Guide to Ergonomic Pens

Guide to Ergonomic Pens

May 12, 2015 - Posted by Miriam to Guides, Gel Pens, Ballpoint Pens, Rollerball Pens

Pens are often advertised as being ergonomic, but the meaning of the words tends to get lost in a haze of marketing speak. What exactly makes a pen ergonomic? There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, since ergonomics vary from person to person, depending on the size and shape of their hands, as well as any pre-existing medical conditions, such as carpal tunnel or arthritis. With that in mind, this guide will help you parse through ergonomic pen options and also give some tips and tricks along the way.

Characteristics of Ergnomic Pens
Finding the right pen can go a long way towards relieving hand fatigue. There are quite a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting an ergonomic pen. Here is an overview of qualities that are conducive to comfortable writing.
Generally, pens that are long, balanced, and thick are considered more ergonomic as they are more easily grasped by the hand. Manufacturers have also played with various designs, and as a result, you can find pens with hourglass figures, chiseled contour lines, and even pens that follow one smooth curve—all in the pursuit of the perfect ergonomic shape.
A pen should be light enough to hold comfortably, but heavy enough so that too much pressure doesn't have to be applied for it to write. Most ergonomic pens are tip heavy for this reason—the weight naturally pushes the tip down, whereas a top-heavy pen sways with each writing gesture, forcing the hand to grip harder to compensate. It's best to experiment and see what you prefer.
A good grip can help alleviate finger discomfort especially when writing for long periods of time. We recommend a rubber grip that is gentler and easier for your fingers to stick to as opposed to slippery metal or plastic surfaces. Grips range from extremely soft and cushioned to firm and grooved. Choosing the right grip depends on how firmly you grasp your pen. For example, someone with a death grip probably needs a squishier pen grip.
Ink Flow
A pen with good ink flow reduces the amount of exerted force required when writing, minimizing fatigue over time. For this reason, some people prefer using gel or roller ball pens for their juicy flow. However ballpoint pens have come a long way—many brands now offer wonderfully smooth flowing inks in their ballpoint pens that allow for legible, attractive letters and characters.
Product Recommendations

The Alpha Gel is the king of all cushioned grips. Squishing the gel-like grip is as satisfying as squeezing a stress ball. The basic Alpha Gel line comes in three different shapes—the original has a slightly contoured grip for better finger placement; the Shaka Black has a contoured body for it to comfortably rest in your hand; and the Slim, for those with smaller hands or fingers. The Alpha Gel grip is also available with Jetstream ink, mechanical pencils, and more!

If you like the cushy grip of the Alpha Gel, but want a smoother flowing ink, the Signo 207 Premier is just what the doctor ordered. It has a remarkably similar grip to the Alpha Gel, but with the fantastic flow of the Signo gel ink that everyone knows and loves. The only downside is the lack of tip size and color options, but we don't mind as it is the only gel pen available with such a squishy grip.

This award-winning pen boasts an innovative double layer grip design where the outer layer is firm while the inner layer is soft, giving the perfect moderate softness while offering support. It also has an optimal weight balance, featuring a bottom heavy body that makes it easier to write. It's also available in multi pen and mechanical pencil form, which you can learn more about in our Dr. Grip Mechanical Pencil guide.

This unique pen looks like it came out of an architecture firm with its chiseled crystal-like body and interesting shape. The wavy spiral design allows the pen to rest naturally in the hand and can be adjusted according to how it is held. The firm rubber grip is also lightly contoured with shallow grooves to help guide finger placement, making it a great alternative to the softer Alpha Gel or Dr. Grip pens.

Designed to accommodate slim fingers and smaller hands, the Airfit's grip feels similar to that of the Dr. Grip. It features a layer of air cushion between the grip and body which provides not only comfort, but also heat insulation. It's especially helpful for those in humid or muggy environments to prevent hands from sweating too much. This is a nice option for those who like Dr. Grip, but prefer a slimmer and more lightweight version.

