Alternative To Tennis Balls On A Walker

Are you seeking an alternative to tennis balls on a walker because they keep getting worn out? Read on to know more.

Walkers are a common mobility aid for the elderly. And to improve stability, people have been using tennis balls on walkers forever. I am sure you must have seen it yourself.

So why would anyone want to seek an alternative to tennis balls on walkers?

Given their fibrous surface and constant contact with the floor, tennis balls on walkers can be a hotbed for germs.

Some manufacturers of walking assistance devices have been actively encouraging users to give up tennis balls on walkers, saying that they might be unsafe (unsupported by research, though).

And of course, tennis balls are meant to play tennis. To most people, they might look ungainly and not particularly attractive when used at the bottom of a walker.

So what are the alternatives to putting a tennis ball on a walker? You can go for walker glides or walker skis. In this article, we will explore the use of these two in greater detail.

Why Do People Put Tennis Balls On The Bottom Of Their Walkers?

  • The rubber tips that are used on walkers can be quite fragile. Tennis balls create a bit of protection on them.
  • They also give a bit of traction and if installed properly, may provide stability for the walker. 
  • Tennis balls are easy to replace, you can find them in any dollar store or sports store.
  • They are bigger than tips. They cover a large surface area, and can possibly prevent falls. 
  • Tennis balls let you slide the walker instead of having to lift it up and put it down again. Older people may not have the arm strength to lift up their walkers. 

 

Alternative To Tennis Balls On Walker

 

  • Tennis balls do not provide grip; however, most people really don’t care much about grip. They need something that is stable and can easily glide across the floor with.
  • Most people end up using tennis balls to increase safety. Because maybe some people had a bad experience in their past with the walker tips, or maybe they do more sliding rather than picking up. 
  • When you are mostly using your walker indoors, tennis balls are very useful. You can use tennis balls much more effectively on tiles and hardwood. However, tennis balls don’t do well with cement and carpets.
  • Tennis balls are cheap as well. Rubber tips do slide, but be ready to replace them if you start using them that way. Replacing those tips will cost a lot, while tennis balls are only about a dollar each, brand new.

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How to put the tennis ball on the bottom of your walker?

You can cut the ball yourself using a simple box cutter if you know what you are doing.

Step 1: What You Need

Firstly, you will require a box cutter, a hammer, and a nail to hold the ball in place, and of course the ball itself.

Step 2: Hold the ball in place

Secure the tennis ball. Make sure that it stays in one place when you are cutting it.

Step 3: Hammer a nail into it

Hammer a nail into the ball till you hear the air hiss out of the ball.

Step 4: Take the nail out

After that, remove the nail out of the ball.

Step 5: Make an X 

Make an X in the hole that you just created using a knife. The X has to be two inches long on both cuts. Now you will have four openings.

Step 6: Put the tennis ball on the walker’s bottom

Then push the balls on the walkers’ bottom, pull back to open up the flaps, and put them back to secure the ball onto the leg. You can add tape or glue for a more secure fit.

If you are not very confident using a hammer and a nail to do this, you can try doing it without them too. You have to take necessary precautions to always cut away from your hand. Watch the video below to understand better:

 

How to cut holes in tennis balls for walkers, chairs, etc the common sense way.

 

Things To Remember When Using Tennis Balls

  • Walkers stay on due to gravity because they are on the bottom of the walker. If they are sliding off, it’s easy to put them back on. 
  • If they keep falling, consider making the X a little smaller next time 
  • It might seem like a good idea to use glue to make the tennis ball stick, but this rarely works.

 

Alternative To Tennis Balls On Walker

 

  • If they do not seem like they are going to be helpful, take them off. It’s better to stay safe rather than get into an accident trying to use them.
  • Many like the thought of adding a little color and individuality to their walker. Colored tennis balls are great for that purpose. However, tennis balls may not always be available in your color. So if you ever come across a good source for a tennis ball that you like, pick up as much as you can right away. 
  • Having a better backup supply is a good practice to develop, and you should replace them before they get clogged with dust, gum, soil, and other debris from the earth.

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Pre-Cut Tennis Balls

If you thought that the above process is a bit too much for you, or you are not very confident in cutting the ball yourself, there are pre-cut tennis balls available for you to buy. You can simply put them on your walker after removing the existing tips.

