Clicky Keyboards Are So Cool They Hurt

Take care of your wrists

Key Takeaways

  • Mechanical keyboards look, feel, and sound great.
  • Many models are too tall for comfort, and may cause wrist pain.
  • The clicky keyboard habit can get expensive.
Black Das Keyboard mechanical keyboard connected to an Apple computer
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Clicky keyboards are hot. They look cool, they sound great, and they’re a lot of fun to use. But they’re often too tall, can aggravate repetitive strain injury (RSI), and many of them aren’t as well-made as you’d like. 

Mechanical keyboards come in a few basic types, but all of them have sprung keys that move way more than the keys on a modern laptop. This springy movement, along with a positive click that lets you know when a keypress has been registered, make them very satisfying to use.

I love them. I’ve owned or reviewed plenty of them, and I still keep a few under the couch. But I rarely dig them out anymore, because they’re just too painful.

What is a Mechanical Keyboard?

Picture a computer from the 1980s, or an electric typewriter like the IBM Selectric from the 1960s. They comprise a molded plastic keycap, with a switch underneath, and the best ones, or at least the noisiest ones, are the Cherry Blue switches.

These switches are the whole point of a mechanical keyboard, because they provide a feel unlike that of any scissor-switch or butterfly keyboard, or those awful rubber-dome switches found inside really cheap keyboards.

"This springy movement, along with a positive click that lets you know when a keypress has been registered, make them very satisfying to use."

Those keycaps can also be pulled off and replaced. The switches aren’t moving (unless you have a special model where the switches are meant to be replaced), but the keycaps can be swapped. There’s a big market for custom keycaps, so you can really go to town and customize your keyboard.

Ergonomics

The keys take a little getting used to. The first few days can be frustrating. If you ever swapped your mouse or trackpad to your non-dominant hand, this feels the same. The discomfort is in the head, not the fingers. But persevere and it will seem quite comfortable. 

Or not. While some people prefer the increased finger movement of mechanical keys, others (like me) may find it uncomfortable after a while. It all depends on your own setup, and the state of your carpal tunnels. Mine aren’t happy with an extended use of clicky keys.

Tall mechanical keyboard resting in front of a tablet
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

But more pressing than the keys, themselves, are the ergonomics of the keyboard as a unit. I find they are, almost universally, too tall. Unlike a regular modern computer keyboard, which is only a few millimeters tall, the average mechanical model can tower well over an inch above the desk. 

Couple this with today’s desks, which are also a little high, and you have a recipe for RSI. Look at the stands that held old electric typewriters, and you’ll see how low they are compared to your desk. If your keyboard forces your forearms up to meet it, you should either add a keyboard tray under the desk, or saw a few inches off the desk’s legs. I opted for the latter, but it’s still too high with some keyboards.

Expensive Habit

The other downside of mechanical keyboards is they’re expensive. That’s no problem on its own, because a good keyboard will last decades, but they can be addicting, and you might find yourself with an expensive habit.

Close up image of a mechanical keyboard's red mute and volume down keys
Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire

Here’s an example. I’m using my trusty Filco Majestouch 2, which I really love. While writing, I decided to research the latest low-profile mechanical keyboards, and it sent me on a journey into expensive experimentation.

If you write all day long, you owe it to your wrists to get a good keyboard, and to position it properly. That may be a mechanical model, but it might equally be a simple modern keyboard. Whatever you do, don’t use a mechanical keyboard if it's uncomfortable, no matter how cool it looks.

Was this page helpful?