Footrest Options to Support Function and Mobility

Motion Composites’ ultra-light weight wheelchairs are known for their aggressive styling from top to bottom. Our footrests are no exception. We understand that footrests and footplates are more than just a place to put your feet.

Footrests are key to seating, positioning, and functional independence. When seated in the perfect wheelchair, the pressure in the seat is evenly distributed throughout the seat cushion to protect the skin from pressure injury. If the footrest is set too short or too long for the user, the weight distribution in the seat will not be optimized. Too short, and the load accumulates over the bony prominences in the pelvis, the ischial tuberosities. Even the best seat cushion can fail when the cards are stacked against it. A short footrest can increase risk for pressure ulcers.

If the footrest is too long you will lose proper posture and positioning in the search for support. The load shifts to the thighs and there is potential for sliding forward in the chair. The pelvis can then be pulled into sacral sitting, increasing risk for pressure ulcers on another bony prominence, the coccyx or tailbone. Your measurements should be taken to select the appropriate length footrest for your body for optimal seating and positioning. Motion Composites offers a wide range of adjustable footrest lengths to ensure our users are properly supported throughout.

Improper footrest length can also impact seated stability and the ability to propel or complete ADL’s in the wheelchair.  If the feet are not supported properly, the user will need to find ways to stabilize themselves for functional activities, and it can lead to discomfort, poor posture, and decreased function.  Proper support and correct length help stabilize the pelvis and improve distal function of the upper extremities.

Footrest selection can also impede or promote functional independence and safety. Consider the configuration of the chair and personal transfer styles when making a selection. There are many ways to transfer in and out of a chair; use of transfer boards, stand pivot transfers, and dependent sling transfers to name a few. If your footrests occupy the space where you plant your feet for a transfer, consider swing away, flip up, and flip back footrest and footplate solutions. Clearing the area where you plant your feet will promote safety and independence with transfers.

Certain features of the footrest and footplate can fine tune the distal support provided to the lower limbs.

  1. Adjustable angle footrests allow for anterior and posterior tilt. Anterior tilt can provide support to users with limited range of motion at the ankles or have clonus triggered at certain positions. Posterior tilt can help stabilize the feet and minimize migration off the footplate during bumpy rides. Medial and lateral tilting of the footplate can be beneficial to those with foot deformities requiring support.
  2. Depth adjustments can allow for further fine tuning of footplate placement even after delivery. With up to 2” of depth adjustment, it can mean the difference between a good fit and a perfectly compact fit.
  3. Height adjustment is critical, but with some options may be limited. Infinite adjustment is best for fine tuning exact positions, but some companies only offer incremental adjustment. Be sure you take accurate anatomical measurements and consider the type and height of the selected seating surface.

Motion Composites offers a wide variety of footrest configurations to ensure you receive the features you need and nothing you don’t. Our order forms detail which options are available on each chair model and list available footrest lengths. Offerings range from the lightest option, Tubular Open Loop for our rigids, up to the most supportive option, the Elevating Legrest for our folders. Materials range from ABS and aluminum to carbon fiber. Fixed angle and adjustable angle solutions are available in both rigid and folding wheelchairs. Flip back footrests in rigids and swing aways in folders promote a safe environment for transfers. Specialty options are available to meet the needs of those requiring high mount or residual limb support. Check out these examples of Motion Composites footrests and footplates.

Maximize style and function with footplates from Motion Composites. Consider your chair transfer style and positioning needs when making a selection. Check out our Options and Accessories Guide to see all of the great footrest and footplate options available through Motion Composites. Feel free to connect with your local rep or your local provider to learn more.

About Olivia Tefera, PT, DPT

Olivia specializes in DME, CRT AND SCI physiotherapy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a Doctor of Physiotherapy degree from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.