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Wheelchair footrests, sometimes called front rigging, can be adjusted in height and the appropriate height will affect the functioning of the wheelchair and the comfort of the user.
If the length of the footrest is too short, the knees will be lifted off the wheelchair seat, which will transfer more of the user's weight to their back and buttocks. Increasing the weight on the buttocks will result in discomfort and if the user is in one position for too long, it could result in pressure sores.
Wrong Seating Position
Alternatively, if the footrest is too low, the user's feet are unsupported which results in the weight of the lower legs being carried by the thighs at the edge of the wheelchair seat or cushion. This will result in discomfort for the user and can lead to skin damage where the back of the thighs meet the seat or the cushion.
Once the footrest is properly adjusted, the full length of the back of the thighs has to be in contact with the seat and be supporting some of the weight.
If the user has legs of different lengths, it will be necessary to adjust each footrest to varying lengths to make it comfortable for the user.
Footrest Ground Clearance
Wheelchair users with low seat heights or long legs will have problems with foot plates that are too close to the ground to go over obstacles. This problem has to be addressed at the time of purchasing the wheelchair.
The majority of lightweight wheelchairs provide a number of standard footrests that solve low ground clearance problems. Some will have footrest angles between 60 and 90 degrees.
Using the seat as zero degrees, a 90 degree footrest will hang vertically straight down while the 60 degree footrest will be a bit elevated. Some wheelchairs have a 70 degree footrest that doesn't extend as far as the 60 degree footrest.
It might be easier to just make all footrests 60 degrees but the increased turning radius will make maneuvering around in tight spots fairly challenging.
The ideal footrest height for flat surfaces is around 1", for rougher and more uneven terrain the off the ground height should be closer to 2". These heights minimize the turning radius and make getting around much easier.
Not everyone will find a seat height, footrest length and angle that will work for them. Consult with your doctor or even an experienced dealer and they will be able to point you in the right direction.
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