"The gloves are off as we look at why you should use gloves and what gloves are in the market. As gloves are small and light we have looked at the overseas "shop online" sites (don't forget there will be an international shipping charge!) as well as local suppliers for medical and sports equipment. Your favourite local supplier may not have the glove you want in stock, but they can access items from international sites that do not ship to individual consumers. As an added bonus, you do get tax relief on any items prescribed by your therapist.

Hands up for gloves!
Opinions are mixed amongst wheelchair users, therapists, suppliers and carers regarding gloves- should you use gloves? Do they help with pushing? Do they limit or assist function? Should I purchase specialist gloves for wheelchair users or are the gloves available at my local sport store sufficient? Which gloves are better for me?
As a wheelchair user your hands are what keep you moving - so it makes sense to protect them. They are constantly being exposed to friction and the heat generated from pushing your chair. Wheelchairs users list a number of problems they encounter with their hands over time - including blisters, abrasions, cuts, calluses, numbness, desensitization and up to 60% of paraplegics have carpal tunnel syndrome . Your hands were not specifically designed for the repetitive impact and the ongoing contact that is required when they are constantly in contact with the push rims of your chair. Gloves can protect against pain, skin damage and injury; they can improve your dexterity and grip and they help you push better .

When deciding on which gloves are right for you there are many considerations to take into account and deciding on why you need the gloves helps you make the right choice " do you want gloves in winter for warmth? Are you looking for extra padding to protect your hands? Would you like better traction between your hand and the push rim? Do you need gloves for sport? Just remember that gloves come with limited warranties and they do not last forever" you will have to replace them with time!
Fit like a glove? Gloves come in a range of shapes, materials, fastening mechanisms, colours and price ranges. Shapes include full glove, half finger (up to first finger joint), fingerless, and palm only. Full gloves provide warmth while the mesh gloves and fingerless gloves keep the hands cooler and allow your hands to perform other tasks without having to take the gloves off (like using your cell phone or wallet). Your gloves can be made from one type of material or a combination of materials - depending on the functionality required from the glove. Materials include: leather, polyethylene, latex, or neoprene ( a synthetic rubber used in wet suits and laptop sleeves). The addition of lycra or spandex increases the flexibility of the glove and gives a better fit and comfort (like wearing stretch jeans). Note some people are allergic to latex and neoprene. ADI Push & Transfer Gloves from Mobility One

North Coast Mediccal Economy Gel gloves from Sanbonani

Padding can be made of silicone gel, latex, or foam inserts and provides added comfort and durability. The location on this padding depends on the manufacturer but most are padding on the palm, thumbs and web space to reduce the impact to the hands. Gel-Palm Wheelchair Gloves: palms made of suede leather, backs are terry towelling, and gel palm pads

Some gloves have a textured palms or a rubber insert to provide better grip and traction on the wheels. Harness Quad Cuff Day Gloves - South West Medical Most gloves have Velcro fastening (also referred to as hook and loop closure) but some come with straps and D-rings. Stretch cuffs allow for greater comfort when wearing the gloves.
Standard colours are black, grey or brown, but look out for cooler colours, reflective logos and funkier designs in leather as well as neoprene, such as the Pursuit range Pursuit Wheelchair Gloves - South West Medical So think before you buy:

  •  if you have wheels with capstans then a glove with a thumb will help prevent blisters,
  •  if you have limited hand function - then try a glove that has a wide opening or one with no “finger” holes (a palm wrap),
  •  if you have good finger flexion then try fingerless gloves,
  •  for weak hand strength - look for a light weight glove, gloves with mesh backs are cooler that full gloves and allow more flexibility.
  • There are gloves specifically designed for people with quadriplegia -these provide better traction and if necessary wrist support in order for you to push a manual wheelchair.

The one size fits all is not ideal for gloves - they do come in different sizes. If you are not able to try them on for comfort and fit most suppliers provide a sizing chart or measurement guidelines to assist you in selecting the size that is right for you. Consumers note that one manufacturer's "medium" may be another ones "small" Remember that if the gloves are too large they'll either roll over your hand or gradually slip off.

Some gloves seem to have a very short life, with users saying they last a couple of weeks to 2-3 months, one customer complained the gloves lasted only a few hours!
The warranties we found ranged from "30 days, 6 months, 9months and 1 year." Harness say their Wheelchair Racing gloves are good for a "1000 miles", but they don't guarantee it. Gloves are a "non tender" item in government hospitals which means each province has to ensure they have a budget and supplier. Rural therapists in Mpumalanga indicate they have not been able to get gloves "for a long time" but when they did the leather ones lasted the longest.

Many of the South African distributors of wheelchairs and accessories do stock gloves and these range in price from R140 - R750. Other local suppliers said people just buy from the local sports shop, so they didn't keep gloves in stock and cannot comment on the lifespan of the various gloves. Prices for "wheelchair gloves" from international suppliers R150 to R750, and remember to budget for the shipping if contacting an international supplier. You can visit or contact the Independent Living Centre who will also order the gloves for you from their catalogue or will source the gloves you are looking for.

The gloves are off

The manufacturers have comments by users on their websites e.g. Rehadesign, but we looked for sites where users inform users and gloves that get good reviews from wheelchair users included: Global Leather, Push Ease, Roylan (Sammons Preston) fingerless gloves, and Hatch anti-vibration mesh-back style gloves, (style number:AV500). We found one guy that made his own leather gloves that lasted 4 years, he just needed to replace the padding every 3-5 months. Can I use gloves from my local sports shop? We searched blogs as well as asking a number of therapists and wheelchair users for advice as to which section of your local sporting store you should browse and they suggested cycling gloves, weight lifting gloves, motorbike gloves, golfing gloves, baseball gloves, light driving gloves, horse riding gloves, abseiling gloves, leather gardening gloves and even sailing gloves. They all had one thing in common- they recommended leather gloves with a good fit! Sailing gloves were rated as they are built for wet weather rope work and therefore very durable and dry easily. All these gloves should be available in your local sports store and retail from R130. In general you will pay more for gloves with gel padding and full finger shapes, than for gloves from synthetic materials, fingerless shapes, no extra padding, and no re-inforced stitching. The cheapest glove we found was a weightlifters leather glove with half fingers for R124.00, the most expensive was a full fingered leather rock climbing glove at R377.10. Local and International Suppliers who contributed to this article:- Suppliers that helped with product information Email or Web Address Telephone