- People put tennis balls on walkers to make them quieter, to protect floors, and to make it easier to push the walker along.
- There are tennis balls made specifically for walkers.
- You can cut a tennis ball for a walker using a serrated knife or by putting it in a vice and using a saw, but be careful!
- There are alternatives to tennis balls that include ski-shaped and sneaker-style footings.
Tennis balls for walkers? Those are for the tennis courts, right? Well, for anyone that has worked around older adults long enough, the sight of tennis balls attached to the legs of walkers is all too common.
Why Tennis Balls on Walkers?
Typically, when you purchase a walker, the rear feet are going to have rubber pads already installed on them. For many, this is fine, but there is a great majority of older adults using walkers need something that will allow them to push their walker rather than pick it up with every step. Pushing the walker along is significantly easier for them than lifting it up with each step, and where most of their steps are inside, the tennis balls slide more easily across the floor.
To attempt to push a walker with rubber pads on the back legs is difficult and leads to the walker ‘shuttering’ as you move it. This is why so many people add tennis balls to the rear feet of their walkers. They aid in the pushing process, help keep one from scuffing floors, and make for a much smoother walk.
What’s more, these rubber pads wear out rather quickly, which can then lead to gouging floors or an exceptionally irritating clacking/dragging noise when the person pushes the walker across hard surfaces.
It’s important to note, however, that not all people think tennis balls for walkers is a great idea. NOVA, a medical products company, even went so far as to launch a “Lose the Tennis Balls” campaign, arguing that the balls make walkers unsafe, unsanitary, and unattractive.
Based on my experience working in a nursing facility, however, I did not find any instances where the balls proved to be unsafe. Unsanitary? I suppose if the floors are dirty, but I’ve never seen any resident handling their tennis balls at the bottom of their walkers.
What makes me suspect of NOVA’s campaign, however, is that they pair it with a sales pitch of their walker “skis” as an alternative. So, they have a financial incentive in the campaign to end the use of tennis balls on walkers. I’ve featured these skis in the “Alternatives to Tennis Balls” section below, so you can see for yourself if you think they are better or not.
A more important safety issue, in my view, is making sure you have the right mobility aid for the individual’s need. It’s easy to fall if you’re not using the right device, as this occupational therapist points out. You always need the right tool for the job.
That said, assuming the walker is the right tool, and you’ve selected the best one, adding tennis balls to the walker might make sense. Following are some balls designed specifically for that purpose.
Best Tennis Balls to Use for Walkers
Really, when it comes down to it, a tennis ball is a tennis ball. You can cut any tennis ball to use for a walker. In fact, if you know someone who plays tennis, they can be a regular source of balls that have lost their tennis bounce and are ready to be repurposed.
Assuming that’s not the case, you can naturally buy new ones, or some of these we recommend below. The main difference with what you’ll see here is in the design pattern and in the style of the cut where the leg is inserted. Of course, these can also save you the hassle of cutting the balls, which – if you’re not careful – can lead to injury.
RMS Walker Glide Balls
- WHAT'S INCLUDED: A set of 2 balls.
- READY TO USE: Pre-cut opening makes it easy to put onto walkers. Just slip the walker balls on and go. No tools required!
- PROTECT FLOORS: Recommended for indoor use to protect floors from being scratched and scuffed by walkers.
This is one of the most popular sets sold on Amazon and includes a straight slit that’s already been cut into each tennis ball for you. If you’re worried about accidentally cutting yourself making your own walker balls, this is a great option. To install, just squeeze the tennis ball so that the “mouth” opens, and then install it on the walker.
Startop Walker Ball
- ⭐IMPROVES WALKER GLIDE MOBILITY for any senior or movement-challenged person over time. Startop Walker Balls use real tennis balls with premium grade felt, which glides optimally over doorways, sidewalks and carpets where other coasters get stuck.
- 🎾PRE-CUT STAR TOP OPENING for and UNIQUELY SECURE FIT - why risk injury or waste time cutting old balls. Our specially engineered cut pattern allows for much a better fit then any other walker balls on the market.
- ⭐PROTECT YOUR FLOORS FROM SCRATCHES - Unlike plastic walker glides, our custom cut walker balls set of 2 will never cause scuff marks, nor nick or scratch your precious hardwood, linoleum, or Pergo floors. Glide easily across most surfaces.
If you don’t want anything fancy and are just looking for a classic tennis ball, but also want something that’s pre-cut and easy to install, you’ll like this offering from StarTop. A ‘Y’ cut is already cut into the top of each tennis ball making this as simple of an installation as possible. No squeezing is necessary, just place the walker leg at the slit, and push.
Penco American Flag Walkerballs
- Walkerballs help increase mobility by allowing walkers with front wheels to glide effortlessly on most surfaces.
- Specially designed hollow balls are pre-cut for easy installation on most walker legs, regardless of the diameter of the leg tubing.
- Offered in a variety of colors for personalization of the walker.
