Sometimes people need a bit of help getting around, and a walker offers that in the most literal of ways. A walker offers support and protection against falls and other injuries. It doesn’t guarantee safety, of course, but it significantly reduces the chance of a catastrophe. And the great thing about a walker is that you retain your independence while using one.
The market offers a slew of different walker models. As such, the challenge of finding the right one can feel overwhelming. At BestReviews, we’re here to help.
It's not only seniors who need walkers. Younger folks may find themselves in need of some extra help getting around due to an injury or disability.
Let's start with the basics. Below, you can read about the pros and cons of the main walker types:
A standard walker has four legs and no wheels, so the user must lift it and move it forward every couple of steps.
Standard walkers offer the most stability. They’re ideal for most people who need a walker due to injury.
These walkers are exceptionally lightweight, as they tend to be “no-frills” items without seats or other extras.
- As a rule, standard walkers are the cheapest walkers. A standard walker is perfect if you’re watching your budget or plan to use the walker only occasionally.
Because the user must lift a standard walker between steps, it’s not suitable for people with little upper body strength. It’s also not great for those who might lose their balance if they’re momentarily unsupported.
Standard walkers generally don't come with the handy extras (baskets, seats, and so on) that many folks like to have.
- Standard walkers don't perform well on unseen surfaces.
"If you want to take your walker out and about, a basket could be useful."
We spent 8 hours researching over 100 different walkers before choosing our top 5. We worked with experts in the field to make sure our choices fulfilled consumers needs.
Two-wheeled walkers strike a happy medium between standard walkers and four-wheeled walkers. They feature two wheels on the front and two wheel-less legs on the back.
While two-wheeled walkers don't offer quite as much stability as standard walkers, they're more stable than four-wheeled walkers.
Two-wheeled walkers don't require the user to lift all four legs off the ground in order to take a step. As such, they’re great for people with balance issues.
Most two-wheeled walkers are just as lightweight as standard walkers.
Two-wheeled walkers aren't very maneuverable, as the wheels don't swivel.
- Many two-wheeled walkers don't include seats or baskets.
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Four-wheeled walkers are better suited for folks who need a small amount of help with balance. But if you need to put your full weight on the walker with every step, a four-wheeled walker poses the risk of sliding away.
Four-wheeled walkers are generally the best choice for people who get around well but need a little help with balance and stability.
Four-wheeled walkers are much more maneuverable than other varieties. They also perform better on rough ground than some other models.
The majority of four-wheeled walkers include extras such as seats and baskets. People who want to take solo excursions — but might need to take an occasional rest while out — appreciate this type of walker.
Four-wheeled walkers come with brakes, so you can put more weight on them when you need to.
- Most four-wheeled walkers fold down to a smaller size. As such, they’re easily stored in a closet or vehicle.
Four-wheeled walkers are heavier than other varieties.
- Four-wheeled walkers often cost significantly more than standard and two-wheeled types.
We look for walkers specifically designed for handling various types of terrain. Many of these are four-wheeled walkers, which are often suitable for outdoor use.
We appreciate a walker that comes equipped with a basket or storage space, as this can help increase the user’s independence. For example, they can use the storage space when shopping for groceries or other items.
Some walkers fold; others do not. We often favor folding walkers in our research, as they are easier to store and transport.
When researching wheeled walkers, we take note of the brakes on each model, exploring their functionality and ability to handle various amounts of weight.
We appreciate walkers with a seat on which the user can rest and catch their breath when they feel tired. Most four-wheeled walkers include seats. Some high-end standard walkers and two-wheel walkers have them, too.
We look for walkers that would suit people with balance issues. Two-wheeled walkers (two wheels on the front and two wheel-less legs on the back) are often the best choice because they provide both mobility and support.
Stability is an important quality in a walker. We research the degree of stability afforded by each walker, noting that standard walkers are often the best choice for those with temporary injuries.
We find out how much each walker weighs. Standard walkers need to be lightweight because they must be lifted and moved. Four-wheel walkers and other wheeled walkers can afford to be a bit heavier, as they move with the help of wheels.
We often favor walkers that are adjustable. For example, many quality walkers offer adjustable height and an adjustable seat.
We note the weight limit of the walkers on our research list. Most of the walkers we examine have a weight limit of 250 to 300 pounds.
Standard and two-wheeled walkers don't need brakes, as the wheel-less legs provide ample stability.
Four-wheeled walkers, on the other hand, require brakes for stability. In addition, the brakes prevent the walker from rolling away when the user travels downhill.
Many people find that a walker helps them gain or maintain independence. For instance, a handicapped person might be able to visit the grocery store alone with a walker in tow. A basket proves invaluable in a case like this, as groceries and other items can be stored inside it.
That said, a person who intends to use the walker primarily at home might not need or want a basket.
Some walkers have seats. This feature allows the user to stop and catch his/her breath as needed.
Most of the time, it's only four-wheeled walkers that have seats.
If you shop around, however, you may be able to find a standard or two-wheeled walker with a seat.
"If you're taller or shorter than average, look for a walker with an adjustable seat. This way, you can change the height of the seat as needed."
The weight of your walker matters if it’s a standard model, as you must be able to fully lift it off the ground. If you're buying a standard walker, make sure it's not too heavy for you to lift.
Weight matters slightly less if you have a wheeled walker, but you still might want to be able to lift it up your front step or into the trunk of a car.
Weight limit refers to the amount of weight that the walker is designed to support. The majority of walkers we've researched tend to have a weight limit somewhere in range of 250 to 300 pounds. If your weight exceeds this, you may need to look for a specialist walker designed for heavier people.
Most walkers allow you to adjust for your height. After all, you don't want to have to stoop over your walker. We advise against buying any walker that’s not adjustable for height.
Some walkers fold and others don't.
As a potential buyer, you must decide if having a foldable walker is important to you.
If you plan to store your walker in a small space or take it in the car for family trips, we recommend a product that folds down to a smaller size.
Using a walker with a seat is like taking a chair with you wherever you go. You can rest whenever you are tired, wherever you need.
Considering the positive difference a good walker can make in your life, they aren't exceptionally expensive items.
A standard walker will set you back somewhere between $25 and $40. Those on the higher end of the pricing spectrum tend to have a sturdier build.
Two-wheeled walkers are just a hair pricier than standard walkers. The cost of a two-wheeled model averages between $30 and $50.
Four-wheeled walkers are the most expensive models out there, but they tend to offer more sophisticated features, including brakes, baskets, and seats. This type of walker costs anywhere from $50 to $100.
If you’ll be using your walker regularly, you may wish to opt for a high-end model. These walkers tend to be more durable and of better quality. Thankfully, the price of a high-end walker shouldn’t stray too far from that of a low-end walker.
Q. How can I tell if my walker is at the right height?
A. When using your walker, your back should be as straight as possible. Don’t lean over the unit, as this could cause back pain. Your elbows should bend slightly.
Q. Does wheel size make a difference?
A. Walkers with larger wheels fare better on rough ground. If you’ll be traveling"off-road," we suggest a walker with a larger wheel diameter.
Q. Can I get extra accessories for my walker?
A. Some walker packages are quite “bare bones” with no basket or other extras to speak of. But you could always buy accessories to make them more useful. Common walker accessories include baskets, food trays, and water bottle holders.