A footrest is a hanger that is connected to a base where the wheelchair user can place his/her feet. Most wheelchairs have footrests that swing-away and remove to avoid accidents when the user transfers or stands-up from the wheelchair. Footrests can have a very basic appearance but they play an important role in the overall health of the wheelchair user. Footrests allow for the optimum sitting position to be achieved. This improves posture and promotes better blood circulation of mostly the legs, buttocks, back and elbows. Correct feet positioning can avoid problems such as back pain, digestive issues and pressure sores.
There is no universal height for footrests as there are many factors that need to be considered. These factors include the height of the user, footrest ground clearance, comfort and the overall function and manoeuvrability of the wheelchair. If a footrest is too short, the user’s knees will be to high. This will lift their thighs off their seat, increasing the weight on the buttocks. This puts the user at risk of pressure sores as the pressure is not correctly distributed and it can be very uncomfortable. If a footrest is too long, the user’s feet is not supported, increasing the pressure on their thighs. The increased pressure on the lower part of the user’s thigh can result in discomfort and a chance of skin breakdown where the upholstery ends. It is important to adjust a footrest to the correct height to achieve an optimum seating position.
To check if your footrest height is correct, place your hand under the user’s and pull it forwards towards the front of the seat. There should be equal pressure as you slide you hand from the back of the seat forwards. If you there is not enough pressure under the thighs, lower the footrest. If there is too much pressure under the thighs, lift the footrest. Some easy steps for adjusting the footrest,
- Loosen the screw holding the footrest plate. This is normally done with either a spanner or an allen key
- Lower / Lift the footrest depending on your findings.
- Tighten the screw
- Re-check the pressure under the user’s thighs
If you are stuck, your Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist to check your footrest height for you.