What is a Knee Walker and When Do You Need One?

scott grant ATP

Certified Assistive Technology Professional
Medical Equipment Guru
Mobility Specialist
Senior Advocate

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A knee walker, also called a knee scooter, is usually a temporary mobility device to help people who have been hurt or injured. It can allow that person to maintain their independence while taking care of their injured foot or leg. They are a good alternative to crutches in many ways, but are also bulkier and can be difficult to maneuver. If you’ve injured yourself and need the support while you heal, a knee walker can be a good solution. To help you decide if you should get a knee walker, I’ve created this helpful guide.

How to Recognize a Knee Walker

A knee walker is a slightly strange looking piece of equipment. It can have two, three or four wheels, with a handlebar at the front. There is a small seat on these walkers, but it’s not to sit on. Instead, the user puts their knee on the seat. You can then walk normally with your good leg and keep your weight off your injured leg.

The knee walker is one of the many kinds of walkers and is often used as an alternative to crutches. It supports a damaged leg and allows you to move around relatively easily without bearing weight on the injured leg. It is most often used as a walking aid for people who have a temporary injury, such as a broken ankle or foot, and allows them to maintain their independence while they heal.

How to Use a Knee Walker

When using a knee walker you have to ensure that it’s fitted to your height. Your injured leg rests on the padded seat, and your good leg should extend straight down to the floor. If your leg is bent, or if you can’t reach easily, get your walker adjusted. There is a knob under the seat so that it can be moved up or down.

The handlebars can also be adjusted using a knob at the top of the handlebar tube. It should be straight across at a good level for your height and body. Make sure the brake is activated before you try to get onto the walker. Once you’re positioned correctly, remove the brake and push yourself forward with your good leg only. Go slowly at first, because steering these walkers can be difficult until you get used to it. When you’re ready to stop, put the brake on so you can get off the walker safely.

Here is a video from Drive Medical explaining how a knee walker can help:

Advantages of Knee Walkers

Knee walkers are more comfortable to use than crutches as they don’t put pressure on your armpits or hands. Using crutches can make these areas really sore. Walkers are also much more stable, so you have little chance of tipping over sideways, or falling because of fatigue. That’s why they can be a great idea for seniors, who often don’t have the upper body strength to use crutches.

Another good point of these walkers is the fact that the ‘seat’ on knee walkers is cushioned, which gives your bad leg a comfortable and safe place to rest. And once you work out how to steer the walker properly, they can also be quite fun.

Knee walkers are much easier to use outdoors also because they have bigger wheels, are steerable, and a bit more rugged. Check out my recommended all-terrain knee walkers here.

Disadvantages of Knee Walkers

One of the biggest disadvantages of knee walkers is the size. They’re fairly bulky and don’t fit into tight places or small rooms. They don’t fold up like standard wheeled walkers. Also, because you’ll probably have trouble steering at first, you may do some damage around your house as you work out how to maneuver.

Another disadvantage is the fact that knee walkers obviously can’t go up or down stairs at all. This means that you will probably have to get crutches as well if your house or work has even one or two stairs. Knee walkers can also be unstable if you lean too far back or to the sides. They’re also much more expensive than a pair of crutches.

What to Look for in a Knee Walker

Choosing a knee walker might seem difficult. Manufacturer’s instructions are long and confusing and it can be hard to know what to buy if you aren’t a medical professional. With that in mind, here’s a brief list of what you should think about when buying your walker:

  • Your comfort levels. You’re buying the walker so you can heal. Make sure the seat is comfortable for your leg.
  • The size of the wheels. If the wheels are larger the walker will move easily over almost any surface outside. Walkers with smaller wheels are really only suitable for flat, man-made surfaces.
  • How does it turn? Remember you need to be able to move around your furniture and avoid hitting anyone. Check how easily and sharply the device turns.
  • Do you feel stable? Some cheaper units may be narrower, and a little unstable, especially when turning. Try out the walker to make sure you get one that you feel safe on.
  • What are the height and weight limits? Most walkers are adjustable, but they still come with height and weight limits. Make sure you buy one that’s right for your body.
  • Do you need any accessories? Many walkers come with front baskets or other useful features. Decide what you want and try to find a walker that matches your needs.

Final Thoughts

Nobody likes to be injured or hurt, and the idea of using a mobility aid while you heal can make the problem seem worse. However, if you hurt your ankle or foot, you need the support so that your injury can heal well. Standard wheeled walkers require you to continually bear weight on the injured leg but knee walkers allow you to rest the injury by propping it up – even while you walk. Otherwise, you could end up with long-term damage and continuing problems walking.

A knee walker can be a good alternative to crutches to give you that support. Crutches can be uncomfortable and difficult to use and need a fair bit of upper body strength. A knee walker is easier, more stable, and much more comfortable to use. If you do need this type of support, follow this guide to find a knee walker that works for your situation and condition. I’ve also written a list of important tips for using a knee walker if you’d like to check that out too.

Have you ever used a knee walker? If so, how did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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