Using a Walker After a Hip Replacement: A Complete Guide

Using a Walker After a Hip Replacement

If you are about to have or recently underwent a total hip replacement and are unsure if you need to use a walker, then you’ve come to the right place. Most people despise the idea of using a walker after surgery. However, it’s extremely important that you not only use it but use it correctly to ensure that this important surgery heals correctly. Trust me; you don’t want to have to do a hip replacement surgery twice.

After a hip replacement, you will need to walk with the assistance of a walker. It allows the surgery to heal, limits the risk of dislocation, and helps you stay active but safe within your home. Without it, you would develop poor walking mechanics and muscle tightness in areas that could last forever. Not a fun proposition.

In this post, we will review everything you need to know about walkers, including how to use a walker after surgery, where to get them, and what accessories are available. We will also discuss what to do with your walker when you no longer need it.

Why Use a Walker After Hip Surgery?

Using a walker post-hip surgery is beneficial for several reasons. First, it helps to reduce weight on the hip while standing. This is important because the surgeon had to cut through muscles, tendons, and bones to place the new hip prosthetic into place, and the hip isn’t ready for your full weight immediately after surgery.

A walker also increases stability and balance while walking. This is incredibly important as one of the worst things that could happen is someone falling after their surgery and damaging their new hip because of pain, swelling, or weakness, causing their leg to give out.

It also decreases pain with movement, which keeps you active. One of the worst things you can do after a hip replacement is sit and do nothing. The more you move after surgery, the lower the pain, the faster the muscles come back, and the quicker you will return to normal.

Finally, a walker helps maintain good gait mechanics. This is so important. If you develop bad walking habits early after your surgery, it can place stress on other joints, like your back or knee, which may not be able to tolerate more stretch. It also makes the correct muscles work during walking and prevents compensations. All of these are important factors in having a successful total hip replacement.

Where Can I Get a Walker?

Walkers are available at any medical supply store or online through several retailers. It’s important to note that walkers come in different sizes and styles with different features, such as brakes, folding capabilities, wheels, and adjustable heights.

We recommend a front-wheeled walker (FWW) because it provides greater stability, is lightweight, and allows you to walk more naturally. You can actually get an inexpensive walker that works better after a hip replacement on Amazon.

We also recommend searching your local Elks Club or some hospitals that have a loaning system. In our local community, people donate walkers to the Elk’s Club when they no longer need them, and people can use them after surgery and then return them in a few weeks when they are no longer needed.

What Type of Walker Is Best After a Hip Replacement?

The best walker for someone who just had a hip replacement is a front-wheeled walker (FWW). This walker has 2 wheels on the front 2 legs and then no wheels on the back 2 legs.

It’s light, easy to maneuver, and helps with balance. The walker should have adjustable height settings so that it’s comfortable and they don’t strain their back while using it.

The FWW allows someone to place their entire body weight into the walker to help offload the weight from their surgical hip without it being unstable. These walkers are built specifically for high forces and use after injuries or surgeries.

Other types of walkers are on the market, such as a 4-wheeled walker or a rollator. Now these may work in a pinch, but they are not ideal. The 4-wheeled walker is more unstable and meant to be a walker aid than to take the weight off a leg.

These types of walkers are more beneficial for people who have a neurological disease such as Parkinson’s Disease or severe joint diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis.

How Long Should You Use a Walker After a Hip Replacement Surgery?

How long you use a walker after surgery depends on how quickly your body is healing and how quickly you gain regain normal walking mechanics. Generally, it’s recommended to use a walker for 2-3 weeks post-surgery until your hip has healed sufficiently and you are able to walk without aid.

However, some people may need more or less time based on their injury or surgery severity, age, and overall physical condition.

You may not realize that you will be up and walking the same day, even within hours of completing your surgery. In fact, the more that you can walk, the faster your recovery will be.

How Do You Know When No Longer Need the Walker?

When you no longer need a walker, your physical therapist will tell you. Generally, if you can walk without a limp and get a full and normal stride with minimal to little pain, you can start transitioning off the walker.

Watch yourself walk in a mirror or have a friend film you walking across the room. Two common compensations that we see in the clinic are bending over at the waist to take the weight off the leg and not taking a full step when the surgical leg is the weight-bearing leg.

The step length should be symmetrical.

You should also be comfortable putting your full body weight on the hip without pain and walking without the walker for 5-10 minutes. Sometimes you may need a cane or another assistive device to help with balance, but you should no longer need a walker.

Can You Go Straight to Crutches or a Cane After Surgery?

Immediately transitioning to crutches or a cane after a hip replacement surgery may not be safe due to several reasons.

First and foremost, there is an increased risk of falls during the early stages of recovery. After the surgery, the muscles around the hip joint are weakened, and it takes time for them to regain strength and stability. Relying on crutches or a cane too soon can compromise balance and stability, leading to potential accidents and injuries.

Furthermore, using crutches or a cane too early can result in limping, which can negatively impact the overall gait pattern. Limping places uneven pressure on the body, potentially straining other joints and muscles and affecting the alignment of the surgical hip. A proper gait pattern promotes proper healing and reduces the risk of complications. Gradually transitioning from assisted devices, such as a walker, to crutches or a cane allows the body to adapt and regain strength, ensuring a more balanced and symmetrical gait.

