For the elderly or those recovering from an injury, regaining mobility may require you or a loved one to purchase and use a walker. A mobility aid that offers further stability, a walker allows for more weight to be put on the aid than, say, a cane or crutch, and it is the optimal choice for anyone with balance-related concerns.
When trying to determine which type of walker you need, you’ll find that there are many options available.
Walking aids offer different styles that may or may not benefit you or a loved one. Some limit movement to prevent potential slips and falls, while others may have wheels that allow for a more fluid gait and walking pattern.
It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses when choosing a walker. Do you need a more stable aid to get you around safely or can you move fairly well, but need a bit of assistance?
How to Choose a Walker: By Type
What you may or may not have realized is there are a lot of different types of walkers. And the right type for you will be different from the right type for another person. Before we go into a few pointers that you must consider, it’s important to know all of the types available to you:
Standard Walker or Walking Frames
A standard walker is the most common type. Lightweight and durable, these walkers are best used with indoor surfaces. They provide maximum support to the user because they come with four non-wheeled legs. They are also sometimes referred to as a Zimmer Frame. These walking frames are picked up and placed a few inches ahead of the user. The user then takes a few short steps and moves the walker again.
These kinds of walkers are slow going, but very supportive and stable reducing the risk of a fall.
One of the ones we recommend the most is the Folding Walker By Vive. It is light, stable and inexpensive.
Wheeled walkers provide two wheels on the front that allow you to move it along without needing to pick it up. The great thing about wheeled walkers is that there are rubber stoppers on the back two legs that allow for more stability, yet the wheels allow you to traverse uneven terrain with greater ease.
However, they are not always ideal for indoor use. When used on carpet, the wheels may not glide as easily.
If you are looking for a wheeled walker then we highly recommend the Eva Medical Folding Adult Walker. People love how easy it is to fold and store in the trunk of a car. It gets excellent reviews too.
Rollators are Walkers with wheels on all posts. A rollator provides the utmost in mobility and movement due to the wheels often being able to swivel. Seats and even baskets may be included with a rollator that allow you to go on a longer walk and sit when needed.
Baskets aid in your mobility and allow for further independence.
A person that is always on the go will enjoy a rollator. While less stable, you can move at a much more natural pace than with a standard walker or a wheeled walker with a seat.
For wheeled walkers we really love the Drive Medical Winnie Lite. It is super light and easy to handle.
A knee walker is perfect for people that have had surgery and can’t place weight on one leg. These aids resemble a bike and have four wheels. The user will place his or her knee on the cushioned area while using the opposing leg to propel them around.
This is a good choice for people that have:
- Knee issues
- Hip issues
- Ankle issues
For most people, these models are meant for temporary usage while the injury heals.
The DV8 from Drive Medical is a great choice if you are looking for a wheeled walker. It is very maneuverable and super light.
Specialty models may or may not have wheels, and they’re a little different than the previous walker types. These may provide:
- Folding options
- Wheels with pick up bars
- Stand assist bars that are built in to it
- Side style
Petite or Child Walkers
While not necessarily a “type,” there are petite and child walkers available. These models resemble many of the other options listed above, but they also offer a smaller height so that smaller users can reach the handles with ease.
This is a good option for children or those that may be considered vertically challenged.
Tips on How to Choose a Walker
There are a lot of types to choose from, and you may not know which walker type is the best for your circumstance. Luckily, there are a few tips and considerations that will help you make the right choice.
- Wobbly Balance: If a person has wobbly balance and cannot stand well on their own, a standard walker may be optimal. Standard models need to be lifted off the ground to be moved, and this allows the user to regain their balance before moving it along and taking their next step. Users with shoulder injuries may have difficulty moving these types.
- Moderate Balance: A person that has moderate balance when standing will do well with a standard or wheeled walker. A wheeled walker is easier when going up and down uneven terrain, but you can lose balance if you put too much weight on the wheels.
- Good Balance: A person that has relatively good standing balance but needs help when walking may do well with a rollator. These mobility aids move along the ground quickly, allowing the user to walk faster, and they’re optimal for all-around usage. If a person loses their balance easily, a rollator may be more difficult to stop, causing a higher risk of slips and falls.
- Active Individuals: An active individual will do better with a rollator walker in most cases. Since a seat and basket are included, a person can stop to take a rest when they’re tired, allowing for heightened independence. There are also specialty and standard models that include seats, but they’re harder to find.
- Folding: Most mobility aids are cumbersome, and if you travel or go outside of your home often, it’s recommended that you purchase a folding model. A folding walker can be easily stored away in the trunk of a car or in the backseat for easy transport.
A final note is to consider the weight of the walker. If it is lightweight and durable, it can be transported with ease and will be much easier to move on uneven surfaces. If you don’t know which walker to choose at this point, discuss your options with a physical therapist or doctor.
Where is the Best Place to Purchase a Walker?
Specialty stores in your city are a great place to start. They usually offer good customer service and can suggest a mobility aid that will suit your needs and situation. I always suggest to comparison shop. Once you know what makes and models you are interested in I highly recommend taking a look online to see the price difference. Some places to check are on Amazon and US Medical Supplies websites. They both have a great selection and offer excellent customer service. They are often considerably less on these sites than in your local store.