Why are wheelchair footrests important?

Although footrests may seem basic, they play an essential role for the wheelchair user.

What is a wheelchair footrest?

A wheelchair footrest generally comprises of a hanger which attaches to the wheelchair that can be unclipped to swing away from the foot space to allow the user to stand. The plate on the wheelchair allows the user to rest their feet.

The footrests of a wheelchair can be either fixed or removable.

Some footrests can be adjusted for height, which allows the user to set the chair in the most comfortable position. Some footrests have a calf strap that attaches with a Velcro fastening to aid removal, and some have heel straps on the footrests to stop your heel sliding off the back of the footrest.

Elevated footrests also are an option, these allow your legs to be extended out in front of you. These type generally have padded calf rests to take the weight off your legs.

Swing away footrests also prove popular

Why are footrests so important?

Support of the feet is essential when using a wheelchair. If a wheelchair footrest is ill-fitting it can lead to back pain and pressure on the lower thighs. It can also cause problems with digestion so it is vital that the right footrests are chosen to aid and maintain posture.

How do footrests aid and maintain posture?

Your spine has natural curves that form an ‘S’ shape. Good posture allows correct lower limb positioning without the spine having to compensate and losing its natural shape.

It’s imperative that good posture is maintained by following three simple steps.

  • Weight evenly distributed across both hips.
  • Knees flexed to create a 90-degree angle between the Femur and Tibia.
  • The feet flat on a solid surface.

Some footrests can be adjusted to compensate for leg length or other variables to ensure the weight on feet is evenly distributed. Footrests can also height adjustable, allowing the appropriate angles to be maintained through the ankle, knee, hip and pelvis.

This allows the user to place their feet flat on a solid surface whilst keeping natural posture and to support pelvic positioning.

Maintaining good posture has a positive impact on the wheelchair user’s health and well-being, reducing pain and discomfort to joints and associated muscles, which therefore enables the wheelchair user to engage in a healthier and meaningful lifestyle.

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