The load balancing in wireless networks is a very effective way for maximization of a system throughput. The paper proposes a new load balancing scheme in order to avoid a congestion of base stations (BSs) in IEEE 802.16 standards. While in many technical studies the load balancing is achieved by a handover (HO) of mobile stations (MSs), the novelty of our approach lies in the utilization of the HO of relay stations (RSs). Hence, the algorithm enabling load balancing via RSs is developed and optimized. Furthermore, the paper contemplates the implementation of the proposed mechanism to networks based on IEEE 802.16 standards. The performance of the mechanism is evaluated in terms of achieved system throughput and signaling overhead both at the air interface and over the wired backbone. The obtained results indicate that the load balancing mechanism through the HO of RSs outperforms existing load balancing mechanisms exploiting conventional HO of MSs. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.