Falls are a common risk for people over the age of 65, and the leading cause of injury in older adults. Canes are popular mobility aids that provide users with extra support to reduce the risk of falling.
Choosing a cane or other walking support for the first time can seem overwhelming, as there are many types available and a variety of features to consider before making a purchase. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect when you shop for a cane:
Cane Support Levels
Choose between cane types that offer light, medium, or maximum support.
- C-canes are common walking aids with a C-shaped handle. They resemble a candy cane and provide light support. They are best for someone who balances well and only needs a little help walking.
Functional grip canes (T-handle canes) have a straight handle that extends at a 90-degree angle away from the main shaft. This handle design makes it easier to grip and provides more control to offer balance and walking support.
Folding walking canes are advantageous for travel because they fold to fit into small spaces. These canes pull apart at various points along the shaft, then fold into a W-shape or V-shape. You can carry them in a backpack, on your wrist, or in luggage. They only provide light support, but they work well when on the go.
- Offset handle canes offer medium support. They have a handle at the top that looks similar to a question mark. The offset design helps center your weight over the strongest part of the cane rather than behind it.
- Quad canes split into four supports at the base, which helps provide users with more balance. The canes can stand on their own and are less likely to fall over, but they do take up more space.
Hemi Walker is the most supportive type of walking cane available. It has four shafts with two handlebars that allow you to put more weight on it. The quad design helps you balance, sit down, and stand up easier. It’s heavier than other canes and doesn’t include wheels like a traditional walker, so it can be a little more difficult to move around. These canes often include a small seat in the center, which gives you a place to stop and rest if needed
Features to look for when choosing a cane
Cane Handle Types: As previously mentioned, cane handles come in different types.
- Crook handles are C-shaped.
- T-handles come out at a 90-degree angle from the top of the cane.
- A Fritz handle also comes out at a 90-degree angle, but has a curved design to be more ergonomic and easier to grip.
- Offset handles look like question marks with flat tops. The offset handle centers your weight over the shaft of the cane instead of behind it.
Material: Canes are made of different materials, but the most commonly used are wood or lightweight metal, such as aluminum.
- Wood canes usually consist of either oak or hickory. Both are very strong and sturdy. They provide a more natural feel and aesthetic look than metal.
- Most metal canes are made of steel or aluminum. Aluminum canes are very light, which is beneficial if you have trouble lifting heavy items. Steel canes are stronger and more durable.
Size/Height: To find the right size cane, stand upright with your arms hanging at the side, elbows slightly bent. While wearing shoes, measure from the floor to the wrist to record the appropriate height for the cane. The alternative is to purchase an adjustable height cane that will allow flexibility in setting the appropriate height. This option comes in handy for individuals who wear shoes with various degrees of sole height. Check your elbow bend with cane in hand. Your elbow should bend at a comfortable angle at about 15 degrees.
Grip: Choose a handle that you can comfortably hold for long periods of time to reduce stress on your wrist, hand, and fingers. If the handle of your cane isn't comfortable, you can add foam, PVC, or cushioned rubber to make it easier to grip.
Tip Types: Rubber tips are the most common tip type. The rubber helps to provide traction.
Tripod or quad tips are attached to a single tip with 3 to 4 prongs, which are designed to increase traction and offer greater stability.