senior with cane

How to Choose and Use a Walking Cane

Walking canes provide stability and support, which can give you the confidence you need to keep moving. If you’ve decided that a cane is the right mobility aid for your needs, you may be wondering what your options are and how to use a walking cane.

The good (and bad) news it that you have a lot of options. There are wood, metal and carbon fiber canes. Some have T-handles, while others have ergonomic designs. You can even buy designer canes with fancy colors and patterns. If you prefer a more artistic look, you can choose a wooden cane with intricate carvings.

To make your life easier, let’s look at some of the things you should consider when choosing a walking cane.

How to Choose a Walking Cane

There are several things you need to consider when choosing a walking stick, such as:

Material

The first thing to consider is the cane’s material. You’ll find that most canes are made out of one of the following materials:

  • Wood: Wood has a natural appeal, and in many cases, these types of canes are made with local materials. If the look of your cane is important to you, wood gives you lots of options. From simple color changes (light to dark) or intricate carvings, wooden canes have a lot to offer in the aesthetics department.
  • Metal: Metal walking sticks are considered more durable and are often the preferred material choice because the height is adjustable.
  • Carbon Fiber: Carbon fiber is also highly durable, but it also comes with the added benefit of being ultra-light.

Ultimately, the material is a personal choice. But just keep in mind that a wooden cane’s height cannot be adjusted. This means that you’ll need to measure carefully or have the cane custom made for you.

Handle

Along with material, you need to also consider the cane’s handle. There are many handle styles to choose from, and they each have their own benefits.

  • Crook: These handles are shaped like an upside-down “u,” which makes them easy to hang up when not in use.
  • T-Handle: These handles offer a more comfortable, sturdy grip and provide more control.
  • Ergonomic: Designed to fit the natural curves of your hands. These are ideal for people with stiff hands.
  • Swan Neck: These handles make the walking stick feel more balanced. Most modern metal canes have a swan neck.

Extra Features

Another thing to consider is any additional features that the cane may offer. You may just want a simple cane – and that’s perfectly fine.

But some canes also have:

  • A folding option, which is ideal for people who may not need to use their cane all of the time.
  • Built-in foldable seats. This feature is great for people who may need to rest while walking long distances.
  • Cane straps, which help prevent the cane from slipping out of your hands and onto the floor.
  • Glow-in-the-dark grips, which improves your visibility when walking in the dark.

How to Use a Walking Stick

Once you have found a walking stick that you like, you’ll need to learn how to use it properly. Here are some tips:

Sizing is Key

It’s crucial that the cane be the right height for your body. A walking stick that is too tall or too short will make it even more difficult to walk.

The handle should be in line with your wrist bone while standing in your natural upright position.

Use the Cane on the Proper Side

If you are using one walking stick, use it on your stronger side. The cane should move with your weaker leg. You’ll want to put all of your weight on your stronger leg.

Avoid placing your cane too far in front of you, as it can easily slip of out of your hand. Place your cane firmly on the ground before taking a step.

It may take some practice to get the hang of using the cane properly, but this step is important for safety and comfort.

Know How to Navigate Stairs

Stairs can be tricky to navigate with a cane, so it’s important to take your time.

If there’s a handrail, hold onto it and use the cane in your other hand. If there are no handrails, keep the cane on the same side as your weaker leg. Lead with the stronger leg while going up stairs, and lead with your weaker leg when going down the stairs.

Check Your Cane for Wear and Tear

It’s important to make sure that your cane is in good condition before each use.

  • Check the tip for signs of wear and tear. Tips wear out over time and will need to be replaced. If it wears down too much, the cane body will poke through and create a slippery surface.
  • Adjustable walking sticks may become worn around the joins, which can be a serious safety hazard. If the cane starts rattling or clicking, it may be time to replace it.

If you’re using a cane while recovering from an injury, your physical therapist may have special instructions for using your cane. Be sure to follow these directions, even if they appear to go against the conventional cane-walking method.

The key most important things when choosing a cane are the fit and the comfort. It needs to feel comfortable in your hand, and it needs to be the right fit for it to provide the support, balance and safety you require.

Quad Canes

If you require more stability than what a regular walking cane can provide, then you should consider a quad cane. Quad canes have four feet on the bottom, giving you a wider base of support when walking. You can find our recommended models here.

About the author

Tim Brewer

Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.

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