When is it Time for a Walking Cane?

walker with seat

Whether you’ve just taken a spill trying to get out of bed or you suffered the embarrassment of falling while walking around outside or have a life long disability, or just want to get fit, you are likely to be asking the question when is it time for a walking cane or rollator walker. Looking and deciding the next step can be confronting, whether to accept the challenge of extra mobility support or deciding from the array of options of walking sticks, canes and walkers.

Even though you may not have suffered serious injuries during this event or any previous falls, the fact remains that you could at any time.

walking aid

The cold, hard truth is that as your body ages, or due to medical condition or illness, you can start to suffer from changes in balance and stability when walking. So this is often a good time to be thinking about if now is the time for a walking cane.

Deciding the Next Step

Instead of worrying whether others will start looking at you differently, or your own aversion to “looking old”, taking action now could prolong your mobility and independence, especially since it will help prevent additional falls in the future.

Before deciding the next step, look below and you’ll find out what you need to know about these mobility aids so you can make the choice that will help you keep moving for years.

The Real Importance of Mobility Aids

canes and sticksBefore you learn more about walking sticks, canes and walkers, it is important that you take a moment to understand just how important they can be for your health and well being. Everyone knows the adage “use it or lose it” and that definitely applies when growing older.

1. Regain Your Confidence

If you’ve fallen, you may be tempted to avoid walking too much so that it doesn’t happen again. However, doing so will only make your situation worse. Since you aren’t using the muscles required for walking, such as those in your legs, back and core, they will continue growing weaker. That means that when you do walk, it will be more difficult and your chances of falling are higher.

2. Health Benefits of Walking An Aid

It is time for a walking cane and deciding the next step of choosing to empower yourself with the appropriate walking and mobility aids can be daunting. However the health benefit will be keeping those muscles strong and will even help them grow stronger if you begin walking more.

3. Increased Social Activity

Additionally, those stronger muscles will make you more sure of yourself and your abilities to get out and enjoy everything life has to offer.

Feel Good And Take a Step Toward a Mobility Aid

Keeping that in mind, understanding why you need to decide to next step and choose an option that will keep you going is easy. Now you just need to choose the right one for your needs 🙂

Walking Sticks

While some may consider walking sticks and canes as the same thing, they really aren’t. A walking stick, which is walking sticksessentially a longer pole or stick, isn’t designed to handle your full weight while walking. Instead, you use it at your side to help you maintain your balance – especially when dealing with uneven ground or steps.

A walking stick is longer than a cane, and this can be especially helpful for those who need an extra bit of leverage when dealing with small hills or going from one surface to another that may throw off your balance. Often used for trekking or hiking

Walking sticks are often used for trekking and hiking with new sticks being light weight and adjustable. Walking sticks are becoming popular with nordic fitness walking exercise where cardiovascular levels are raised through using upper body and arms a bit like in cross country skiing.

Generally, if you don’t have an issue with an overly weak leg, or you’ve noticed that your balance just seems to be a bit off or you are asking yourself, when do you know it is time for a walking cane, a walking stick may be the right solution to help you keep moving.


walking caneMost people are familiar with canes. They are around waist height and have a curved or L-shaped handle. A cane is made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal and other strong materials.

It is used on the stronger side to provide support for your weaker or injured leg. When walking with it, you bring the cane forward at the same time you take a step with the weak leg, providing added balance and support.

For most people, the cane is one of the first walking aids that they use. Whether due to an injury, balance issues or a weak joint, a cane provides the support you need so you can avoid falling.

If you are someone who has already fallen, but you don’t want to use a cane due to it making you look old, there is only one response – you’ll look much younger walking with a cane than you will if one of your falls results in you needing a walker or wheelchair.

Need More Support With Walkers and Rollators

A walker offers the most support of all walking aids. It has four feet, or in some cases two feet and two wheels, and is used with both hands.

Reasons for Choosing A Walker

walking frameIn many cases, a community nurse, physiotherapist or your doctor will tell you that you should be using a walker, especially if you’ve just had hip surgery or are recovering from an injury that makes it difficult for one leg to support your weight.

However, there are many other reasons for choosing a walker.

Perhaps you have dizzy spells or shortness of breath.

Maybe you had a stroke or suffer from a condition like multiple sclerosis, arthritis or diabetic neuropathy.

Even slower reflexes can have a major impact on your ability to walk without falling. All of these situations may make a walker the right choice for you.

walker with seat and brakesSome people don’t want to use a walker due to its bulkiness or the fact that they have to use two hands. While these are valid points, walkers have come a long way from those stiff, metal options.

There are some that have a seat built in for dealing with longer walks, and most fold easily so they fit in the car.

There are also smaller, lightweight choices for using indoors, and heavy-duty walkers that can handle rough terrain.

No matter where you walk, there is a walker that will fit your needs and keep you up and moving around.

When is it Time for a Walking Cane?

Now that you understand the differences between walking sticks, canes and walkers, deciding when is it time for a walking cane or walker will be clearer. Then it is about deciding which one will work best for your needs.

If you are still unsure, you will be in a better position to ask questions, speak with your doctor, physiotherapist or health professional to see if he or she has recommendations on which one will provide the support and stability you need. It is also important that you follow any doctor’s orders if you’ve been injured so that you don’t make your situation any worse.

Aging is a natural process does cause some disability, and for some my include further weakness from a medical condition of short duration or life long.  This is a great time for a walking cane or stick especially when still active but just needing a little help with balance. If the mobility aid is needed for extra support then a walker or rollator will the device of choice. Choosing the right walking stick, cane or walker for you will make sure you keep your body strong to continue doing the things you love to do.

What is the Difference Between a Walking Stick and Cane?

