Walkers & Accessories
WalkersWalkers provide walking support and stability for people with mobility or balance issues. They consist of lightweight metal frames with four legs, easy-to-grip handles, and, optionally, wheels.
Walkers can be invaluable for physically strong people who need more stability than a cane can provide. There are a variety of different types of walkers available.
Who Needs A Walker?While we tend to think of walkers as something only the elderly or disabled need, they can benefit many other people. This can include those with arthritis, chronic pain, respiratory illness, or other conditions, leading to decreased weight-bearing ability, poor balance, or being easily fatigued.
If you find yourself holding onto things for support when you walk, if you’re unable to stand reliably for long periods, or find yourself easily fatigued when walking, a walker may help.
Types of WalkersWalkers can be broadly divided into front walkers, which have handles on either side and provide support equally to both sides, hemi-walkers or “side-steppers,” which provide support on only one side.
Front walkers are more common and come in a variety of types, including:
- Folding walkers - Foldability allows easier transport and storage when not in use.
- Non-folding walkers - These have a completely rigid frame and eliminate even the slightest bit of wobble when in use, making them a good choice for those who need extra help with balance.
- Bariatric walkers - These have a wider frame designed to support much heavier weights than standard walkers, making them safer for larger people.
- Stand-assist walkers - These do triple duty. They provide support for walking, act as an aid to rising from a chair, and a portable safety frame for the toilet.
- Rolling walkers (also known as rollators) - Rollators have four wheels, and usually, a basket is attached. This gives the user a place to carry their personal items, leaving their hands free. Many rollators also have a seat, allowing the user to stop and rest as needed.
- Knee walkers/knee scooters - As the name implies, knee walkers resemble scooters. They generally have 4 wheels, an elevated platform to rest your knee and lower leg, and a steering handle similar to a wagon handle. This type of walker is an ingenious alternative to crutches for those recovering from certain types of leg or foot injury.
Handle Grip OptionsWalkers may have plain, hard-plastic hand grips or foam grips. Plastic grips are standard, but foam grips may be a better option for people whose hands tend to perspire or need extra stability when gripping. Foam grips may also provide additional comfort for the user.
Walkers vs. RollatorsIf you are considering a walker, one of the first decisions to be made is whether to choose a standard walker — which may have no wheels or wheels only on the front legs — and a rolling walker (commonly known as a rollator), which has three or four wheels.
Because they’re more stable, standard walkers may be safer for people with significant balance issues. They may also be a better option for those with poor grip strength since they do not require the use of a hand brake. Rollators are equipped with hand brakes, which must be employed when the user is rising to a standing position or going from standing to sitting.
Often rollators are equipped with a storage basket, which is generally an add-on accessory for walkers, and many also have a fold-up seat that allows the user to stop and rest as necessary.
Choosing the Right Size WalkerMany walkers, like canes and crutches, will list a recommended user height range in the specifications. Others may give a more general recommendation such as "average adult" or "tall adult" and list the particular model's adjustability range. Adult walkers are available for people from 4'6" in height to 6'8", so checking model specifications is important for getting the correct fit. Most walkers are also adjustable and can be further fine-tuned to suit the individual using them. The handgrips of the walker should, when the user is standing in their everyday shoes with their arms relaxed at their sides, be level with the center of their wrists.
Walker Sizing & SpecificationsWalkers come in a range of sizes, from child to adult. The appropriately-sized walker should, at the handle, be on the same level as the crease of the user’s wrist. Other factors to consider are the outer width of the walker (particularly if you have narrow doorways), inner width (as the user must be able to stand comfortably within the frame), weight capacity, and even wheel size. Specifications that may affect your final choice include:
- Product weight - The user will be regularly lifting and moving the walker, so weight is a serious consideration.
- Weight capacity - The weight capacity of the walker must be equal to or greater than the user’s weight.
- User height - The height range listed in the product specifications will allow you to choose the walker best suited to the user’s height. The walker can then be fine-tuned for a good fit.
- Product height - Measure the distance from the user’s wrist to the floor and find the correct height walker.
- Overall width - If you can’t find a walker slim enough to suit your needs, you may need to consider a 2-button folding walker.
- Inside width - The width from the inside of one handle to the inside of the other.
- Folded width - The width of the walker when folded for storage.
- Wheel size - Larger wheels are a better option for people who will frequently use their walkers outside.
Walkers AccessoriesWalkers can be invaluable for those with balance or mobility issues, allowing them freedom of movement that might otherwise be constrained. There are a variety of types of walkers available, along with walker accessories, such as storage baskets, cane or cup holders, and trays, that extend their functionality.
Using a walker does mean that while you’re walking, your hands are occupied with gripping and maneuvering your walker. However, there are a variety of accessories intended to counteract this issue and make your life easier. These include:
- Storage baskets, for transporting larger items
- Basket organizers, which fit inside your basket and hold smaller items
- Trays, which make it easier to carry food or other things
- Cup holders, which securely hold your drink
- Cane holders, which allow you to keep your cane near at hand
- Pouches/storage bags which, like baskets, let you easily transport items
- Hooks, which can be clipped to your walker frame to hold items such as your purse
- Walker lights, which clip to the frame and provide hands-free light