When you shop for a wheelchair, you may not give much thought to the footrests. However, they are important parts of a wheelchair, and they have a big impact on how comfortable you are when sitting in your chair. They come in different styles so they can cater to people with different needs. Here's a look at your options in wheelchair footrests.
Removable And Swing Away
There are times when the footrests are in your way. When that's the case, you may want to remove them. For instance, you may find it easier to propel the wheelchair with your feet rather than using your hands on the wheels. That has the added benefit of giving you some leg exercise too. If you plan to use your wheelchair that way, be sure the one you buy has removable footrests. You may want to leave them off all the time and only place them on when someone else will be pushing you.
Swing away footrests are another option to look for. All wheelchairs have foot plates that flip up so you can get in and out of the chair, but some are designed so the entire leg portion swings off to the side of the chair. This gives you the most room for transferring without bumping against the legs. If you have to slide into the chair, or if you have trouble with your balance, you may want swing-away footrests for safety reasons.
Style Of Foot Plates
The foot plates themselves are important parts of a wheelchair too. If you have trouble controlling your legs or if you have decreased sensation in your legs, you want to make sure your feet are secure on the plates, or they can slip off. Some plates have a gap between them where your foot could slide off. Others meet in the middle. You can even get a footrest that is a bar that goes across the bottom of the chair, so you won't have to worry about keeping your feet in place.
You may also have trouble with your feet slipping backwards off the foot plates. You can solve this problem by attaching calf pads to the legs of your chair. You can also buy a strap that keeps your feet from slipping backwards.
Foot plates are usually made of metal or hard plastic. They aren't very comfortable unless you wear sturdy shoes. However, you can buy cushions and pads for the footrests that make them feel better against bare feet or slippers. These cushions are made from foam or gel. They offer padding and can even elevate your feet to make you more comfortable when sitting. You can buy covers for increased comfort, such as sheepskin that can help you prevent pressure sores on your heels.
Also, if you plan to lounge around the house in your chair, you may be more comfortable with footrests that elevate, so you can stretch out your legs when sitting in your chair. Elevating rests are helpful if you have problems with foot swelling. You may also need the elevation if you wear a cast or have had knee surgery.
You'll have the most options in footrests when you buy a sturdy wheelchair designed for frequent use. Lightweight transport wheelchairs that are intended for quick visits out of the house usually have rigid frames with very few options. Buying a quality wheelchair has other benefits too. You'll be able to customize the length of the footrests for comfortable seating. Plus, you'll be able to switch out styles of footrests or completely remove them if you want. The important thing is to make sure the height and width of your wheelchair is a good match for you, so your feet rest flat against the plates.
For more information on parts of a wheelchair, visit Southwest Medical & Rehab.