How to Size and Position Your Crutches

Crutches are often used to minimize pressure and weight on an injured leg. They are a common assistive device used after injury or surgery. Your physical therapist can teach you how to properly size your crutches.

Before using crutches, it is important to be instructed by a healthcare professional as to how to properly use them. This should include proper crutch positioning and sizing. Being adequately fitted with a pair of crutches is important for safe crutch use as well as to prevent possible nerve damage in your arms or hands.

Caregiver helping a man with crutches
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc ./ Getty Images

Tips for Proper Crutch Sizing 

Here are some basic guidelines to follow when sizing your crutches:

  • The top of your crutches should be between 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches below your armpits while standing up straight.
  • The handgrips of the crutches should be even with the top of your hips.
  • There should be a slight bend in your elbows when you use the handgrips.
  • Hold the top of the crutches against your sides, and use your hands to absorb the weight. Do not press the top of the crutches into your armpits. This could result in damage to the nerves that run under your arms.

Following these tips should help ensure proper crutch sizing, which can make using your crutches simple.

If your crutches are too high, it may be difficult to walk; you'll feel like you are pole vaulting over the crutches with every step you take. If your crutches are too short, it may cause you to lean forward too far, leading to back pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain.

Remember that everyone is different, and your crutch sizing may take a bit of finessing to get it absolutely right. Your physical therapist can help you make sure your crutches are the proper height and that you are using them correctly for your condition.

A solid crutch training session will focus on proper walking and weight bearing, practicing walking up and down stairs and walking up and over curbs and obstacles. Your physical therapist can ensure that you are safe while training on your crutches. Some doctors recommend you learn to walk on crutches before an elective lower extremity surgery.

Remember, there are different levels of weight bearing and different types of gait patterns that may be used with your crutches. By learning these types of crutch walking patterns, you can be sure to remain safe while walking with your crutches.


Click Play to Learn How to Use Crutches

This video has been medically reviewed by Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT

When You Only Need One Crutch

When walking with only one crutch, you should not need to make any changes to the crutch size or position. Typical progression from walking with crutches would be to walk with two crutches, one crutch, and then progress to walking with a cane. When using one crutch or a cane, it is often used on the opposite side of your injury or weakness. You move it forward with your weak or injured leg, then follow with your good leg.

A Word From Verywell

If you are required to walk with crutches after an injury or surgery to your lower extremity, take the time to visit your physical therapist and doctor to be sure your crutches are sized properly. Doing so can make walking safe and effortless and help you on your road to full recovery to your normal lifestyle.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Instructions for using crutches.

  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. How to use crutches, canes, and walkers.

  3. Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Crutch and cane walking: Single crutch or cane.

By Laura Inverarity, DO
 Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.