Walking after total knee replacement surgery is an essential part of your recovery process. Although rest is required for a few days post-surgery, movement, including walking, should take place within a week (at least in my case). Walking helps loosen the new joint, increase blood flow and circulation, and helps to strengthen your new knee.
Don’t get me wrong, walking won’t be easy early on, however, within a few weeks you should be walking around the house and feeling much better than you did before surgery.
In this article, we’ll discuss why walking is good exercise pre and post TKR surgery and I’ll share a few tips to reduce the impact on the knee. We’ll also look at a few of the best walking sticks for bad knees (although your new knee will no longer be bad), post-knee replacement surgery.
Best Walking Poles For Bad Knees (After Knee Replacement)
|#1||Foxelli Trekking Poles||Yes (100%)||Yes||$$|
|#2||HIker Hunger Walking Poles||Yes (100%)||Yes||$$|
|#3||Paria Outdoors||Yes (not 100%)||Yes||$$|
|#5||DMI (Cane Not Walking Pole)||No||Yes||$|
Walking and Health (Preparing for Surgery and Strengthening Post Knee Surgery)
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I grew up in an active household and I continue to live an active life as an adult. My appreciation for exercise is one of the reasons I had to get knee replacement.
My family had a tradition of taking walks in the evenings and we still do it today. In recent years the pain has forced me to change a lot about my lifestyle (biking and swimming instead of running) but the walks remain constant.
I’m also a hiker and a few years ago I purchased my first hiking/walking sticks. They are lightweight, similar to the options we mention below and they work well to relieve some of the pressure on my knee.
Leading up to knee surgery I found myself relying on them more and more. At times I’d just use 1 walking stick but I found that carrying both balances the weight and gives support to both knees – if you have two bad knees this will be more important.
Post knee replacement surgery I’ve made a point to use the walking sticks more. Initially after TKR, I used the walking sticks often as I became comfortable with my new knee, however now – a few months after – I have less need for them because I feel great.
I understand that a knee replacement can be worn down over time and using my walking sticks can help reduce wear and tear on the knee. Of course, wearing the right shoes, icing my knee, elevating my knee, and strengthening the muscles around the joint will keep it in good shape even longer.
How To Reduce Knee Pain While Walking (Use Walking Poles!)
I have an article that shares all my tips for living with a bad knee. Many of my tips have to do with exercise because I can’t stop moving. Below are a few tips I use to stay active.
- Stretch (staying flexible can help with knee pain – flexibility is important)
- Walk on grass instead of pavement
- Walk on a rubber track with extra padding (at a high school or university)
- Walk on asphalt instead of concrete – if you have bad knees you can feel the difference. Walking on concrete is the hardest surface I’ve walked on
- Wear shoes with adequate support/padding
- Use a compression brace to support your knee while walking
- Use shoe inserts for extra padding (Dr. Scholls)
- Use walking sticks for extra support
- Heat your knee before activity and use ice afterward
- Use ibuprofen wisely
Why Should I Use Walking Poles After Knee Replacement
Early on, you’ll definitely need assistance walking around the house. In some instances, a cane might be in order. Canes allow you to put more pressure on them and lean against them.
Later in your recovery, walking poles/sticks might be better options to help with exercise. Ideally, walking should be part of your rehabilitation and walking sticks are super lightweight but also give enough support to reduce pressure on the knee and aid stability.
I’ve used walking sticks for hiking before my surgery and they helped with reducing the pain. They’re also effective when walking up and downhill.
If your recovery involves walking and you live on a slope, walking poles will be useful.
The walking sticks below are high-quality options that can be used around the house, on a neighborhood walk, or on the trail. There are 3 types we mention:
- Carbon Fiber (strength, flexibility/shock absorbing, and lightweight)
- Aluminum (strength, lightweight, less flexibility)
- Cane (strong, slightly heavier for around the house
The Best Walking Poles For Knee Replacement Recovery
No. 1 Foxelli Trekking Poles – Collapsible, Lightweight and Shock Absorbent
Foxelli is one of the premier trekking poles for hikers and walkers. Based out of Tualatin, Oregon (the State that comes to mind when I think outdoors) the company offers a range of outdoor products including headlamps. Their reviews are superb as is their customer service.
These poles will perform well as you recover from knee replacement surgery and they allow you to walk in style. Foxelli uses carbon fiber to keep the poles lightweight – you won’t realize you’re even carrying them.