The FitCurve's hourglass shape and low center of gravity provide a balanced body weight that prevents the pen from wobbling when writing. It's also designed thinner than most pens to promote holding the pen at an ergonomic angle. According to Kokuyo's calculations, when pens are held at a 30° tilt, 1.15 times the diameter is experienced in the hand. The FitCurve mimics a 11.5 mm diameter feel when held at that angle for a comfortable and ergonomic experience.

This roller ball pen has a triangular grooved plastic grip for that perfect tripod hold. This is an excellent pen if you're looking for a richer, more fluid ink than what ballpoint pens offer—its smooth pigmented ink flows at the lightest touch. Due to its free-flowing ink, less pressure is needed while writing, and the pen can be used for long periods of time.

This oddly-shaped roller ball pen features two flawlessly shaped grooves for your forefinger and thumb to rest. It grows thicker toward the middle of the pen, creating a "belly" that gracefully slopes upward to create the ideal curve that fits in the nook between your forefinger and thumb. It also comes in a left-handed version, to help lefties maintain good form as they write.

Posture and Form

Comfortable, fatigue-free writing starts with good posture. No matter how ergonomic a pen is, if you don't practice good posture, you are susceptible to injuries including cramping, fatigue, and other serious pain. To reduce the chance of sustaining ergonomic injuries, here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Sit up straight and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.
  • Rest your back against the chair for support.
  • Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed.
  • Don't sit for long periods of time. Take a stretch break every once in a while!

The way you hold a pen is also important. Our hands and wrists are put through the wringer each day and are extremely prone to ergonomic injury. Here are our tips for optimal pen holding:

  • Have a relaxed grip. The lighter your grip, the less stress you put on your fingers.
  • Hold the pen in a tripod position, anchored by your thumb, forefinger and middle finger.
  • Try not to press too hard with your forefinger as it can lead to cramping, but instead keep it arched.
  • Prevent strain on your fingers and wrists by moving your whole arm as you write, rather than just your fingers.
Lefty Tips

We know these guidelines may not work as well for lefties, and we're working on writing a guide just for you. In the meantime, here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Grip the pen about 1-1.5" away from the tip to see what is being written without having to adopt a "hooked" posture.
  • Use quick-dry pens or a SmudgeGuard to avoid smudges instead of contorting your hand.
  • Tilt the paper so your arm is at a right angle to the bottom of the paper to better see what you've written.
  • Keep your hand below the writing line rather than above, as that can be bad for your wrist.

It's never too late to fight against bad habits! We hope we've inspired you to consider not just the ergonomics of your pen, but your overall posture and habits in general. Are you a fan of ergonomic pens? Let us know your favorite in the comments below!

Product Ink Type Tip Size (mm) Length (cm) Grip Diameter (mm) Weight (oz) Ink Flow Grip Quality
Uni Alpha Gel - Original Ballpoint 0.7 14 13 1.2 Good Extremely soft and cushioned
Uni Alpha Gel - Shaka Black Ballpoint 0.7 14.2 13 0.9 Good Extremely soft and cushioned
Uni Alpha Gel - Slim Ballpoint 0.7 14.8 0.9 0.7 Good Extremely soft and cushioned
Uni Signo 207 Premier Gel 0.7 14 12.7 1 Superb Extremely soft and cushioned
Pilot Dr. Grip Ballpoint 0.7 14.2 12 0.8 Great Firm with some give
Zebra nuSpiral Ballpoint 0.7 13.7 12 1 Good Firm and lightly grooved
Zebra Airfit Ballpoint 0.7 13.9 11 0.4 Good Firm with some give
Kokuyo FitCurve Ballpoint 0.7 14.5 12 0.5 Good Firm
Shachihata Artline Ergoline Roller Ball 0.5 15.6 11.5 0.4 Superb Firm (plastic) and lightly grooved
Stabilo EASYoriginal Roller Ball 0.5 12.5 14 1.3 Superb Firm with deep grooves

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