How to Choose a Walking Cane or Stick

by KathleenDuffy

A walking cane or stick is a valuable tool to help with balance and confidence. This article examines some basic features to take into consideration before purchasing.

When choosing a walking stick or walking cane for the first time, the experience can be quite daunting. Initially, some people may find the need to buy a walking cane a depressing situation, especially if they have been used to walking independently.

However, a walking cane can be regarded as a positive aid to independent living or a helpful item to aid recovery from an illness, operation or temporary disabiity.

Those coping with the more devastating illnesses such as one of the many forms of arthritis or multiple sclerosis will benefit from the extra physical support and growing confidence using a walking cane can provide.

Overall Points to Consider When Buying a Walking Cane


It is always a good idea to talk to a doctor or other medical professional about using a walking cane. They can advise on how specifically to use the cane, i.e. dependent on individual needs and circumstances.

Those recovering from illness or an operation may be able to borrow a walking cane from the doctor or hospital.

Here are some general points to keep in mind when buying a cane.

  • A walking cane is to help with balance only and must not take the user’s full weight.
  • Length of the walking cane is an important factor. Make sure the body is not leaning to one side or too upright. It is possible to buy adjustable walking canes, although a specialist retailer can also shorten a cane to suit the user.

Adjustable Walking Cane

They come in a variety of colours
An Adjustable Walking Cane
An Adjustable Walking Cane

Extra Tall Walking Cane

With extra wide handle
Extrta Tall Bamboo Effect Cane
Extrta Tall Bamboo Effect Cane
  • When choosing a walking cane, wear shoes that would be worn when using the cane.
  • There are special walking canes, such as the SupaCane, that are adapted with a special grip to make it easier to rise from a chair.
  • A folding walking cane can fit in briefcase or bag.
  • Some walking canes have seats which unfold for when the user needs to rest. They have weight restrictions.
  • A new innovation is the Slik-Stik. This is a lightweight, robust cane with LED lighting down the shaft. The handle has LED lamps which face downwards and ahead to enable safe passage in the dark. There is also a panic button siren alert in the handle, plus an internal magnet for retrieving dropped keys.

Choosing a Walking Cane – The Handle

 The handle of the walking cane is a vital factor in terms of individual grip, comfort and security.

  • The most well-known handle is the crook type. It directs the weight of the user over the shaft of the walking cane.
  • For those who suffer from arthritis, there are handles specifically made for this condition. These are called Fritz handles, after a German who designed them for arthritis patients.
  • It is possible to buy handles for both left and right handed users – these are known as "anatomically correct" handles. Choosing which handle will depend on the area of the pain or disability, as well as whether the user is left or right handed.
  • Handles are available with foam rubber grips for extra comfort.
  • Some walking canes have interchangeable handles.

A Traditional 'Crook' Handle

Also available in a women's version
Gent's Chestnut Crook
Gent's Chestnut Crook

'Fritz' Handled Cane

Easier for those with arthritis
Ladies' Custom Cane
Ladies' Custom Cane

Choosing a Walking Cane – The Shaft


The shaft of the walking cane is the straight part which can be made of a number of materials such as wood, aluminium and even bone or bamboo.

Medically speaking, the most popular materials for the shaft of walking canes are aluminum and carbon fibre. They are hard-wearing, light, and relatively cheap. The choice of shaft will be dependent on personal factors.

An Elegant Folding Walking Stick

Folding Adjustable Derby - Black Marble
Folding Adjustable Derby - Black Marble

Cane with Adjustable Seat

Cane with Adjustable Seat
Cane with Adjustable Seat

Buying a Walking Cane – The Ferrule or Tip


The ferrule is the tip of the walking cane. It is usually made from rubber to ensure safe grip of the walking surface. There are ferrules for different situations.

  • Ferrules are removable. Therefore it is essential to check that the ferrule is secure.
  • Replace the ferrule regularly, checking for wear and tear. Replacement ferrules can be bought on the internet or in some shoe shops, cobblers and specialty outlets.
  • Some rubber ferrules have steel washers inserted into their bases to make them more durable. However, these tips are a bit larger and slightly heavier.
  • Sometimes a steel tipped ferrule may make a tapping noise when walking. This can be annoying to some users.
  • For greater security and balance, there are attachments which fit onto the end of the walking cane consisting of four small steel legs with ferrules. These are known as Quad walking sticks.
  • For icy weather, a specialist ice grip which covers the ferrule is available. There are varying styles for different icy conditions which are attached to the shaft and can easily be flipped over the ferrule when needed.

