How To Use A Walker: Safe & Easy Steps

Published:  September 4, 2019 Updated: March 18, 2020

By  Cheryl Jerabek

Over six million Americans use mobility devices, like walkers. If the time has come that you need the assistance of a walker to get around, you’ll want to be sure you know how to use it properly. You may find you have some questions as well.

There are probably concerns you’ll encounter that you’ve never thought about – like how you can operate a walker on stairs or how to handle using one when you have an additional handicap. Here are some safety suggestions and terrific all-around tips that will have you navigating your walker like a pro in no time.

Disclaimer: We are not doctors and are not providing medical advice. Please check with your medical professional to confirm proper usage of your mobility device.

How to Use a Walker Properly 

Using a basic walker (the kind without wheels) may feel a bit awkward at first. Don’t worry though, you’ll get the hang of it with these terrific tips.

How Do You Walk With a Walker?

To walk with your walker, you will first want to gently push the walker slightly ahead of your body. Then take one step into the walker using your weaker leg. Next, repeat using your stronger leg.

Continue the pattern until you reach your destination. Don’t push the walker too far in front of you or you may be forced to take too large of a step which could be dangerous.

Take care to practice good posture. Keep your eyes on where you are walking instead of looking down at your feet or the floor.

What is the Proper Height for a Walker?

Your walker must be safely aligned and proportional to your body. To ensure you get the right fit, there are several walker sizes to choose from like junior, standard adult, and tall.

The height should be so that the joints of your hips and the handles of the walker are even. To find this point, stand behind your walker with your feet lined up to the rear wheels and your arms to your sides. Slightly bend your elbow and relax your wrist on each side to a natural and comfortable position.

Grab onto the handles and see if they are even with your hips. You certainly don’t want to slump due to it being too low or have to stretch because it’s too high. Most handle heights can be adjusted fairly easily so be sure to keep trying until you it feels just right.

Can You Put Wheels on a Walker?

Wheels can be added to your standard walker to convert it into a rolling walker. Doing so will increase your device’s capacity of speed and will help you smoothly navigate over irregular ground surface conditions. Wheeled walkers are quieter as well.

There is a myriad of sizes and types of wheel products to choose from. You can add two wheels or four. Check out our guide to the best walkers for seniors for more info.

For two wheeled walkers, the two wheels go onto the front of the walker and two gliders can be attached to the bottom of the back legs to replace the traditional rubber tips, allowing it to slide across surfaces. with ease. Gliders don’t scratch floors as rubber tips do either.

Attaching wheels to your walker is a simple task a family member, friend, or patient services staff member may help with. Be sure to contact a doctor or physical therapist to find out if you are healthy enough for a rolling walker.

How to Use a Rolling Walker Properly

The method you’ll use with a rolling walker is much like the regular walker. The first step is to make sure you are balanced. Then, push gently so you roll your walker about one arm’s length ahead of you.

Check to be sure the wheels and/or tips of your device are touching the ground. Take the first step with your weaker leg which is opposite of walking with the standard walker.

Follow by stepping with your stronger leg. Repeat slowly and steadily until you reach your destination, always beginning with your weaker leg.

How to Use Walker on Stairs

Ideally, if you are dependent on a walker for stability and mobility, you would never need to go up or down stairs or steps but unfortunately, that is usually not the case. So, exactly how do you go up and down stairs with a walker without the risking your health and well-being?

To start, you’ll position your device sideways with the crossbar next to your body. Place the two front legs on the step above or below you, depending upon if you are going up or down the stairs.

Hold the handrail with one hand and the handle with the other while supporting your weight in an even manner between the two.

Step up or down with your strongest leg, while bending your knee, bring your weaker leg up beside it. Move on to the next stair or step and repeat.

Stairs are taxing on the health of your heart and lungs as well as on your legs so don’t compromise your health by pushing your limits. Before you attempt walking up or down stairs, make sure each step is clear of obstacles.

You also want to be sure you are feeling steady enough to go all the way up or down and that your health allows for doing so. If you give out midway, you can sit on a step as you would a chair. If you still feel unsteady, you can scoot up or down the stairs. Never sit on the chair or a chair equipped walker while on stairs, however, because it is likely to tip over.

How to Use a Walker with One Leg

If you just have one leg or can only use one leg, there are a few changes you can make to safely with a single leg.

It is vital for your health and safety that your walker is at the correct height for you. Once you are certain that it is a good fit, position your device to where your toes are centered on the ground space below the walker when you stand.

Push or roll the device a step ahead, then lean onto it, bending your knee and bearing your weight on your arms which should remain straight. Step forward with your foot but do not hop. Repeat the pattern until you reach your destination.

Helpful Hints

Here are some trusty tips to follow when using your walker:

  • Never wear shoes with laces, flip-flops, or slippery socks.
  • If your legs or knees become weak, be sure to call for help.
  • You’ll be able to purchase a wide variety of accessories for your walker from a medical clinic or online such as a basket, cushioned grip handles, etc.
  • You should not attempt a walker if you feel any pain when doing so or are not in good enough health.
  • Always begin by collecting your balance while you stand behind your walker. Never let anyone pressure you to begin walking until you are ready to take that first step.
  • If you purchase a walker with a seat or chair, be sure you get the right size that so the chair will properly support your weight without caving or tipping the device.
  • Never operate a walker when under the influence of heavy medicine or when you feel you are jeopardizing your health.
  • Be sure your walker is customized for your personal needs, meets the requirements of activities you are involved in, and is appropriate to your height and weight.
  • If you find you tire easily or become exhausted when you stand up for too long at a time, you may want to use a walker that is equipped with a seat. You can sit comfortably in the attached chair while you catch your breath.
  • Be very conscious about hazards along your route such as when you are approaching a curb, steps, people, or traffic.
  • Those who also use canes should be conscious when switching back and forth as the walking techniques are different.
  • A physical therapist, health care professional, or a doctor can help you overcome many health obstacles that cause discomfort and pain which you may encounter.
  • You’ll find a myriad of additional tips and guides by doing a search online or speaking to others who have experience with walkers.
  • In the event you find it difficult to grip the walker with your hand, you may want to try a platform walker which allows you to relieve the stress off your hands and lets you rest your forearm and elbows.
  • If a walker is too difficult, don’t put yourself in danger. You may require wheelchair support instead.

Mobile devices are a godsend for those who have trouble getting around after an injury, stroke, or surgery or for those who are aging or have difficulty maintaining balance.

When you use one, you don’t have to give up your quality of living or your independence.

These valuable tips about walkers will help you get off to a great start so you can successfully and safely enjoy getting around for as long as possible.

Cheryl Jerabek

Cheryl Jerabek lives in a tiny remote town in Southwestern Colorado. She writes full-time from her cabin nestled in the mountains. She often expresses how lucky she feels to be able to do what she loves from a setting that looks like a postcard. When she’s not writing, Cheryl loves hanging out with her husband and two grown children, her dog, Joe, and adores spending time with her three grandchildren.

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