To make a keyboard ergonomic, make sure that it is as flat as possible. RSI complaints can be prevented by keeping the wrists in a relaxed, straight posture. However, there is another option: a vertical keyboard.
A vertical keyboard often consists of 2 separate parts that you can place independently at an angle. Some vertical keyboards are only raised in the middle. In both cases, there is no twisting of the forearms and wrists and this prevents RSI.
Fully split vertical keyboards
When using a fully split vertical keyboard, the hands and wrists are in a natural posture. This prevents pronation problems (twisting of the forearms). To use this type of keyboard, you have to be able to touch type.
A major disadvantage of a vertical keyboard is that it causes consistently high muscle tension in the arms and hands. When typing, you need to keep your hands up. Ideally, the forearms should be supported during typing, as they are when using a completely flat keyboard.
Fixed vertical keyboards
Fixed vertical keyboards owe their name to a more subtle, raised angle, as shown below. Because of this angle, they are often a lot wider than standard keyboards.
Research shows that the use a wide ergonomic keyboard can lead to an undesirable posture: with the elbows turned outwards, placed wider apart than shoulder width. This can cause strain. When typing with these keyboards, the strain on hands and wrists is less than with standard keyboards.
When a keyboard has a fixed numeric keypad, the reach distance to the mouse is increased (for right-handed mouse use). By reaching sideways to the mouse, you unconsciously increase the strain on the right shoulder and wrist.
Pros and Cons
There is no twisting of the forearms due to the vertical position of the keyboard (with a correctly adjusted angle). Also, the wrists remain straight due to the split in the keyboard. These factors reduce the strain on the tendons.
If you use a fully split vertical keyboard, or you have insufficient wrist support, there is increased muscle tension in the hands and forearms. You need to take this into account when making your choice. For many (fixed) vertical keyboards, another disadvantage is the reach distance to the mouse. Finally, a behavioural change is required when using a vertical keyboard. For example, can you touch type? If not, then a vertical keyboard is not an option for you.
Everything you need to know about ergonomic keyboards
Would you like to compare a vertical keyboard with other ergonomic options such as the compact or split keyboard? Our white paper 'Ergonomic Keyboards' gives you an overview of all the pros and cons to help you evaluate your options.