Sometimes you need a bit of help to make walking a bit easier, the choice can be a bit daunting so this is a quick guide to help you understand the differences. Where possible, a proper assessment by a qualified professional is always the best option but that is not always feasible. This guide is not intended to replace medical advice but just to give you some pointers of things you should think about when choosing a walking aid. If you already have been assessed, then you may want to find something more to your taste than the standard issue aid that may be a little dull and make you feel old. Here at Mobility Stirling we can help you find a walking aid just right for you.
Walking sticks and canes
‘Walking sticks’ is a general term for any kind of stick or cane used when walking, ‘Walking Canes’ is a more specific term for walking sticks designed to give support. Canes then are generally sturdier and have a more practical handle that should be comfortable; walking sticks can be any shape and size and may choose aesthetics over practicality e.g. novelty handles.
A walking cane is ideal where you just need a little extra support or to make you feel a little more stable. Walking sticks or canes come in a huge range of styles but there are also differences in their functionality.
Whatever cane you eventually choose, it is vital that it is the right height.
What is the ‘right height’ for a walking aid?
Many people with walking aids of all kinds are not getting the best support, and may even be damaging their health by using it at the wrong height. A walking aid, whether a cane, walker or rollator should normally be measured with your arms relaxed by your side with just a slight bend in the elbow. The walking aid should come to the crease in your wrist.
Quick tip: Be sure to be wearing the kind of shoes you would normally be wearing while using it most while you get measured.
How do I get a cane that is the right height?
Most metal sticks are easily adjustable with a simple click action that lets you select from a range of sizes and quickly click back in place. Wooden canes are static but they can be reduced in height by cutting excess off the bottom and re-connecting the ferrule (the rubber part at the bottom of the cane).
Quick tip: placing the walking stick/cane upside down and measuring where it needs to go is usually more accurate.
Types of canes
Canes come in a wide variety of styles, they vary in what they offer in size, shape, colour, design, handles/grips, and features. Some are specifically aimed at males, sturdier with larger handles to suit their normally larger hands and additional weight. Some are styled for smaller hands and are more delicate. Many are unisex. However we are all different and we should choose according to our own needs – for example, I am not a delicate, small creature with tiny hands and, quite frankly, I would definitely need something with a sturdy designs so thank goodness they come in styles, colours and designs that I like too.
Aluminium canes come in a wide range of colours and designs, making them perfect for adding a little style to an outfit. They adjust in height to easily allow the best position to for you. The aluminium canes come in many styles including folding sticks and ones with orthopaedic handles including handed.
The more traditional wooden stick can be trimmed to the correct height with the rubber ferrule covering the base of the stick after adjustment. Wooden sticks come in a variety of woods and shade with beech and chestnut being popular choices due to their warmth and colour. From crooks to pistol handles or orthopaedic styles, the warmth and style of wood is enduring.
Quad canes have four feet at the bottom making them more stable and have the advantage of standing unsupported. Not always the most alluring looking canes but very practical and safety is of prime importance. They have good handle grips feel very steady under the hand. They are easy to adjust to the right height and come in different sizes to suit needs.
As well as the differences in aesthetics like colour and design, some canes have particular features that make them better for some users. As well as ‘derby’ style handles and the more traditional crook styles, handles can also be anatomically shaped to fit the hand more naturally, designed to fit either left or right hand. Canes can also incorporate such things as shock absorbers, ‘glow in the dark handles’ or ice spikes. You can also buy folding sticks designed to fit in your bag – ideal if you only need occasional use from your stick.
As with most aids to daily living, the best way to find what suits you is to try them out. A reputable shop such as Mobility Stirling keep a range of walking aids including many types of canes, rollators and walkers (zimmer frames) which you can try out. We can help you choose what works for you and your lifestyle.
This article is written for general guidance and should not replace medical advice.