I need new crutches and decided to buy SmartCRUTCHes because my conventional forearm crutches, despite having always used those with ergonomically-sound grips, have wrecked my right hand (nerve and/or tendon damage). I suspect the former but I cancelled nerve conduction tests as I have more than enough pain in my life, and I know from experience the tests can be acutely painful – I have an aversion to painful procedures that have no curative value.
Anyway, I figured a change was due before I completely lost the use of my right hand, and the USP of these things was that they were highly adjustable to provide any setup from conventional – which I already knew would be a problem – to gutter-style elbow crutches, albeit somewhat more sophisticated than normally-available models.
And they look pretty cool, too. Well, OK, some colours look a bit like a cross between a crutch and a NERF gun but, looking at the reviews, they’re popular – just not with me, I wanted black.
The crutches come in three sizes, Standard, Petite (or, if you’re me, Small), and Junior, and not all colours are available in all sizes, with Petite coming off worst.
However, shortly after placing my order for a grey pair, I got a phone call to say they were out of stock, and did I want to wait a few days or pick a different colour (pink, purple, blue or red – not really me). I’d already spotted that both Petite and Junior appeared to share the same size cuff (same length so the same girth seemed a safe assumption), so I took the opportunity to ask why I couldn’t have black. Turned out, hey, I could and they were very promptly delivered this morning, in less than 24 hours.
The first thing that struck me, on taking delivery, was the weight (well, truth to tell, the first thing was the price – at £79 (free delivery for this month), these things aren’t cheap). Unpacked and set up, I brought in my kitchen scales and weighed them – they came in at 950g (a tad over 2lb), each. For comparison my indoor crutches are 541g each and my outdoor ones 812g each – in old money about 5oz lighter.
The SmartCRUTCH website says they’re “only 990g”** which, presumably, is for the Standard size which, as well as being longer, has a bigger cuff – still, I’d have expected a greater difference (and yes, my scales are spot on). Still, the weight doesn’t matter a hell of a lot when in use.
**That’s 2lb 3oz, not the 2.90lb claimed by the website. Someone has misread the conversion app. Converted to pounds and ounces, 990g is 2 / 2.92 –which is to say 2 pounds to the left of the oblique stroke, and 2.92 ounces to the right of it (which I rounded up to 3). This can be confirmed by converting 990g to ounces, which will give you 34.92. And anyway, he said, flogging it to death, at 454g to the pound, 990g can’t possibly be almost 3lb, can it?
Unlike all crutches and sticks I’ve had over the past 28 years, the spring-loaded button which locks the crutches to the selected length is a sensible size and with a spring that’s easily compressible. The holes, too, are slightly countersunk, all of which makes length adjustment unusually painless (a touch of a colourless dry lubricant – try a bike shop, I use Finish Line Teflon Plus – will keep things that way).
The handles are also adjustable for reach, and are secured by M6 socket-head bolts and wingnuts. I replaced the wingnuts with Nyloc nuts for two reasons. First, I couldn’t tighten them enough to completely prevent movement in the handle – only a little, but irritating (yes, I know I’m picky!), though others might not care; and second, unlocked nuts can come loose and be lost and as the length only need be set once, fitting a secure nut made sense (if the wingnut is to be retained, I’d suggest adding a spring washer at the manufacturing stage as not everyone has a bag of M6 Nyloc nuts lying around). If you do replace the wingnuts, don’t go overboard tightening their replacements – just enough to prevent movement, not enough to damage the plastic moulding (though judging from its weight, this is pretty robust). Note: a 4mm Allen key fits the bolts, and a 10mm spanner the nuts.
Finally, and this is very much a personal thing – I found the fitted ferrules too soft for my taste, so I swapped them for the ferrules on my old outdoor crutches. Problem solved.
I realise that they’re a shock-absorbing feature, but I’ve been using crutches for almost 30 years and it doesn’t bother me; I found the slight flex in the cuff assembly perfectly adequate in that respect.
My final setup, after spending much of the day tinkering, is the full 90-degree elbow crutch configuration. You might find, as I did, that the graduated dial on each crutch says you’re in the “Non-operational range”. Ignore it – it’s just a sticker and not very accurately applied. The website makes it quite clear that the 90-degree setting is perfectly fine.
Any fine-tuning to the length, needed as I adjust to the new configuration, can be carried out, as I usually do with new crutches, by adding 1p coins inside the ferrules. Maybe I’m unusually sensitive, but I found that a few millimetres in length made a difference to whether or not my shoulder capsules became inflamed – trust me, years of steroid injections are no fun.
I shall, of course, let you know how these crutches work out, particularly after they take my leg off – which is what I really need them for.
Watch this space…