The grips are natural cork (soft, comfy, and environmentally friendly) and the poles break down and fit into a handy carry bag that can fit in a suitcase or in the back of a vehicle (Up to 55” breaks down to 24”).
The walking sticks weigh only 7 ounces so you won’t encounter arm fatigue. The poles are adjustable to height. Foxelli walking sticks come with 4 season accessories, rubber tips (Tungsten Carbide Tip and Thermoplastic Rubber Tips).
Foxelli has a generous 120 day “no questions asked” money-back guarantee with a 3 year warranty for defects – I like that!
No. 2 Hiker Hunger 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Hiker Hunger is a smaller outdoors company based out of Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to walking sticks, they sell apparel, sleeping pads, and hammocks. Their poles are highly rated by hikers partly because of their great customer service.
With almost 1000 perfect reviews for their carbon fiber poles, they must be doing something right. These poles would be a great help to people with knee replacement surgery who are recovering and are walking around the neighborhood.
Once strength is regained, the walking sticks can be used for hiking as well.
Carbon fiber is a natural anti-shock material that gives walkers and hikers flexible strength. Hiker Hunger does not mix their carbon fiber with aluminum (a trick that many companies do). Each pole is 7.6 ounces (together less than a pound).
The poles can be extended to 54” (137 cm) or reduce to 21” to fit in a backpack or can be hidden in the trunk of a car. They use an ergonomic grip, using cork that reduces slip from sweat.
There’s also a non-slip EVA foam grip under the cork grip that can be used depending on the terrain. Hiker Hunger offers a one-year manufacturers warranty.
No. 3 Paria Outdoor Products – Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Pole (folding and collapsible)
Paria is a small company based out of Colorado. Their name (Paria) actually came from the Paria Canyon in southwestern Utah. The company sells trekking poles, sleep systems, shelters, and accessories and their trekking poles are one of their most popular items.
Paria uses carbon and cork to create these poles. They are collapsible (by folding), adjustable, and lightweight.
Their folding design reduces down to 15 inches – less than others on our list. When you expand the poles make sure they lock into place with the pins. They expand from 45” to 53” making them perfect for both men and women.
Although they break down to the smallest size on our list, they weigh slightly more than others (9 ounces each – still lightweight). Paria offers a limited lifetime warranty. Reviewers like the grip and the fact that the poles work for women as well (if you’re 5’ or under they might be to tall for you).
Other reviews mention the customer service and quality of the product. These could work well for walking during knee replacement recovery and long after.
No. 4 TrailBuddy – Trekking/Walking Poles 2-piece pack with a variety of colors
These Trail Buddy walking sticks are a more affordable option for walkers recovering from knee replacement. Their better price point comes from the fact they are made from aluminum, not carbon fiber.
Aluminum will be lightweight and give you great support as you walk, however they won’t provide the flexion and natural shock absorption that carbon fiber provides.
These also break down to 24” from a max of 54”. The aluminum is lighter than the carbon fiber at about 4 ounces and easy to adjust – just twist and lock. The cork handles will give superior grip and won’t change the temperature in cold or hot weather.
These poles come in a selection of colors and include a carrying bag, 2 pairs of rubber tips, and a pair of connectors, mud baskets, and snow blankets. These walking sticks will help with balance and take some of the pressure off your new knee.
Reviewers mention that they use these poles after knee replacement surgery and they helped tremendously during recovery – even if it’s just around the neighborhood. Another reviewer with arthritis mentioned the poles aren’t just for hiking. The poles are perfect for people who want lightweight support for certain diseases.
No. 5 DMI Adjustable Designer Cane With Offset Handle
This option is the only non-walking stick on our list, but I wanted to include it in case you’re looking for something different.
The most important aspect of this option is it’s a “cane”, not a “stick”. If you prefer to rest your palm against a cane for support, then the DMI adjustable designer cane might be a better option for you.
It will be stronger than the walking sticks and a bit heavier, but you’ll be able to really lean on it to relieve pain after knee surgery. Think of walking sticks for minor support and balance, while a cane works more like a crutch and will not be good for walking long distances.
I didn’t use a cane after my surgery but I understand how it could be useful. For larger individuals having a firm cane to lean on will decrease the pressure on your knee – something, the other walking sticks won’t offer. The cane will also be good around the house, while the walking sticks are better for longer walks and hikes.
