He grabbed the pensioner outside her home near the junction of Otley Road and Weetwood Grange Grove in Weetwood just after 3pm on New Year's Day.
He demanded her valuables and threatened to stab her, although no knife was seen.
The victim struggled and was thrown to the ground before the man ran off with her handbag.
He was described as white, aged in his forties, wearing black and grey clothing and a woolly hat.
Detective Sergeant Ni Khan, of Leeds District Crime Team, said: “The elderly victim was thankfully not seriously hurt but was obviously left very badly shaken by what happened.
“We are carrying out extensive enquiries into this incident and would like to hear from anyone who witnessed it or saw a man fitting the description in the area around the time.”
Officers from the local neighbourhood policing team have been made aware of the incident and have increased their patrols of the area to reassure residents and deter any further offences.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Leeds District Crime Team via 101 quoting crime number 13180000965 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.