Penco is the original when it comes to a commercially available walker ball, and if you’ve been searching for a way to show off your support for your country, you’ve found the perfect walker ball! These have an American flag design on them, making these perfect for veterans or any other proud American citizen.
Of course, they’re pre-cut as well.
Top Glides Tiger Walker Balls
- READY TO USE - just slip them on and go
- PROTECTS FLOORS & CARPETS with soft felt exterior
- PRE-CUT OPENING for safety & convenience
Perhaps you’ve spent a bit of time in Africa in the past. Maybe you’re just a fan of Calvin and Hobbes. Either way, you want tiger stripes on your walker balls, and now you can have it! These are pre-cut with an ‘X’ incision, meaning these are easy to get on, and only cost $8.99 for two, making these an economically friendly way to add some pizzaz to your walker.
How to Cut Tennis Balls for Walkers
Perhaps you already have some tennis balls lying around the house and don’t see the sense in buying any. If this is you, then you can make your own walker ball.
However, before ever beginning this process, just understand that tennis balls are notoriously “evasive” when it comes to being cut. If you try to just stab or hack at them, you’re liable to slash your finger. Make sure that you are staying safe if this is the option that you’re going for.
I have found that the easiest means of cutting a tennis ball is with a serrated blade and a sawing motion. Sticking a tennis ball in a vise and using a hacksaw works great for such.
Alternatives to Tennis Balls
Not everybody enjoys the look, function, or durability of tennis balls for walkers. If you find yourself searching for something else, just know that there are plenty of other options available on the market that are just as effective – if not more so – than tennis balls.
Here are a few of them:
Walker Ski Glides
- NO MORE TENNIS BALLS! Get Walker Skis! The ideal folding walker glide option for indoor and outdoor surfaces. Safe for wood floors and easy to clean.
- ADDS STYLE, SAFETY & MOBILITY to your folding walker and easily glides over door jams and small barriers.
- EASILY ATTACHES WITH NO TOOLS REQUIRED over metal tube of folding walker. Installs in just minutes.
Ski glides are in essence like little water skis for your walker. They install where a tennis ball would install but have a much more discrete and low-profile appearance. For areas with lots of carpeting, such as many nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and church auditoriums, ski glides work great.
Here are a few that we recommend:
Vive Walker Ski Glides
- COMPATIBLE WITH ALL WALKERS: Allowing for smooth, easy mobility, the Vive walker ski glides are universally sized to easily attach to all walker styles. The curved ski glides securely slide into place, with a post diameter between 1" - 1 1/8" . Navigate over carpet, tile, pavement or concrete without dragging your walker or using unsightly tennis balls. This set of two walker ski glides also includes two velour glide covers for indoor use.
- SUITABLE FOR INDOOR/OUTDOOR USE: Safely maneuver indoors and out with the smooth walker ski glides. Great for concrete sidewalks, pavement and blacktop, the scratch-resistant walker glides provide additional stability on any surface.
- CURVED TIPS WITH VELOUR COVERS: The inclined ski tips easily glide over door jams, rugs and from tile to carpet. Two velour glide covers are included for indoor use. These covers provide additional protection against snags and scratches when moving from outdoors to indoors.
Here you have traditional universal-fit walker ski glides, but in this case, there are little slippers you can put on your ski glides for ease of use in hardwood environments. This helps to ensure you don’t have to worry about scuffing the floors.
This isn’t typically a huge problem for ski glides, but if you’re in an area where the floors were recently redone and you want to make sure that you don’t do any damage, this may be something to look into.
Sneaker Walker Glides
- Stylish tennis shoe glides personalize the walker
- Allows walker to glide easily and smoothly over most surfaces
- Fits all size tubing; Knob turns on bottom of glide for different tubing diameter
These are easily the most expensive option on this list – coming in at roughly $20 – but they’re easily the most fun option as well. It’s a pair of shoes for your walker! They glide as smooth as any other ski glide out there and prove as a great conversation starter.
Walker Glide Caps
- Pack of 4 glide caps for Days Bariatric, Adult, or Youth walkers, helps make walker movement more smooth
- Comes with four Days Walker Glide Caps
- Walker caps facilitate better movement when using walkers on indoor floors and smooth outdoor surfaces
Perhaps the most discrete option available to improve a walker’s slide would be glide caps. These are nothing other than a bottlecap-like apparatus that will pop onto the bottom of your walker’s feet. They won’t do anything for noise control, but they do help to make for a smoother gait. If this sounds like something of interest to you, may we recommend Days Walker Glide Caps.
Adding tennis balls to your walker is a great idea that can help to make using your walker just a bit more convenient and enjoyable. Whatever your reasoning for doing so, just know that there is a wide array of walker aids out there that can help you meet your purpose.
What are your thoughts though on the subject? Have you found an easier way to cut tennis balls? Have you had good (or bad) experiences with them in the past? Let us know in the comments below!