Health and FItness

A Review of the Knee Walker

If you have had surgery or an injury to your foot, a knee walker is a wonderful alternative to crutches or a regular walker. The knee walker has many advantages over crutches or a regular walker but the best is the increased mobility. The knee walker allows the user to easily get around.

I recently had surgery on my lateral tarsal tendon as a complication to my Isaac Syndrome Disease. I could not bear weight on my foot for three weeks and due to the Isaac’s Disease I could not use crutches. A knee walker was my only option for mobility. I did not know about mindinsole foot inserts before now, else I would have given them a try as well. 

A knee walker is a scooter type apparatus. Mine is the Weil model by Medline. It has three wheels, two in the front and one in the back. The front two wheels turn and the back wheel is stationary. The handle bars and seat collapse and are held tight with a Velcro strap when they are in the folded position.

To use the knee walker you kneel on the padded seat with your injured leg and propel yourself with your good leg. Steering is done with the handlebars and stopping by a bicycle style hand brake. There is a lock on the brakes but the lock does not keep the knee walker from rolling.

The seat and handlebars are both adjustable. The seat adjusts as part of the collapsing mode in one inch increments. The handlebar needs to be adjusted by loosening the large handle set screw and removing it, then raising the handlebars to the desired height and replacing the set screw. The handlebar is only 19″ wide which helps in maneuvering in tight spots but tires you quickly when using the knee walker for extended periods like taking a walk.

The knee walker is heavy at 24 pounds which is more than can be easily slung into the car while standing on one leg. It also requires two hands and an up down shifting motion to collapse which again is difficult to do while balancing on one foot. When it is collapsed, the knee walker is very low to the ground.

I have been confined to a wheel chair and was able to collapse the chair, get it into and out of my van by my self. I have yet to figure out how to do this with the knee walker. There are too many set screws to tighten and adjust plus positioning the seat while balancing on one foot to make this a user-friendly task. The knee walker requires me to have a second person along to set it up.

We live in a typical 1940’s cape cod with many small rooms. So far I have had no problem getting around the house with the knee walker. It is easy to maneuver back and forth and to pick up the front wheels to make tighter turns. The narrow doors in our house have posed no problems for the nimble knee walker.

The knee walker does tip over. It is very unstable on uneven surfaces or if you hit a crack in the pavement. The small 8″ front wheels get stuck in the tiniest cracks. Most of your weight is being forced down on those front wheels as you lean forward while propelling yourself along. I have come to a sudden stop several times when the wheels got stuck in what looked to be shallow cracks in the pavement. Fortunately most of the time I was able to keep the knee walker from cart wheeling up and over on top of me. However, I did have a couple major falls when the knee walker simple could not be controlled.

The knee walker is a great invention and I was grateful to have it. Without my knee walker I would have been confined to my bed and chair for over three weeks. However, with all new inventions there can be improvements and this is true of the knee walker. Mine is supposed to be the top of the line model but after just a week’s use the screws which hold the handlebar shaft on will not stay tightened. This is a design flaw.

I do not think the designer’s of the knee walker ever thought about it being used outside of the home. The spacing of the handlebar fatigues the user quickly. My arms were sore after going just one block. The construction is not sturdy enough to support outdoor use or even long term continuous use. Finally the user has to be able to collapse and get the unit into a vehicle by themselves. A mobility aide is no good if you need to bring along a helper.

My recommendation to anyone considering using a knee walker is to be aware of its limitations. There are many things about it you will find helpful. Best of all you will have more mobility over using crutches or a regular walker. Due to the poor construction and design flaws of my unit I would strongly recommend renting and not purchasing your knee walker. Hopefully Medline is working on the Weil II Knee Walker with new and improved features.


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