Tips for choosing and using walkers
Article by Mayo Clinic posted on Sept. 08, 2016
Types of walkers
If you break a bone in your leg or foot or you’re at risk of falling, a walker can make it easier for you to get around. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the options, including:
- Standard walker. This walker has four nonskid, rubber-tipped legs to provide stability. You must pick it up to move.
- Two-wheel walker. This walker, which has wheels on the two front legs, is helpful if you need some, but not constant, weight-bearing help.
- Three-wheel walker. This walker provides balance support like a four-wheel walker, but it is lighter weight and more maneuverable.
- Four-wheel walker. This walker is for people who don’t need to lean on the walker for balance.
- Knee walker. This walker is similar to a foot-propelled scooter, but it has a platform for resting your knee.
Selecting a grip
Most walkers come with plastic grips, but you have other choices as well. You might consider foam grips or soft grip covers, especially if your hands tend to get sweaty. If you have trouble grasping with your fingers — due to arthritis, other joint pains or nerve problems in your fingers — you might prefer a larger grip.
Choosing the correct grip will relieve unnecessary stress on your joints and help prevent joint deformities. Whichever grip you choose, be sure it’s secure so that it won’t slip while you’re using the walker.
Fitting your walker
Adjust your walker so that it fits your arms comfortably. This will reduce stress on your shoulders and back as you use the walker. To tell if your walker is the correct height, step inside your walker and:
- Check your elbow bend. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, place your hands on the grips. Your elbows should bend at a comfortable angle of about 15 degrees.
- Check your wrist height. Stand inside the walker and relax your arms at your sides. The top of the walker grip should line up with the crease on the inside of your wrist.
Taking your first step
If you need to place weight on the walker as you move, start by pushing the walker about one step ahead of you. Keep your back upright. Don’t hunch over the walker.
Stepping into the walker
Next, place one leg, or your injured leg, into the middle area of the walker. Don’t step close to the front bar. Keep the walker still as you step in.
Stepping with the other foot
Finally, push straight down on the grips of the walker as you bring your other leg forward. Repeat the process by moving your walker forward and stepping into it one leg at a time.
Don’t lean over the walker
When you use the walker, stay upright as you move. This will help protect your back. Always step into the walker, rather than walking behind it. Don’t push the walker too far in front of you or set the handles too high.
Also, take small steps when you turn and move slowly. Be careful when using your walker on surfaces that are slippery, carpeted or uneven. Watch for objects on the ground. Wear low-heeled shoes that have good grips on the soles.
Certain options and accessories can make your walker easier to use and more useful. For example:
- Some walkers fold for easy storage and transport.
- Some walkers with wheels have hand brakes.
- Trays can help you carry food, drinks and other items to a table.
- A pouch attached to the side can carry books or magazines.
- Seats are useful for people with limited endurance who need to take breaks while walking.
- Baskets are useful for people who shop while using a walker.
Whatever walker you choose, don’t overload it and make sure you maintain it. Worn-out or loose rubber caps or grips and loose or excessively tight brakes might increase your risk of falling while using a walker. For help maintaining a walker, consult your doctor or physical therapist.