Choosing a Walking Stick or Cane
Choosing the right walking stick for you.
A walking stick is probably the most commonly used mobility device for older people so it is important that you find the right one for you.
When used correctly, a walking stick will increase your base of support and reduce strain on the legs and back as it helps you move forward. Since your arm must partially support your body's weight you need to have enough strength in your arm to use a walking stick. If your problem is with slight balance or instability, some mild weakness in your leg or some pain from a long term condition, a cane may be enough to help compensate for this and provide support. If your symptoms are more severe or impeding then a walking frame may be the better option. See here for walker guide.
What is the best material a stick should be made of?
There a few options with materials; the most important thing firstly is that the stick has a safety sticker (all fo ours here at Mobility Plus do). Most walking sticks these days are made of aluminium as it makes them lightweight, but they are also really strong. They also are usually easily height adjustable We stock a number of these styles which are also available in a folding style (great for occasional use or convenient storage) and there are many different patterns and colours available.
Wooden sticks are more traditional and have been around for a long time. They are both strong and durable however, they need to be cut to the specific height you require. Once these are cut, you are not able to change the height unless you want it to be shorter. If this is the type that you would prefer, we suggest that you cut it off conservatively to get it to the right height for you, and you can make minor adjustments if necessary.
What type of handle is best?
There are a number of different handle styles – each with a slightly different purpose.
Crook or Hook style handle
This is a more traditional style of walking stick handle, it is easy to hang over a chair or forearm when not in use. The handle can be difficult to grasp for those with hand pain or discomfort and is not ideal if you need to place a lot of weight on to the stick.
Standard T handle
This is common on the folding walking sticks and works well for a number of people. The shape of the grip allows the thumb to wrap around the front of the stick and the back of the grip allows the hand to rest on it which feels secure.
Fischer grip handle
This was developed by Austrian, Dr Fischer to reduce the pressure points on the hand by spreading the user’s weight across the palm. It is ideal if you use a stick a lot and place a lot your weight through the stick. It can be useful for people with rheumatoid arthritis as it spreads less intense weight through more hand and finger joints.
Swan neck – is more to do with the design of the shaft of the walking stick than the handle itself. This shape means that it has an angled shaft which projects the handle forward. As a result, when you put your weight through the handle grip, it goes straight down the cane shaft – as opposed to a T style handle which puts the weight of the user towards the back of the cane and can allow it to slip backwards when being used. The swan neck is of most benefit, if you are really unstable on your feet and place lots of weight on to the stick.
Is a quad stick a good idea?
A quad stick is a type of cane that has four rubber capped feet at its base, which allows for extra support and stability. It is also able to be free standing which can often be an advantage, though be aware that these are slightly heavier than a standard stick. Some people with balance issues recovering from a stroke find this stick ideal.
What are the advantages of a folding cane?
Folding canes are a great option if you don’t always need a cane or are using it away from your home and when traveling. When you get into a car, for instance, you simply collapse a folding cane and then unfold it when you arrive at your destination. Folding canes also pack easily in a suitcase or carry-on bag.
What is the right height for me?
Getting the right height cane is really important as it will ensure that it gives you the best possible stability and that it will support you as it is intended to. At the right height, it should allow you to stand with both shoulders level and the angle of the flexed elbow at between 25 to 30 degrees.
To get the right height, stand upright in your regular shoes with your hands by your sides and measure the distance from your wrist to the floor. This is the height of the stick that you require (unless a registered physio tells you otherwise).
Safety and Stability
As well as the stick being the right height for you, it is really important that is has a rubber tip on the end. These do tend to get worn out, so make sure that you check and replace them when they are showing signs of wearing down.