The Pros and Cons of Knee Walkers Vs Crutches for Knee or Ankle Injuries/Surgery

Knee and ankle injuries will impact your mobility. I have personal experience with both, and a serious knee injury left me in agonizing pain after 2 – 3 minutes of walking. I was forced to sit down every five minutes because the pain was unbearable.

When I broke my ankle, I also had to struggle with getting around. I used crutches at the time, and while the crutches worked great, a knee walker may have been the better option.

There are pros and cons for each mobility device, and when it comes to ankle or knee surgery, you may prefer a knee walker over crutches or vice versa. In many cases, the choice is up to you, so it’s an area that’s worth researching about prior to your surgery.

Knee Walkers: Are They the Right Choice?

Knee walkers are fun, practical and great for lower body injuries. When you use a knee walker, you’ll be able to zip around town, but they’re a little tricky when dealing with steep or rough terrain.

Gravel, sand and rocks are impractical for a standard knee scooter, but there are all terrain options available as well if that is a concern.

But when walking on pavement or hard surfaces, you’ll be able to use a knee scooter with great efficiency. The knee scooter will require you to do the following:

  • Place the injured knee on the knee scooter pad
  • Bend your knee at a 90-degree angle
  • Propel forward with your uninjured leg

When using a knee scooter, there are a few considerations to make as we’ll, which we’ll discuss in the pros and cons below.

Pros (Ankle Surgery)

  • Knee scooters don’t require much upper body strength
  • Knee scooters are more comfortable
  • Hip and leg muscles are worked
  • Knee walkers allow you to walk much faster
  • Mobility is increased thanks to the wheels and easy turning

Notice that these are the benefits for someone that has had ankle surgery. Since all of the weight is placed on the tibia and supported via the knee, your ankle will have all of the pressure taken off of it.

You’ll be using your injured leg’s hip, butt and stabilization muscles, too.

Working the muscles allows you to get back into your normal routine much faster thanks to less muscle loss during your injury. There’s also less risk of slipping and falling with a knee scooter versus crutches.

Cons (Knee Surgery)

  • Weight placed on the knee
  • Knee must bend at 90 degrees
  • Knee walkers are more expensive

Knee walkers will place all of the weight on your knee, and this may lead to pain, swelling or complications following knee surgery.

Crutches: Are They The Right Choice?

Crutches are a tried-and-true mobility aid, and while they’re dated, this doesn’t mean that they still don’t have a place in today’s world. When you have an injury where you can’t bear weight on your leg or knee, crutches may be the best option.

Ankle surgery patients often do best with knee walkers, but when it comes to stairs or rough surfaces, crutches are still the right choice.

There are pros and cons for crutches, too, but the pros go with both knee and ankle surgery.

Pros (Knee and Ankle)

  • Crutches can be used on all terrain types
  • Weight is lifted from the entire leg
  • Crutches are easy to buy and affordable
  • Crutches are slightly easier to travel with, although most knee scooters fold

Crutches are great on sand and rocks, but there’s also a risk of falling. You’ll be putting all of your weight on the crutches, and if they slip, you might follow right behind and end up on your face.

But crutches will remove all of the weight from your ankle or knee, so you’ll be able to heal without excess pain and discomfort along the way. Easy to transport, crutches will fit in the trunk of most vehicles without an issue.

You’ll find crutches being sold everywhere, from Amazon to your local medical store. They’re easily accessible.

Cons

  • Crutches require a lot of upper body strength
  • Crutches place all of the weight on your underarms
  • Crutches are much slower than a knee walker
  • Crutches don’t allow weight bearing on the injured leg, even if it’s just the ankle
  • Stairs and icy conditions are difficult to traverse

Crutches suffer from being painful to the user in the long-term. Your underarms will ache and hurt. You’ll also move much slower with crutches than with a knee walker. The leg muscles that are used with the knee walker are not used with crutches.

You’ll notice some form of muscle loss and atrophy when using crutches.

Icy conditions make it very easy to fall. You’ll also have a difficult time going up and down stairs, but using stairs is possible. With a knee scooter, stars are impossible. There’s also a lot of weight placed on the arms, so if an accident caused injury to your knee or ankle and upper body, crutches may be impractical.

Crutches may be used in conjunction with a knee walker and make it easier when going to a restaurant or on terrain that a knee walker simply doesn’t move well on.

When it comes to most knee surgeries, crutches will be the go-to option until the doctor gives you the go ahead to use a knee walker.

But in the case of ankle surgery, a lot of people prefer knee walkers because they don’t require immense upper body strength, they’re more stable and you can move around much faster, too. When in doubt, you can always ask your surgeon or doctor to help you determine which mobility aid is the right choice for you.