Overall, it is crucial to follow the guidance of a healthcare professional or physical therapist who will provide personalized recommendations based on the individual’s progress and specific surgical procedure. Gradual progression in weight-bearing activities and the use of assistive devices ensures a safer and more effective recovery after a hip replacement, minimizing the risk of falls, avoiding limping, and reducing excessive pressure on the surgical hip.

Again, you only want to have this surgery once. Don’t rush something silly just for your pride on something that only lasts a few weeks.

How to Use a Walker After a Hip Replacement

When using a walker after a hip replacement, walking with good posture is important. Keep your head up, shoulders back and relaxed, and walk tall.

Position your hands on the handles and take a step with the surgical leg. You can put as much pressure through your hands as you need to reduce pain in the affected leg. Then step to the walker with the non-surgical leg. This is called a step-to-gait pattern.

Here’s a bullet list of how to use a walker with a step-to-gait pattern:

  • Position the walker: Place the walker in front of you, ensuring it’s stable and has all four legs on the ground. The open side of the walker should face you.
  • Step with the affected leg: Move your affected leg forward to step through the open space between the walker’s legs.
  • Support your weight: Transfer your weight onto the affected leg as you bring your unaffected leg forward.
  • Step forward: Take a small step forward with your unaffected leg, moving it past the walker and placing it firmly on the ground.
  • Repeat the process: Continue alternating steps, always moving the unaffected leg first and then the affected leg through the open space of the walker.
  • Maintain a steady pace: Walk at a comfortable and steady pace, avoiding any sudden movements or rushing.
  • Lean slightly forward: Lean your body slightly forward while walking, but avoid hunching over. This posture helps maintain balance and stability.
  • Use the walker for support: Hold onto the handles of the walker firmly for support, but try to avoid putting too much weight on your arms.
  • Take breaks when needed: If you feel fatigued or need to rest, find a nearby chair or stable surface where you can safely sit down.
  • Practice and increase distance gradually: Start with short distances and gradually increase the distance you walk with the walker to build strength and endurance.

Once your pain starts to improve, you can take a normal step or a step-through pattern using your arms to take the pressure off the surgical leg each time it moves forward during normal walking.

  • Position the walker: Place the walker in front of you, ensuring it’s stable and has all four legs on the ground. The open side of the walker should face you.
  • Step through the walker: Lift your affected leg and place it through the open space of the walker. Position the foot firmly on the ground, slightly ahead of the walker.
  • Move the unaffected leg forward: Step forward with your unaffected leg, moving it past the walker and placing it firmly on the ground.
  • Support your weight: Transfer your weight onto the unaffected leg as you bring your affected leg forward, maintaining a smooth and steady movement.
  • Repeat the process: Continue alternating steps, always moving the affected leg through the open space of the walker first, followed by the unaffected leg.

The Best Accessories for Using Your Walker

Even though you may only be using a walker for a short period of time, there are some important accessories you can use to make your life easier. It’s hard to get around the house or perform normal activities when your hands are tied down to the walker.

Tennis Balls on the Feet

Common accessories you can use with walkers include tennis balls on the feet to reduce noise, prevent slippage and protect floors from damage. You can get these at almost any sporting goods store.

Cut an “X” on the side of the ball and slide it over each of the non-wheeled legs of the walker. You’ll be thankful to get rid of the sharp screeching noise of the walk on hard floors.

How to Cut a Tennis Ball for a Walker

Carrying Bags for a Walker

Carrying bags also come in handy when you’re using walkers. You can store items inside, such as a water bottle, snack, or small book, and have them close by without having to hold onto them.

They are great for carrying your phone and purse so that you can focus all your attention on being safe with walking.

There are many options on Amazon; they simply attach to the front of the walker.

Walker Handle Pads

Handle pads are also helpful if you have arthritis in your hands or plan on using your walker for a longer period of time. They absorb sweat and provide comfort, making using the walker easier and more enjoyable.

You can find these online or in medical stores; they usually just slip over the walker handles.

What to do with Walker After Hip Replacement

When you no longer need your walker, you’ll want to make sure to reach out to friends and family to see if they may need one. You’ll be surprised at how many people know someone close who is about to undergo a joint replacement.

If that doesn’t work, contact your local physical therapy department and ask if they can use it as a loner for people in need. Also, your surgeon’s office may know of someone about to have surgery who can save money on buying a walker.

You can also store it in the back closet or shed because you may need it again. If you have developed arthritis in the hip, you may not be far off from a total joint replacement in the knee or other hip.

Finally, if you really despise the short time that you spend with the walker and want to get rid of it, donate it to your local hospice thrift store or salvation army.


Walkers are an essential tool for recovering from hip replacement surgery. Walkers help to reduce pain and provide stability during the healing process. They are important in preventing long-term problems during the ever-important first 2 weeks after surgery.

When looking for the best walker with a hip replacement, consider the type of walker (standard, rolling), size, accessories, and what to do with the walker when you’re done.

Following these suggestions can help you get back on your feet in no time at all! Good luck with your walker journey!

About the Author

James C. Lee DPT, SCS, CSCS
James is a native of Limestone, TN. He attended the University of Tennessee, receiving his BS in Health and Exercise Science and completing his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Saint Augustine. James worked as a traveling physical therapist and treats various patients with a specialty in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. James is a board-certified Sports Physical Therapist and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and is certified in Functional Dry Needling, Running Gait Analysis, and Blood Flow Restriction Therapy. James contributes his expertise to physical therapy websites and other guest appearances.