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So you’ve just got your brand new walker home and as you start to put it together you’re wondering if the wheels should go on the inside or the outside?
On most front-wheel walkers you can install the wheels either on the inside or the outside. Manufacturers will usually suggest installing on the outside because this gives you a wider base and therefore more stability. However, installing the wheels on the inside of the legs can significantly reduce the width of your walker, making it more manoeuvrable and able to fit through narrow passages.
Warning: You should always read the manufacturers instructions and safety warnings before assembling your walker. This article is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult with your doctor or primary care giver before attempting any modifications to your walker.
Some walkers are designed so you can only install the wheels on the outside of the legs. If that’s the case with your walker then you simply won’t be able to put them on the outside. Sometimes the instructions will explicitly tell you this, otherwise it should only take a few minutes of trial and error to see if you can install them on the outside.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each option.
Installing Wheels On The Outside
This is the “regular” way of installing the wheels on your walker. It’s what’s recommended by most manufacturers. And it’s generally how walkers were designed to be setup.
- More stable.
- Probably how your walker was designed to be used.
- Walker might not fit in narrow spaces.
- If your walker doesn’t fit comfortably where you need to go then you might not use it.
- Wheels can catch on objects if you pass too closely.
With the wheels placed outside the frame, you have a wider base of support which makes the walker significantly more stable.
Depending on the width of the wheels and the diameter of the frame, installing the wheels on the outside usually makes your walker 2-3 inches wider than if the wheels were on the inside.
However, the downside to this added width is you might have trouble getting your walker through small doorways or into smaller rooms such as your bathroom. And because the wheels stick out from the sides of the frame they’re more likely to catch on furniture or other objects as you pass by.
Installing Wheels On The Inside
On many front-wheel walkers you’re also able to install the wheels on the inside of the walker’s front legs.
This is often not mentioned by the manufacturer, and in some cases they will actively warn against this. If in doubt always follow the manufacturers instructions and safety warnings.
- Narrower overall width of walker allows you to navigate tight spaces.
- Wheels don’t stick out from the sides so you don’t get caught on things.
- A walker that fits everywhere you need to go is a walker that gets used!
- Less stable and may increase risk of tipping sideways.
- Walker might not have been designed to be setup this way so the wheels might rub or not even fit at all.
- You might void the warranty.
With the wheels on the outside you can shave a few inches off the width of your walker, which could be the difference between cruising effortlessly through a small doorway, or getting your wheel stuck on the frame.
The downside to putting the wheels on the inside is you lose some stability. Depending on the exact design on your walker it might not be noticeable at all, or it could make a fairly significant difference.
Wheels In The Middle!
Some walkers such as the Able Life Space Saver actually have the wheels siting directly inline with the legs of the walker.
As you can see in the photo, this walker uses a unique “U” shaped wheel holder that allows the wheel to be placed along the middle line of the legs.
This gives you the best of both worlds, with a fairly wide base of support like you get with external wheel installation, but with the same overall width as an internal wheel installation.
With this setup you also have the added benefit of your weight being pressed directly straight down over the centre of the wheels. This minimises the sheer forces on the wheels and gives you added weight capacity and smooth rolling when under load.
For example, despite being extremely light weight and compact, the Space Saver walker can handle up to 400lbs, thanks in part to this wheel configuration.
So, Where Should You Install The Wheels?
If in doubt, or if you are at all concerned about stability, then you should follow the guidelines from the manufacturer of your walker and install the wheels on the outside of the front legs.
But if you’re looking to reduce the width of your walker to help you get around tight spaces or avoid snagging on cables and other obstacles… and… you’re confident the reduced support base is not going to increase the risk of a fall, then you might want to try installing the wheels on the outside of your walkers front legs.