Choosing Between a Walker and a Rollator

Posted 2/15/11
Written by Chris Stoeri

Why write about walkers and rollators you ask? I thought it would be a good article since our company gets asked sometimes which one is better. The better one depends on what your condition is and what your needs are. One thing is for sure: both can help you regain a little more freedom!

Walkers and rollators are similar in that they involve both hands to operate which helps provide a great deal of stability. If your doctor hasn’t recommended one or the other, here is a brief overview of what they are and what the main considerations are for most users.

Think of an open frame that you stand behind. Typical walkers are made from aluminum with some of the heavy duty models made from steel. Most walkers are height adjustable, have hand grips, and have rubber tips or skids at the end of the legs. Most of them fold up to a flat profile making them easy to take along while traveling. A walker works by picking up the weight a little and scooting it forward, allowing you to take an extra step, then putting your weight back down on it for stability. Some walkers come with wheels on the front legs making it easier to scoot the walker forward. The surface has to be relatively smooth to operate a walker safely.


A rollator is similar to a walker but with wheels, brakes, and on most models a seat. Some even have a basket for storing items while on the go. The seat is convenient allowing you to rest and most models fold up for easy portability. Rollators are available with 3 wheels (think tricycle), 4 wheels, and some with 6 wheels (the two rear wheels are paired with another). Many of the models with hand brakes have a parking brake feature making the rollator more stable while seated. They work much the same as pushing a shopping cart while holding onto the hand grips for stability.

Main Considerations for Most Users:
  • Doctor’s advice – If you are under a doctor’s care, it is important to get their input. They may have certain requirements, or recommend something else.
  • Operating environment – do you have the space to operate a walker or rollator safely in your home? Think ahead about all the places you will maneuver and make sure you have enough clearance. Steps are another concern – if you have steps to traverse for example, make sure you have a plan for getting up or down. Also keep in mind the terrain you will most commonly face. Larger diameter wheels on rollators work better in rough terrain such as grass or dirt roads. Walkers are very hard to operate on all but the smoothest surfaces.
  • Do you travel? Most walkers and rollators fold for easier portability, but could you carry the weight of it if you had to, or could your companion or caregiver? And while rollators fold up, most of the models have a basket that doesn’t fold which may cause problems especially with getting on a plane.
  • Realistically consider the proper size. Most walkers and rollators have a weight rating that must be followed for safe operation. This is especially true for rollators with a seat. Exceeding the weight limit could cause a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Rollater braking – rollators all have some sort of braking system. Most have hand brakes or push down brakes. If you have hand brakes, can you squeeze the brake handle enough to apply brake pressure? Push down brakes work by applying weight to the handle so that a rubber stop will make contact with the ground and keep the rollator from moving forward.

So if you have a need for a walker or rollator and don’t have one yet, go out and get one. You won’t be disappointed!

About the Author
Chris Stoeri was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 17, and has spent several years as an active volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation. He founded to help people with all types of diabilities to more easily tackle their daily challenges, providing a wide range of mobility products, self help aids, wheelchair parts and accessories, and thousands of other medical produtcts and supplies.