Tripod Walking Cane Tip

Anti-skid base, tripod style for added security
Tripod Walking Cane Ferrule
Tripod Walking Cane...

Ice Cane Attachment

For added security in ice or snow
Ice Cane Attachment
Ice Cane Attachment

The Next Big Thing - Sat Nav Walking Canes!

Yes - it's true!  The Japanese are in the process of inventing a cane with a built-in satellite navigation mechanism.  Their population is aging rapidly and I imagine they are wondering how to cope with the many Japanese elderly who might get lost or suffer a fall!

The sat nav walking canes will be able to detect the position of the elderly individual so that worried relatives can track where they might be!

I am not sure I would want one of these myself.  After all, do I really want my children knowing that I spend all my afternoons in the pub, or frequenting low dives of a disreputable nature?

Let's hope there is an on/off switch!

Here's a Truly Elegant Walking Cane

Silver Acanthus - Silver Plated
Silver Acanthus - Silver Plated

Walking Sticks Can Be Fun!

These are so colourful and positive!
Ladies Emoji Custom Cane
Ladies Emoji Custom Cane

Choose a Walking Cane to Suit your Needs

Purchasing a walking cane or stick can lead to greater comfort, security and independence.

Understanding the complexities of choosing the correct model, with the help of a medical professional or a specialist retailer, can help to empower the user.



Updated: 08/03/2014, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 08/06/2014

WordChazer, you crack me up! That is so true and very funny!

Guest on 08/06/2014

Kathleen: I poke people who get in my way and are oblivious to the world around them. These are the same types who lack any inkling of spatial awareness and would probably manage to offend all around them whether cane wielding or not. They are the ones who walk around with an iPod plugged firmly in then replace that with the selective worldview that comes with having Had A Baby. Spatial awareness of a fast falling brick. I'm sure you know the type?

I should add that most people are very good at clearing themselves from my path when I come into view with my cane. They haul themselves and their children out of the way as quickly as they can. I once had a very interesting exchange with a pregnant woman who wanted me to take her seat on the bus when I had my cane. I pointed out to her that I was probably safer standing than she was, as I had in effect three feet to stand on.

KathleenDuffy on 08/06/2014

Thank you VioletRose :)

VioletteRose on 08/06/2014

Very informative and helpful article!

KathleenDuffy on 08/03/2014

Maritravel - yes, the magnetic one would seriously help! I now have two people to avoid. Wordchazer pokes people with her stick and you will be running amok with a custom-made deadly Irish shillelagh! What have I started?

Maritravel on 08/03/2014

I like the sound of the slik-stick with the magnet for picking up keys. I have trouble bending due to a badly fractured back and it's mortifying when out if I drop something like £1 coin and have to ask someone to pick it up. Even worse is when someone draws my attention to a 2p. coin I've dropped which I was hoping no one would notice! I have a shillelagh made for me by an Irish uncle from a hawthorn bush on his farm, properly aged, treated, varnished etc. and it sits in my umbrella stand awaiting the time when I can wave it about and create havoc. Maybe next Paddy's Day?

KathleenDuffy on 08/03/2014

WordChazer - That is so interesting about your canes - and how you use them! I have just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the hip so am interested in the complexities of choosing a cane. How lovely to have inherited your grandfather's canes! If our paths ever cross I will try not to loiter!

Guest on 08/03/2014

I have a selection of canes, having inherited my grandfather's as well as owning a couple myself. My crook comes with me when slow walking is a necessity, such as when shopping or attending fan conventions and having to push through crowds. I find walking slowly very uncomfortable and far more painful than walking fast, hence the specific requirement for a cane in crowds. Plus changing direction suddenly is painful to me; with a cane I find a straight-ish path magically opens in front of me. If not, a swift tap on the ankle of the loiterer can work wonders...

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