Walkers have come a long way from when the only one available was a steel, non-folding, four legged walker. While the four-legged folding walkers are still available and are still needed, the introduction of wheeled walkers with a seat, basket, and hand brakes give a safe walking alternative to a large population. Four wheel walkers increase the confidence of the user and allow for a broader walking range. They also help with stability and were created to aid in fall prevention.
After many years of development, four-wheeled walkers have substantially improved in quality with a wide variety of models now available. With so many choices, we hope this article will assist you in making the correct choice.
Steel or Aluminum Frame
The obvious benefit of an aluminum frame walker is that is it weighs much less than a steel-framed four-wheel walker with a weight of between 10-13 lbs. The steel counterparts weigh between 18-21 lbs. One factor to determining whether a steel or aluminum framed walker is chosen involves the weight of the user. Aluminum walkers typically have a user weight capacity of 225-250 lbs while steel walkers typically have a user weight capacity between 250-350lbs with the heavy duty models handling up to 400 lbs.
Choosing the Correct Seat & Handle Height
Seat heights are an important feature as many people use the walker to sit down. It must be easier for the user to stand up from a seated position as well as comfortable to sit down. Most four-wheeled walkers range from a low height of 17" tall to 24” tall. The average seat height is 21" tall and is a good starting point to determine if the seat height needs to be adjusted lower or higher. The seat height should allow the user to plant his/her feet flat on the floor at a seated position.
Seat widths range from 16 1/2" for smaller walkers to 21" wide for wider/heavy duty models. Most people want a seat width that is comfortable, but is not wider than needed as narrower is better for overall width, getting through doorways, and around in tight spaces. Some newer walkers include seats which flip up allowing the user to walk more inside the walker improving gait & posture.
All the walkers come with height adjustable handles for correct hand positioning. The rule of thumb for correct handle height is to stand with your arms straight at your side in a standing upright position and set the handles at the height of you wrist, plus or minus an inch for individual comfort.
Many four-wheeled walkers come with either a flexible back or a rigid back. A flexible strap comprises of a flexible plastic strap with or without padding which acts as a backrest when the user is in a seated position. The rigid back option is a steel or aluminum tubing backrest which usually comes with foam padding to make it more comfortable for the user.
Folding Capability and Weight
These days there are many options with overall weight of four-wheel walkers. From as little as 11lbs in weight, newer models are becoming easier to use, easier to transport and carry and easier to fold. Some models fold width-wise such as the Evolution Xpresso Walker and the Nexus Walker versus the more conventional methods of folding depth-wise such as the Evolution Piper or the Dolomite Legacy.
More sophisticated braking systems have been introduced over the last few years. The conventional braking system involving ‘bicycle-type’ brake cables have proven to be a time-tested method of braking for walkers which is easy to adjust and replace if necessary. Many new four-wheel walkers have ‘rod-type’ brake systems which are hidden inside the frame of the walker which is both more attractive and less likely to snag on passing objects such as the conventional ‘bicycle-type’ brake cables.
Here you have two choices, 8" diameter wheels and 6" diameter wheels. If you are using the walker both indoors and outdoors, the 8" wheel will give you the best performance. For individuals using their walker mostly indoors the 6" wheels work great and makes for easier manoeuvring in tighter spaces.
There are many additional accessories items that can be added to your walker that make its use more convenient and practical. These items include canvas tote bags, cane holders, cup holders, trays, slow-down brakes (used to slow down walker so it doesn’t run away on steep hills), and curb climbers (foot levers attached to wheel that make it easier to climb curbs) .
For comfort, many models of four-wheeled walkers come with padded seat cushions and padded back rests.
Maintenance & Adjustments
Most modern four-wheel walkers require little in the way of maintenance, however it is our recommendation that walkers be looked at semi-annually at the very least. The brake cables used on the four-wheel walkers tend to stretch over time and require re-adjustments to make sure that the braking system is working optimally. In addition, all bolts and knobs should be tightened.
Try Before You Buy
Make sure that you try out a four-wheel walker before you purchase. It is important you find a walker which is comfortable and the correct size. We carry a wide selection of new and used four-wheel walkers and allow you to try in store before you buy. You may also want to consider renting a walker to see if it helps prior to committing to a purchase.