Should I use a walking stick instead of a cane? Actually what is the difference between a walking stick and a cane and how long should my walking cane be? These important questions are best answered prior to purchase otherwise you could be putting yourself at risk of falls, strains, aches and pains.

Many people who use canes or walkers are using them incorrectly or are using the wrong cane or cane size. Transfer of pressure from a incorrectly sized cane can lead to neck and shoulder muscle tension and headaches.

Canes and Walking Sticks: Is There A Difference?walking sticks and canes

These terms are often used inter-changeably but essentially walking canes are for support and balance whereas walking sticks are mainly for balance.

Both are mobility devices and used in activities of daily living with increasing popularity in exercise walking activities and can be found in the article, walking sticks for hiking.

Here we look at the various styles of a walking stick and cane, when they are used and how long should a walking cane be.

Getting a Handle on Canes and Sticks

Canes and walking sticks are also often distinguished by the shape of the handle. Choices made on the type and shape of handle of the stick or cane will be for comfort for use or about style for a particular look or feel.

  • The handle can be J-shaped (commonly referred to as a tourist walking stick) or T-shaped (called a Derby or Melbourne cane).
  • A cane with a Fritz handle is especially suitable for people with arthritis due to its uneven T-shaped handle that provides a better grip.Walking canes
  • The Fischer cane has a molded grip that follows the contour of the palm and is comfortable for sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.
  • Canes with ornamental knob handles or metallic cap-stick handles are less function, more fashion, often featuring elaborate designs and fine craftsmanship.
  • Thumb-stick canes with Y-shaped grooved handles are popular with hikers.

Purpose of Walking Canes and Sticks

A cane or walking stick is the least cumbersome of all mobility aids. It provides support and improves balance, but its weight-bearing capacity is limited. A quad cane has four small legs and offers the most stability. Collapsible canes are sturdy enough for daily use, but fold quickly for easy transportation and storage.

Understanding the function of a walking stick or cane and using it correctly will help you derive maximum benefit.

mens walking canes

Choosing the Right Cane and Walking Stick

1. Canes for balance

Selecting a cane based solely on your height is not sufficient. Many other factors should influence your decision, including your body weight, your arm and torso size, and the reason why you need the cane – support versus balance.

2. Cane for Support

If you are going to use a cane for balance, you will probably not require a heavy duty one as it does not need to support your entire body weight. On the other hand, if you have suffered an injury or disability that requires you to keep the weight off a limb, then the cane’s weight guidelines (petite, regular, or extra strength) should direct your choice.

The weight-bearing capacity of the cane is typically indicated on the product in pounds (lbs). To help with balance, single-point canes work well. To support weight, quad-tip canes are more appropriate.

3. Cane for Comfort of Use

Many people find they have to experiment with the grip of a cane before finding the right fit.

walking stick height

With experience, you may find that the most popular Derby handle offers you the maximum comfort.

As discussed above, the Fritz handle is designed for arthritis sufferers who find they can hold it with the least amount of pain in the hand and fingers.

Ergonomic handles are contoured for people with arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Palm grip handles for the left or right hand offer a comfortable fit by conforming to the natural shape of the hand. Offset handles are used following injuries.

The tourist handle or shepherd’s hook style offers convenience in that the cane can be rested on the arm when not in use.

How Long Should a Walking Cane Be?

The correct length is easily measured in 5 easy steps:

  1. Find someone to help you with the measurements.
  2. Wear the footwear you most commonly use.
  3. Stand upright with a relaxed stance on a hard surface.
  4. Slightly bend the elbow of the hand in which you’ll hold the cane at a 15-20 degree angle.
  5. Find the base of your wrist where it joins your hand (just below the bony prominence on the outer aspect of your wrist), have someone measure from there to the floor.

A cane that is too long can be awkward and may place a strain on your muscles. A cane that is too short may have you listing to one side, putting you at risk for a fall. It is a good idea to order a cane that is 1-2 inches longer than your measured length to allow some adjustment leeway.

If you’re walking cane is a non-adjustable or a fixed length and the vendor does not offer customization, then you will need to cut the cane yourself remembering that canes can be shortened but not lengthened. It is wise to cut about 1/2 an inch longer than your measured length, check for comfort, and then make the final cut.

The other way around this is to purchase an adjustable cane, that is one where the length of the cane that can be lengthened or shortened without loss at any time. There are there many canes today that offer this option in one form or another.

Walking Correctly with a Walking stick or Cane

walking stick height 96

Consult your health care provider or physiotherapist to evaluate your individual situation and give you specific instructions on the correct way to hold and walk with a cane.

As a general guideline, however, a cane is held in the hand opposite to the injured side. This helps to reduce weight on the injured knee or hip, for example, while still exercising the recovering limb. To optimize your walking, ensure that the cane touches the ground at the same time as the foot of the injured side.

A cane can be held in either hand (typically the dominant hand) of an individual using it for balance. For best results, you should practice walking so that the cane and the opposite foot hit the ground together.

Professional Help Using Canes for Support

Consult your health care provider or physiotherapist to evaluate your individual situation and give you specific instructions on the correct way to hold and walk with a cane. Some conditions associated with nerve and muscle dysfunction, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), are examples when it is appropriate to hold the cane on the same side as the weakness. In these situations, the cane prevents falls by catching the person mid-step but here it is recommended to seek professional help and guidance in correct walking cane type and use. When the cane is held on the weaker side, it is essential to avoid hobbling in order to prevent undue stress on the shoulders and lower back.

What is the Difference Between a Walking Stick and Cane?

A walking aid increases independence, improves mobility, enhances safety, and strengthens stability, but only when it is sized, fitted, and used correctly. Understanding the purpose of the walking stick or cane and knowing what is the difference between a walking stick and cane, will help find the right one for you.