Walking Aids Buyer’s Guide Page
Benefits of walking aids
Walking aids are great for disabled, injured or elderly people with reduced mobility, who need assistance walking. Walking aids improve balance and increase stability, providing a way for the user to safely and independently walk without the need of assistance from a carer. Walking aids are also great at maintaining muscle strength, allowing the user to remain mobile, helping to reduce muscle deterioration and as a result they can help to prevent, or limit the need for a wheelchair.
Walking aids are often used in conjunction with other mobility aids. For example, mobility scooters can be modified with accessories to allow for carrying walking aids such as canes or folding walkers.
What sort of walking aid is right for you?
Choosing the right walking aid will be affected by factors such as, your individual needs, physical ability and how you intend to use it. When choosing the right walking aid you will need to consider:
- Is your restricted mobility a temporary condition?
For temporary restrictions, such as post injury or surgery you may find the need to progress through different types of walking aids as you work through rehabilitation and your strength improves. In these cases you may find that hiring walking aids is more suited to your situation. Open Mobility can organise equipment hire on both short and long term basis. Get in touch with our friendly team to have a chat about hiring mobility equipment.
- What physical ability do you have?
Different types of walking aids offer varying levels of support; your physical ability will determine the amount of support you need from a walking aid.
People who can walk independently but need a low level of support for balance, stability and navigating more difficult obstacles, such as stairs may find a walking cane will suit their needs. If you are unable to bear weight on your lower limbs due to medical condition or injury you may find that crutches can work for you. You must have sufficient upper body strength, balance, and coordination to use crutches safely and effectively.
People with reduced lower and upper body strength and stability may find a walking frame, seated walker, or rollator will suit their needs. These types of walking aids offer the most support. Walking frames require the user to lift the frame and advance it forward one step at a time, this can be quite energy consuming when used over long periods of time. Seated walkers, or rollators have wheels and a brake, making them easier to manoeuver and less energy consuming to operate. The user does need enough hand strength to operate the brake and also enough balance to operate the frame when rolling.
- How will you use a walking aid?
Consideration should be given to how you intend to use your walking aid, as it will help determine the type best suited for you. If you need support for short walks around the home, then a walking cane, or crutches may be sufficient and you may use another aid such as a wheelchair for longer journeys. You may plan to use a mobility scooter to travel to the local shops and then use a walking cane, or a rollator to assist you inside the shop. If you plan to use a rollator and need to travel with it, such as mounting to a mobility scooter, putting in the boot of your car or other modes of transport such as air travel, then you should consider a folding version.
We highly recommend consulting with your Occupational Therapist to assess your physical ability and determine the right walking aid to suit your individual needs.
Types of Walking Aids
There are different types of walking aids offering varying levels of support to people with reduced mobility.
Walking canes offer a low level of support for independent walkers who may have minor issues with strength and balance, or may have weakness or injury in a lower limb, but are still able to bear some weight on it. Walking canes are available in either a standard single tip, or a quad base for increased stability.
Crutches offer bilateral support for people unable to bear weight on their lower limbs due to a medical condition or injury. Crutches can be used temporarily during rehabilitation, or they can be used permanently. Underarm crutches work well for balance, but they require more energy to operate, they are more difficult to handle on difficult terrains and if fitted incorrectly can result in pain or injury. Forearm crutches can be a bit harder to balance on, but they offer more freedom of movement, for example climbing up and down stairs can be easier with forearm crutches. Forearm crutches also distribute weight more evenly over the upper body, making them a more comfortable option.
Walking frames offer support and balance whilst walking. The user operates a walking frame by lifting it forward to advance one step at a time. Walking frames are generally fixed (4 stationery legs), however there are different types available, such as frames with front wheels and rear skis, allowing the user to advance forward by sliding the frame rather than lifting it.
Seated Walkers and Rollators
Seated walkers and rollators are walking frames with wheels and hand brakes making them easier to manoeuver. Varying models have different features such as a seat and back rest, a basket, a bag or tray for carrying items. Additionally some walker models fold down, making them easy to store and transport.
Knee walkers (knee scooters) provide a comfortable and easy to use alternative to crutches for people with injury or restricted mobility in their foot or ankle. To operate the user stands upright and bends the knee of their affected leg at a right angle resting it on the padded support. They hold the handlebar to steer and brake whilst propelling the walker forward with their good leg.
Need more help?
Do you still have questions about which walking aid would work best for you? We have a large display of walking aids in our showrooms, which you can test out! Our professional and friendly team members will be there to help with any questions you have and can help you find the right walking aid and have it fitted to you.