RMS Walker Glide Balls have a nice pair of tennis balls that are already cut, so you don’t need to do anything from what we described. The balls are quiet and smooth, they make a great option if you have a walker with tubing of 1-inch.

RMS Walker Glide Balls

Are Tennis Balls Used This Way Safe?

The short answer is no. Tennis balls track germs and make the walker unstable. They are a magnet for bacteria which are transported from outside the environment into your house. Tennis balls are also disposed to catch on rough surfaces of flooring as the felt surface of the ball wears out and the inner rubber covering becomes visible. 

Dragging a felt surface across concrete, tile, and carpet wears out the felt surface, and it may influence the ability of walkers to slide and becomes a risk of fall. So, tennis balls are dangerous to use on walkers.

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Alternative to Tennis Balls on a Walker

I will discuss two alternatives here: walker skis and walker coasters. Both of them are effective. My mother has been using walker skis, so I know how well they work from personal experience. Some of her friends have used walker coasters too. Both options are definitely better and more attractive than tennis balls.

Walker Skis

One alternative to a walker is walker skis. Walker skis are attached to a walker’s feet, they slide on the ground as a ski does on the ice. 

Walker coasters glide over rough surfaces, whereas the soft covers of tennis balls tend to grip on rough surfaces such as concrete. They also work as a shield of protection that prevents the walker from getting caught in thresholds and doorways. Walker coasters provide a helpful solution for replacing worn walker tips, so these are easy and convenient to use.

 

Alternative To Tennis Balls On Walker

 

Talking purely about physics, their larger surface area, and durable and smooth plastic give you more stability. These low-weight coasters are brightly colored, making them easy for you to see where the walker’s legs are, to avoid tripping or stumbling.  Walker skis are a perfect alternative to tennis balls on a walker.

Essential Medical Supply has an excellent set of walker skis that you might want to consider buying. My mom has been using them for a while, they are safe and durable.  They have been working well for her for the past year.

Essential Medical Supply walker skis

Walker Coasters

The other option is to move with a walker coaster which is also a safer and better alternative to a tennis ball. Walker coasters are slotted over the leg of the walker and give them traction and stability. I have seen them used by some of mom’s friends and they work like a charm.

The trick is to find one that fits perfectly in your walker’s slot. They work well on doorways and sidewalks, two places where tennis balls tend to get stuck. Walker coasters make for an attractive and useful alternative to tennis balls on a walker.

 

Alternative To Tennis Balls On Walker

 

Easy To Use Products (Yes, that’s actually the brand name!) has a nice set of beautiful bright yellow walker coasters. They have an O-ring that goes into the ends of your walker, keeping the coaster tightly fit during both summers and winters.

Both of these products are under $15, so both of them are a lot cheaper than buying new walker tips. They last much longer than a tennis ball, so if you think about it, they are probably more cost-effective than tennis balls too!

Easy To Use Products Walker Coasters

How To Put On a Walker Ski Or Coaster On Your Walker

Step 1: Remove Your Walker Legs

To start, you will need to remove the ends of the legs from your walker.  To do this, take out the rear leg from the Walker (keep a note of which hole the little button was in)

Step 2: Take Out The Existing Tips

Use an object such as a broomstick, that will fit inside the leg-end tubes. Pushing from the inside, and tap out your existing glide. Do the same to the other leg as well.

Step 3: Put on Your New Walker Skis/Coasters

Now, just fit the walker skis or coaster by lining it up with the base of the walker, so that the ski or coaster’s rounded edge is aligned with the adjustment hole on the walker’s leg-ends. You may need to tap them in a little to make sure that they are installed tightly.

Step 4: Attach The Leg-Ends Back

Now attach the rear legs back onto the Walker. The rounded ski/coaster part should be facing forward. Make sure to put the leg end in the right hole that you noted in Step 1.

 

If you prefer a video demonstration of how to do this, please watch this video:

How To Attach Skis To Your Walker

So What Can You Put on your Walker Apart from Tennis Balls?

Walker coasters can be put instead of tennis balls. They are cleaner and safer. For those people who love a bit of color on their walkers, coasters are available in many colors also. 

Walker Skis are also great options. Your choice will really depend on how you use your walker and your choice of aesthetics.

If you are a regular walker user, you might want to read about other walker accessories like trays and baskets for walkers. And if you want to know more about how to maintain your posture while using a walker, read our article on upright walkers for seniors.