Conventional crutches are a popular walking aid, often prescribed to assist a person with a leg, ankle or foot injury. Designed to help you get around without putting weight on your injured limb, crutches transfer body weight from the legs to the upper body. While you’ll usually be instructed to use a pair of crutches, there are some instances where walking with a single crutch might be necessary, or just more convenient.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at how to walk safely with one crutch, the various side effects this can cause, and run through some of the best crutch alternatives, which might be more suited to your circumstances.

When to use one crutch

Here are a few of the most common situations that might cause you to switch to one crutch:

  • When you’re using two crutches, small tasks like carrying groceries, a handbag or any other bulky luggage become more difficult and uncomfortable.
  • Going up or down a flight of stairs? Then you need a hand free to hold onto the bannister – this simply isn’t possible when you’re carrying both crutches.
  • If you’ve been using two crutches consistently, and you start to experience pain in one arm, you may want to switch to a single crutch for a while.
  • Any other situation where you might need a hand free – from making a cup of coffee to shaking hands with a colleague, or petting your dog.

How to walk with one crutch

  1. Make sure your injured leg is protected – if you haven’t been fitted with a cast or walking boot, try using a Tubigrip support or a thick sock.
  2. Stand near a wall or surface for support, then take your crutch and place it under the arm that’s opposite your injured leg. This placement will enable you to lean away from your weaker foot when you walk, but you’ll still have to put some weight on it, in order to get around.
  3. If you can, adjust the length of your crutch, so when you’re standing up straight, you can fit three or four fingers between the padded top of the crutch and your armpit.
  4. Next, move the hand grip on the crutch so that it’s level with your wrist when your arm is hanging loosely by your side.
  5. Try putting some of your weight on the crutch, and spend a few minutes adjusting your stance until you achieve a comfortable balance.
  6. Now to take your first step! Move your crutch around 30cm forward, and at the same time, gently step forward with your injured leg. This should split your body weight between your leg and the crutch.
  7. Follow this step by putting your other, uninjured foot forward, keeping your hand on the crutch grip the whole time. Keep repeating this sequence, moving the injured leg and crutch in sync with one another other, then stepping past them both with your stronger leg.

How to get up stairs with one crutch

Getting up a flight of stairs is a little trickier than walking on a flat surface, but it’s far easier to manage with a single crutch than a pair. Here’s how you do it:

  1. At the bottom of the staircase, grab the railing or bannister with the hand on the same side as your injured leg. Keep your crutch under the arm on the opposite side of your body.
  2. To take your first step, put pressure on both the crutch and the railing, then step up with your stable foot first.
  3. Next, bring your injured leg and your crutch up with you, so both feet are on the same step.
  4. Repeat this process, taking your time until you feel more confident. If there isn’t a bannister to lean on, you might need two crutches to safely ascend the stairs.

The disadvantages of using one crutch

  • With one crutch, it’s inevitable that you’ll put slightly more weight on the injured leg, as you’re not transferring your whole weight to the crutches themselves. If that foot shouldn’t be bearing any weight at all, you need two crutches, or an alternative like the iWALK hands-free knee crutch.
  • There’s the potential for greater discomfort in the hand or arm you’re using to hold the crutch, until your body adjusts to the change in posture.
  • There might also be an increased risk of falling, as one handheld crutch generally provides a less stable base than two.
  • Similarly, you might experience poorer balance for a little while, as you get used to walking on one crutch and find your rhythm.

What are the alternatives to using one crutch?

If you’re struggling with any of the disadvantages above, or simply finding it difficult to move around efficiently with one crutch, there are plenty of other mobility aids to consider.

Knee scooters

Also known as a knee caddy or orthopaedic scooter, a knee scooter is a mobility aid with 2 to 4 wheels, bicycle-style handlebars and a pad to rest your knee on. Unlike crutches, knee scooters require minimal balance, and offer a speedier means of ambulation.

iWALK hands-free knee crutches

Ideal for active users, iWALK hands free knee crutches are an innovative mobility aid which give you full use of both hands, even while you’re walking around. The hands-free knee crutch is strapped directly to your injured leg, with the foot and ankle raised up behind you for maximum comfort. By putting your weight on the knee of your injured leg, you’ll also improve circulation and prevent muscle atrophy, all while keeping your hands free to cook, pick up the phone, play with your kids… the possibilities are endless! Take a look at our full list of user benefits.

Canes and walking sticks

A popular choice for long-term mobility aid users, canes and walking sticks operate in a similar way to a crutch, lightening the load on your injured foot and increasing the base of support to improve stability. There’s a huge variety of canes available on the market, including models which branch out into several feet, or even have a built-in seat.

Gutter frames

With a gutter frame, you can support a large portion of your body weight using your forearms. This kind of walking aid generally consists of four poles, braced together on a set of small wheels, with two armrests at the top to lean against. Thanks to their sturdy base of support, gutter frames are often used during rehabilitation, but they’re most suited to indoor use rather than long distances.

Keen to find out more about the the latest model of hands-free knee crutch? Visit the iWALK 3.0 product page or send us an enquiry using our online form.


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