Walkers are assistive devices which improve mobility and can prevent falls. They can provide stability while one is moving around when used properly and can greatly improve someones quality of life allowing them to go places that they could not otherwise access. Walkers have evolved a lot from the heavy metal frame and are easily accessible for purchase from costco.com, amazon.com, and cvs.com. Many times insurance will pay for 1 assistive device every 5 years so you may be eligible but this also comes with restrictions and I often recommend just purchasing the style that works best for you as they run around $150 for a user friendly option with a seat! A physical therapist is a movement specialist and can introduce you to different models and make recommendations for which walker is the best fit for you. Find a PT through the American Physical Therapy Association. Now lets get into why you might chose to use a walker and then we can discuss the various types of walkers.
Sometimes walkers provide a temporary solution while one is recovering from trauma or illness and other times it is a lifelong tool used to help remain active in your home and community. Walkers provide much more support than canes or walking poles and are reasonable to progress to if the cane or poles are not enough.
High end Rollator - These provide the most mobility while giving you some balance support. The high end rollator can keep up at a good pace. If you are walking a path with lots of turns you will enjoy the turning ability of this type of walker. Their drawback is that they can get away from you if you are a heavy leaner onto the walker and can be a more expensive option.
Rollator - The rollator has 4 wheels and a seat so this option is great for someone who tires easily and needs a place to sit and rest. They are very reasonably priced around $100-$150 and provide a good balance support. The drawback is that they do not allow you to push through the handles for taking weight off the legs so they cannot relieve pressure for pain.
Rolling Walker - The rolling walker is a metal frame with 2 wheels on the front (and typically 2 tennis balls or walker skis on the back so that they glide over surfaces. This type of walker allows weight to be transferred through your arms. You could hop without putting any weight on either leg or relieve pain in both knees by pushing through the walker. This option slides forward between steps.
Standard Walker- The standard walker is a metal frame with no wheels. This option gives the most stable surface and the drawback is that it does not move very well. This walker is best for someone who needs a lot of stability and pressure relief.
There is even a wheelchair walker combo which I think every hospital should have in their physical therapy equipment lineup. This piece of equipment only costs $229, holds individuals up to 300 lbs, and only weights 18 lbs making it easy to lift into a trunk or SUV.