contribute to neck or back pain.
So, unless a doctor tells you otherwise, you should investigate the height of your desk, chair, and monitor before buying expensive gadgets. In an ideal setup, your feet should be planted on the ground with your knees at a comfortable angle (usually about 120 degrees). Your forearm and elbows should be parallel with your desk, and when sitting up, the tippy-top of your monitor should be right across from your eyes.
Once you meet these criteria, you’ll have a much better idea of how to upgrade your mouse, keyboard, and so on. You may also find that these gadgets don’t need upgrading, although more ergonomic devices certainly won’t hurt your setup.
If you’re currently experiencing wrist pain or are seriously worried about repetitive stress injuries, you should speak with a physician or physical therapist. They’ll know a lot more about prevention and treatment than some stranger on the internet.
Some ergonomic mouse alternatives, like trackballs, are a bit awkward and require some practice. But vertical mice aren’t all that different from regular mice. You just hold them at a different angle. Getting used to a vertical mouse should only take you a few days, if that.
The two things you really need to worry about are size and functionality. If a vertical mouse is too big or small for your hands, you probably won’t enjoy using the thing. And if it lacks features that are important to you, such as a speedy scroll wheel or extra buttons, you’ll feel like you’re being punished.
In my opinion, Logitech is the best brand at addressing these concerns. Both the MX Vertical and Logitech Lift mice offer advanced features, and the Lift is subtly marketed as an option for smaller hands.
Now, I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll love a vertical mouse. Many people who try an ergonomic mouse end up reverting after a few months. That’s why it’s important to shop with a bit of knowledge in your pocket—if the information in this article isn’t getting you hyped about vertical mice, for example, maybe you should look at trackballs or other mouse alternatives.
Again, choosing a vertical mouse requires a bit of research. I suggest hunting down reviews and focusing on things like size and features. Cost is also a factor, but because there aren’t a ton of vertical mice to choose from, you may want to window shop a bit before you decide your budget.
And that brings us to another problem; there are only six or seven vertical mice that are actually worth anyone’s trouble. Brands are slowly entering this space as they realize the importance (and profitability) of ergonomics, but as it stands, the MX Vertical and Logitech Lift are basically the cream of the crop. If you don’t like them, you probably won’t like any other vertical mice.
If that’s the case, I suggest looking into ergonomic mice alternatives. A trackball may sound cumbersome, but options like the Kensington Expert are highly ergonomic and programmable. Apple’s Magic Trackpad may be a good option if you use a Mac, and while it’s just a traditional-styled mouse, the Logitech MX Master is surprisingly ergonomic.