Buyers Guide to Walking Aids & Wheelchairs
Walking aids and wheelchairs are designed for people with mobility problems to help them remain safe and independent. Difficulty with standing or walking can be helped by the use of the right mobility aid.
Difficulty with mobility can be experienced as the result of an accident, ill health or it can simply develop with age. The problems being experienced may be temporary or permanent. Some mobility issues may be simple but others can be complex, and these things should all be considered when choosing the right walking aid.
There are a wide range of walking sticks, crutches and other mobility aids available, knowing the right one for your needs is important. This guide will give you a basic introduction to the different types of mobility aids and which one you should choose based upon its features and benefits.
Walking Sticks are considered as one of the most basic mobility aids and can be perfect for someone needing minimal support. Walking sticks are great for someone needing only a small amount of support when they walk or for someone with a lack of confidence in their balance.
Walking sticks are typically used on their own in one hand but some people opt for a walking stick in both hands. Sticks or canes are typically made from an adjustable metal body but there are wooden versions which can be cut to fit. Walking sticks have a rubber tip called a ferrule fitted for safety and added stability when placing weight through the stick.
Typically a stick will be standard design with a straight stick but some can have a curved neck leading to the handle. Grip designs are made from rubber or plastic with open pal handles available for comfort or people with grip problems. There is also a four-legged stick if extra stability or assistance with weight distribution is required.
Rollators & Seat Walkers
Rollators / Seat Walkers / Knee Walkers are walking frames with wheels, seating and storage. These mobility aids are ideal for people who want to continue walking but may have balance, stability and stamina problems. Unlike a walking frame they do not need to be lifted as they have wheels, this makes them easy to use and to walk in or out of the house.
Wheeled walkers have great features including brakes which help you to control the frame when walking. Some models have built-in storage if you need to carry items in the home or go shopping. Seat walkers have a seat which can be handy if you need a rest before you continue to walk – especially handy when outdoors if there is a lack of sitting.
Knee walkers are another form of wheeled walker which have a rest for your knee if you cannot put weight through one of your legs, you can simply kneel on one leg and walk with the other.
Crutches come in 2 different types, elbow and auxiliary. Elbow crutches as the name suggests have a plastic clasp, which fits around the forearm then a walking stick style handle. They are typically made of metal and can be adjustable to height. Elbow crutches are ideal for someone who needs more support than a walking stick and are popular after lower limb surgery when walking but needing to support their weight.
Elbow or forearm crutches help to spread your weight through the arms so that it takes weight from the lower limbs. These crutches can be used for short or long term problems.
Auxiliary crutches are made of wood and metal are longer than elbow crutches. They are designed to fit into the axilla or armpit area and have padded supports at the top for comfort and a handle halfway down the stem of the crutches.
These crutches are used typically following surgery when needing to remove all weight from one of your lower limbs. The frame of the crutch is larger to take all of your body weight safely.
Walking Frames are designed for people who have difficulty with walking and need a lot of support. Frames are designed to be light but strong and have rubber feet similar to walking sticks which make them safe when placing your weight through them.
Frames work best on flat surfaces and have to be lifted as you walk forward. Frames are great options for indoor mobility, especially short distances. They are not typically great for outdoor surfaces or long distances.
Wheelchairs come in various designs dependent on the needs of the user. Wheelchairs can be used for people who have permanent or temporary problems walking but also for people who struggle to walk long distances.
There is a wide range of wheelchairs available to suit each person’s needs including, powered wheelchairs or lightweight manual wheelchairs which fold and are easy to transport.
Important Points to Consider When Choosing a Walking Aid
To ensure you get the right mobility aid to suit your needs, take a look through these points before you make a decision on which one to buy.
- Get advice from a medical professional if you are unsure – talk to a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or your doctor if you are unsure of what you may need.
- Get the right size and have your mobility aid set up properly. This can be a common issue especially with sticks and frames – if you do not have the size set up correctly it can lead to accident or injury over time. A good example can be shoulder pain from not having the correct height setting.
- Is your environment right? Think about where you will be using your walking aid and if the environment is safe. Rugs and small steps can provide hazards for some mobility aids in the home.
- Is your mobility aid right for your needs? if you are going to be indoors mostly, you need an aid which is safe for the home appropriate for the tasks you do each day and suit your capability? If you are going to be going outdoors, you may need a different type of aid which could improve your safety.
- You may need more than one walking aid for your home. Different mobility aids for different parts of the home can help to improve your day to day activities. A good example of this is having mobility aid upstairs and downstairs so you don't have to carry them on the stairs.
That concludes our guide to buying walking aids, we hope that it’s been helpful. Take a look around the Breeze Mobility website to view our range of mobility aids and follow our blog posts for more information and helpful tips to help you to choose the right mobility aid. You can view our selection of walking aids by clicking on the links of each section above.
If you have any further questions or are unsure about which mobility aid to choose you can get in touch with us by clicking here – we are happy to answer any queries you may have.
About the Author
Ross Taylor is a highly skilled and experienced physiotherapist with over 7 years experience in hospital settings, GP surgeries, occupational health and private practice.