Walkers can restore some measure of mobility to those who struggle to get around due to injury, illness or age. Rolling walkers -- often called rollators -- are by far the most comfortable type of walkers because the four wheels make a smooth, natural gait possible. Built-in seats and backrests allow users to stop to rest as needed, and removable storage under the seat or in a front basket makes shopping convenient. Most rollators use bicycle-style brakes built into the handgrips for easy adjustment of wheel speed. Brake locks provide safety when sitting down.
Among rollators, Nova walkers are well regarded. Owners report that the company offers excellent customer service, making replacement parts and technical support readily available. The frame carries a lifetime warranty, the brake system a five-year warranty, and other parts are covered by Nova for one year. Users also appreciate Nova's attention to style -- including color choices, jazzy seat covers and accessories -- that make their rolling walkers a source of fun and pride rather than embarrassment.
Sometimes called the Cadillac of rolling walkers, the 17.5-pound Nova Cruiser Deluxe 4202 (*Est. $160) earns high marks in reviews for comfort and convenience. Both seat and backrest are padded, and the backrest is curved -- features that users find important for comfort. The backrest flips up when the walker is folded, so the whole unit folds easily and compactly. The 8-inch wheels are large enough to traverse a variety of surfaces; users say they work well on carpet, grass, gravel and even snow. As on all Nova rollators, brakes and handle grips are shaped for ease of use, even for individuals with small hands.
For those shorter than 5 feet 4 inches, the Nova Cruiser Deluxe Junior 4207 (*Est. $155) is identical except for smaller 6-inch wheels. Both walkers are narrow enough to fit through a 24-inch bathroom door, the width in many homes, yet have seats that are 16.75 inches wide -- wider than on most rollator models. Handled front storage baskets are removable and convenient for shopping. Extra bags, a cup holder and a food tray are available as accessories.
If lighter weight or price are more important to you than seat width and fitting through most doorways, reviews point to the 13.5-pound Nova GetGo Classic 4202C (*Est. $110) as a good budget rollator. Its sturdy construction also provides reasonable comfort, as long as a 13.5-inch seat is wide enough. The seat and curved backrest are padded, and like the more expensive Cruiser walkers, this Nova model is easy to fold and unfold. However, its 6-inch wheels are a minor drawback compared to the Cruiser Deluxe 4202. Instead of a front storage basket, a closed storage pouch resides under the seat -- a style some users prefer for privacy and security. For shorter users, Nova also offers the GetGo Petite (*Est. $110), which uses a front basket instead of the under-seat pouch.
Physical therapists often recommend using an old-style folding frame walker instead of a rollator because they're slower and no brakes are involved. Folding frame models are also a less costly choice if you need a walker for only a short period, or you might consider renting one for short-term use.
The Hugo 007-010 Adjustable Folding Walker (*Est. $80) includes optional wheels and onboard storage. The releases for folding the walker are mounted on the main frame rather than on the sides where they could be mistaken for handles. The Hugo's lifetime warranty is another plus.
The 007-010 is narrow enough to fit easily through the 24-inch bathroom doorways in most homes, even with the 5-inch wheels installed. A physical therapist reviewing it at Amazon.com says this is a major advantage, although for a good fit the user's width should be 18 inches or less. The Hugo walker is light and compact: It weighs just 6 pounds with glides or 8 pounds with wheels, and folds to just 4 inches deep. We found mostly positive user reviews at several retailer sites, and no reports there or in the FDA incident report database of accident-causing malfunctions.
That last point is important. It's reasonable to expect that all old-style folding frame walkers are safer than rolling models since they have a simple design with no seats or brakes. However, FDA accident reports show that even the simplest unwheeled frame walkers can still break in dangerous ways -- and far too many do just that. See our What to Look For page for more information on safety and walker recalls.
Although expert testing of walkers is hard to come by, it's helpful to read the accident reports in the FDA database of adverse incident reports. Consumers -- both users and relatives who buy walkers for them -- provide the best available reviews of specific walker models. We found the most owner feedback at two retail sites, Wayfair.com and SpinLife.com; additional comments can be seen at Amazon.com and Walmart.com. We found a few reviews at Costco.com, Walgreens.com, Drugstore.com, 1800Wheelchair.com and Buzzillions.com, but feedback at these sites is mostly too sparse or too over-enthusiastic to easily compare models.