Choosing A Walking Frame
With many different styles and designs of walking frame available, we’ve put together a useful guide to help you decide which walking frame is right for you.
What Is A Walking Frame?
Walking frames are a type of mobility aid, best suited to individuals who have difficulties standing, walking and balancing.
Most walking frames have four feet with solid rubber tips (called ferrules) at the end providing a solid grip and non-slip contact with the floor. There are wheeled versions too, which help with manoeuvring the frame.
Walking frames tend to be constructed from aluminium which helps to keep them lightweight and easy to use.
Why Use A Walking Frame?
Walking frames are often used around the home to provide additional support when walking around.
As we mentioned above, walking frames are an ideal solution for individuals who have difficulties not only walking but standing and balancing as well.
Walking frames help to provide reassurance to the user and actively reduce the risk of falls.
What To Consider When Choosing A Walking Frame
Choosing The Right Height Walking Frame
One of the most important considerations when choosing a walking frame is the height. If it's too low the user will stoop when they walk, putting extra strain on their back. If it's too high the user will put the strain on their arms and their full body weight will not be transmitted effectively through to the frame itself.
To ensure that the correct height is ordered, simply measure from the floor to the user's wrist bone when the user is standing up straight, with their usual footwear on, and with their arms at their side with the elbows slightly bent
The majority of walking frames are height adjustable through either a ball bearing or 'E' type clip on each of the legs, however, these adjustments are limited, so it’s important to measure and order the correct size frame.
Walking frames are usually available in three or four different height ranges, from around 26 inches (67cm) up to 37 inches (94cm).
Height adjustments tend to be in one-inch increments, usually with four or five different height settings.
Choosing The Right Walking Frame Width
Another important consideration when choosing a walking frame is the actual width of the frame.
Standard walking frames used in hospitals are around 25 inches (64 cm) wide. This allows the frames to be used by people of all shapes and sizes, and the frames can easily fit through the wider doors which tend to feature in most hospitals.
However, a frame this wide at home is often impractical, particularly when trying to manoeuvre around furniture and through standard doorways.
For easy home usage, there's a full range of narrow frames available. These tend to be around 22 inches (53cm) wide, with some narrower still at around 20 inches (49cm) in width.
Top Tip: The majority of walking frames taper towards the front of the frame by around two inches on each side. Be sure to measure the widest part of the walking frame and compare this measurement with the width of your doors at home to ensure the walking frame will fit through!
Walking Frames and Your Own Size
Another point for consideration is your physical size (your weight and height) in relation to the frame's dimensions. The wider frames are the most stable, particularly if the user is tall or heavy. There is also a range of bariatric frames available too.
In order to accommodate all possible heights of users, walking frames are generally available in three or four different height ranges, from 26 inches (67 cm) up to 37 inches (94 cm).
The Different Types of Walking Frame
Standard Walking/Zimmer Frames
Standard walking frames and zimmer frames have four legs, which some people may find difficult as the frame needs to be picked up and moved forward with each step taken.
Many people choose to fit inexpensive glide skis to the rear two feet of the walking frame which can greatly increase the smoothness and movement of the walker. They also help to prevent wear and tear on carpets and floors.
Wheeled Walking/Zimmer Frames
To alleviate this problem there's a wide range of wheeled walking frames available. The wheeled versions have two wheels fitted on the front instead of feet.
With a wheeled frame, the back of the frame can be lifted whilst pushing the front forward which may help some people achieve a smooth and consistent stepping pattern.
For many people, wheeled walking frames make it both easier and faster to walk. However, the front wheels do not swivel and so it may still be necessary to lift the frame when turning corners.
Folding Walking/Zimmer Frames
Standard walking frames are fairly bulky and may not fit into the boots of some cars, which may limit the walking frame's use. To combat this issue, a range of folding walking frames have been developed which make them versatile and easily transportable.
Folding walking frames are available with either hinged front legs or as side folding, and some are also available with wheels. The walking frame with hinged front legs has the front section of the frame on a hinge with the back section of the frame.
The side folding walking frame or zimmer frame is slightly different, as instead of the frame narrowing towards the front as with standard type frames, these frames are the same width at the front as they are at the back. When folded, the side folding walking frame tends to lay flatter than the hinged front leg version and therefore they tend to be the easiest to transport and store.
Forearm Walking/Zimmer Frames
This type of walking frame is basically the same as a standard frame but it has troughs on the top instead of hand grips. These troughs cradle the forearms and the user's weight is transferred through the forearms rather than the hands to push the frame forward, aiding with walking.
Forearm walking/zimmer frames are particularly useful for those who have pain in their hands or hands with a weak grip, such as arthritis sufferers.
Reciprocal Walking Frames
Reciprocal walking frames operate with each side pivoting independently of the other side. This allows the user to lift up and move one side of the frame at a time, rather than all at once.
This style of frame helps users to walk with a more natural rhythm as the frame itself replicates a more natural walking pattern.
So as you can see, there are a lot of choices! If you're unsure which one is best for you, ask your local occupational therapist for advice.
Walking Frame Accessories
There's a wide range of accessories available, helping to make the walking frame more useful around the home.
Many of these accessories involve carrying items around with you. However, care should be taken not to overload the frame with additional weight or to make the frame itself unbalanced by placing more weight on one side than the other.
Walking Frame Net Bags
This simple mesh or net bag is attached to the frame with clips. It's useful for holding a wide range of objects such as mobile phones or newspapers. However, it's unsuitable for tiny items such as pens and glasses as they will simply slip through the net!
Walking Frame Apron bags
This style of bag is attached around the outside top of the walking frame like an apron, hence its name. Most apron bags have two or three large pockets to keep various items, such as glasses, pens, medication and newspapers close at hand.
The Buckingham Caddy Walking Frame Accessory
One of our top selling items, the Buckingham caddy is a solid plastic grey holder complete with a tray on top. This tray slots over the main storage compartment and allows the user to safely transport food and drinks safely.
The tray holds plates securely and there is even a special cup holder for added convenience. This caddy tends to work best on a walker with wheels.
Walking Frame Alternatives
There are alternatives to walking frames if you need additional support when moving around the home or outside. We've detailed these below.
Wheeled trolleys can be extremely useful around the home, allowing the user to carry several items and providing confidence and security when walking. Designed to be pushed in front of the user, they usually have four swivel castor feet which make them very easy to manoeuvre.
Wheeled trolleys usually have one or two shelves for carrying items such as plates, cups, papers, and glasses around the home. If there are two shelves, the lower one is usually set slightly forward providing extra space for the user's legs when walking.
Some wheeled trolleys are height adjustable, so the most comfortable height for the user can be selected.
Top Tip: Most wheeled trolleys do not have brakes. If you require a lot of support, make sure you choose a trolley with brakes.
Wheeled Walkers or Rollators
We have hundreds of mobility and walking aids at the Ability Superstore.