The DMI cane comes in multiple colors and is adjustable to match your height preference. It can adjust from 30-39 inches.
It’s made with a lightweight (approximately 1 lb) but strong anodized aluminum that will support up to 250 lbs. To keep it lightweight the handle pad is foam, not rubber and comes with a strap to wrap around the wrist. The heel of the cane is slip resistant rubber (1 inch) to ensure good contact no matter the surface.
Reviews say the cane has room to spare for people who are over 6 feet. They like the style (print) options for men and women, and people who are ordering are suffering from balance problems or recovering from surgeries. This is a good cane for knee replacement surgery and can be used later in life as well when balance becomes a problem.
Is Walking Good For A Bad Knee After Knee Replacement Surgery
You might be wondering, “should I be walking after knee replacement surgery”. The answer is yes, but you’ll want to do so at the recommendation of your doctor.
Right after surgery, there will be a period (up to a week) where you’ll have very little activity because your new joint will need to set and heal. Rather quickly, your swelling and inflammation should reduce and you can begin walking – this is what happened to me.
How Long Before You Can Walk After Knee Replacement
At first, walking was a struggle, but your body should heal and adapt quickly. I wanted to get moving as fast as possible, to get the blood moving and increase circulation.
Walking is one of the first activities you’ll do swimming would also be great, but no everyone has access to a pool. According to Kuster, one of the leading researchers on TKR and exercise,
“It was concluded that patients after total knee replacement should alternate activities such as power walking and cycling. For mountain hiking, patients are advised to avoid descents or at least use ski poles. Jogging or sports involving running should be discouraged after total knee replacement.”
The reason Kuster concluded this in his research is that walking and cycling put less stress on the joint than activities like running. With this in mind, Kuster also says that walking downhill or uphill can put significant pressure on the knee.
If an incline or decline is not avoidable, using ski poles (hiking and walking poles) can help reduce the impact on the knee.
If you are a runner and you’re considering getting knee replacement you should know that running will not be recommended. I’ve known some people that run and play tennis with their new knee, but it’s not common and can wear down your new knee faster than you will with low-impact exercise.
Weigh the options before you go through with the surgery and know that you should be able to exercise, you’ll just need to adapt what type of exercise you do.
Knee Pain When Walking Long Distance
Not all people recovering from knee replacement surgery will have the same great results as I did. Some people will be battling 2 bad knees.
Others will be battling weight that makes recovery a challenge. Still, others will have additional challenges like rheumatoid arthritis that makes walking long distances difficult.
For these reasons, it’s important that you understand your body and talk to your doctor to learn what activities are wise and what activities should be avoided. Not all people will be able to walk long distances after knee surgery.
But even if small walks are an option, I encourage you to try. Using walking poles or even a cane can help reduce some of the pressure/pain you feel while walking.
Here are some of the activities outside of walking that put less pressure on my knee:
- Swimming – in my opinion, it’s great for all people (low impact on joints and full body exercise)
- Cycling – another low impact exercise that can strengthen leg muscles
- Elliptical machine – if you’re not familiar with the Elliptical machine, most gyms in the U.S. have them. They get your legs moving without the wear and tear of running
Walking after total knee replacement surgery is an important activity to strengthen your knee and improve your overall health. Right after surgery, you’ll likely be resting, but within a week or two, you should be moving around in between icing and physical therapy.
Once swelling and inflammation are reduced you’ll be able to be more active. Walking, swimming and cycling are all good options to regain your endurance and strength.
These exercises are low-impact on your new knee joint but still provide a great workout.
Whether you’re walking around the house, neighborhood, or on a trail, using a walking stick (hiking pole) can help with balance and stability. It can also reduce some of the impacts on your knee by putting more weight on your arms.
The best walking poles are lightweight, flexible, and can break down small enough to fit in a backpack and a suitcase. If you prefer something more traditional, a cane can take a greater load off your knee too – canes are generally better to use around the house and for short walks because they are slightly heavier. Canes are harder to travel with.
We hope you enjoyed this article and the information I shared about my knee replacement surgery. After years of exercise, my knee was worn out and I’m glad I opted for with a knee replacement.
I can still exercise, but now I do it smarter and without the pain that I endured for so long. Thanks for reading!