Sure, this is the computer age, but we all still use pens for just about every day for everything from taking customer orders to jotting down the grocery list. That can be painful sometimes for people with arthritis or repetitive stress injuries and those in professions that require a lot of writing by hand. Using ergonomic pens can help ease the discomfort.
There’s no firm definition of exactly what an ergonomic pen is supposed to be or how it should look. The general idea seems to be that a good ergonomic design for a pen is one that allows the user to hold it in the gentlest possible grip and apply the least amount of pressure possible in order to write.
That typically means a large body with a padded grip of some kind, using a rollerball or gel ink. Some are simply standard pens made larger, while others, as you’ll see, go in quite another direction.
We haven’t tried every one of these pens, but these are some ergonomic designs that have consistently earned good reviews from pen users.
- Pilot Dr. Grip: This retractable gel ink pen shows up near the top of just about every ergonomic pen list, probably because it is endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation for Ease-of-Use. And that’s for good reason. The soft rubber grip is a joy to hold, and the gel ink flows freely so that it takes minimum effort to move the pen across paper. This is a pen you can use comfortably for long writing sessions. Not a bad-looking pen, either. However, grime tends to stick to the cushion.
- EzGrip: This is another one that makes most of the lists. Designed by Dexter Technologies, the pen features a unique grip with a wide shelf of sorts – what the company calls a “comfort ledge” – where the tip of the index finger rests on top of the pen. Writing is accomplished by pushing gently on the pen to guide it. According to Dexter, a study by the Cleveland Clinic found that compared to other pens, the EzGrip takes far less pressure to use and is significantly more controllable. Arthritis experts Carol and Richard Eustice at About.com give the pen top marks. Uses Parker refills.
(Note: While the company claims, in hyperbolic fashion, that the pen is the end of writer’s cramp, medical researchers have actually discovered that writer’s cramp is linked to brain abnormalities.)
Update: We received a response from the makers of the EzGrip.
Wanted to mention the author is referring to Dystonia, also known as Focal Dystonia, in which de Quervain's Disease is included as well. Our well founded claim - The End of Writer's Cramp - Guaranteed - still stands. We refer to the everyday cramping writer's get from holding on too tight -- an overuse or repetitive stress injury. A human frailty - not a brain abnormality. (just in case you may have it)
- Paper Mate Phd: The plus for this retractable ballpoint is that it has a wide body, which always makes for a comfortable pen. However, the triangular rubber grip is slightly awkward, even though the edges are rounded so they don’t press too hard against your fingers. Paper Mate’s Lubriglide Ink makes for a smooth writing experience, ensuring that it doesn’t take much pressure to move the pen.
- Bic XXL: This is one of the widest-bodied retractable ballpoints on the market. The fat, round barrel and foam grip make the pen incredibly comfortable to use. These are typical ballpoints, so they aren’t exceptionally smooth writers, although their performance is perfectly acceptable. Takes a standard Bic refill. Downside is that the foam cushion tends to dry out and get scratchy. Unfortunately, these pens are difficult to find in US and almost impossible to get outside the US.
- Ergosof PenAgain: One of the oddest-looking ergonomic pens you’ll find, but that almost seems to be a requirement for ergonomically designed products. Instead of holding the pen in a triangle between thumb, forefinger and middle finger, you slip your index finger into the U-shaped opening and rest it on top of the pen. Depending on the model, the body is made of soft rubber or molded plastic. Most reviews seem to focus on how comfortable it is without going into much detail about how it writes, although there have been complaints about ink not flowing smoothly enough. The pen is refillable.
- Yoropen: Another ergonomic pen with a unique shape. The Yoropen has an adjustable tripod grip that is designed to keep your index finger from sliding down the pen into the classic – and wrong – pinch hold. Because the grip rotates, you can position wherever it’s most comfortable for you. (We also recommend this pen as a possible option for lefties.) Available in both standard ballpoint and gel ink. One word of caution: Be careful not to grip the pen too tightly, as that might cause hyperextension of your index finger.
As you can see, we didn’t explore ergonomic fountain pens in this article, but you might want to check out “Voodoo Ergonomics” over at the Fountain Pen Network, where Jon does a pretty fair round-up of the most comfortable pens.