How to Choose a Cane

How to Choose a Cane: Types of Canes, Cane Height & More

By jwilder

How to Choose a Cane

Walking canes are used by millions of seniors and people with mobility issues to get around safely. They’re inexpensive, convenient, and promote a healthier walking posture.

If you’re thinking about getting a cane, you need to know what to look for and which features matter the most. In this guide, you’ll learn how to choose a cane that meets your needs perfectly.

Let’s get started!

Types of Canes

Single-Point Canes

These simple canes are the kind that most people think of when they hear the phrase “walking cane”. With a single rubber point on the bottom, they are used by people who need a bit of assistance walking with proper form. Single-point canes allow you to travel faster and more efficiently than other types of canes, and as such, they’re perfect for people with gait issues.

Quad Canes

Quad canes are the type of cane that people with balance issues should look to first. They have a bottom that branches out to four separate feet, each with a rubber cap. These feet provide excellent stability, helping seniors and people with disabilities avoid nasty falls.


If you are dealing with any sort of balance or stability problem, this is the type of cane you should be considering. Studies have shown that quad canes are the most stable type of walking cane; the four feet help users stay upright and feel sturdier when leaned on than other types of canes.


The biggest drawback of these types of walking canes is that they don’t allow you to move as quickly as single-point canes. The difference won’t be noticeable over short distances, but if you’re walking more than a half-mile at a time, you may start to notice that a quad cane makes you more tired than a single-point cane.

Tripod Canes

If balance and mobility are both priorities for you, consider a tripod walking cane. With three feet instead of four, these canes are lighter and more mobile than quad canes, but they still provide a high level of stability. They’re dependable, easy to use, and recommended for people who want to get both the balance and walking gait benefits of canes. Canes with seats often come with three feet. 

When Do You Know You Need To Use a Cane?

There are many signs that make it obvious that you need to use a cane, walker, or another type of mobility aid. If you are:

  • Consistently worried about falling when walking,
  • Having trouble standing for longer than 5 minutes without pain,
  • Have knee osteoarthritis,
  • Have had a stroke or mini-stroke,
  • Using furniture/railings to stay upright or avoid pain,
  • Or have had a hip replacement,

… you may need to consider what using a cane could do for you. Any sort of injury, disease, or condition which affects your legs and hips can be an indicator that a walking cane could benefit you. While in some cases it might take a doctor’s recommendation to determine whether a cane or a different mobility aid is right for you, nearly any senior with walking issues can be well-served by a quality cane.

When to Go from Walker to Cane

Many people use walkers to safely move around after an accident, fall, or surgery. Though walkers are very beneficial and sturdy, they aren’t the most convenient mobility device for staying mobile and moving at normal speeds.

Canes, on the other hand, allow you to walk more or less as normal (depending, of course, on your individual circumstances). They’re lighter than walkers and they take up less space, making them easier to use- if, that is, you are ready to use one.

If you’ve been using a walker during recovery and want to transition to a cane for quicker movement, you need to first make sure that you can still safely balance and walk with it. The quickest way to do that would be to test your balance and hip strength using this video:

If you are still unsure of whether you’re ready to transition to a cane or not, your best course of action is to make a doctor’s appointment. They’ll be able to evaluate your condition and help you decide which type of mobility aid is the most helpful for you.

How Does a Cane Help You Walk?

Walking canes share some of the workload of walking/balancing with your legs. Instead of your legs being 100% responsible for holding you upright and walking in a healthy manner (a.k.a, not limping), the cane shares the responsibility.

Some people use their canes to relieve pressure on their joints, helping them to walk without a limp. If you have knee osteoarthritis, for example, using a cane reduces pressure, stiffness, and pain, helping you walk more safely. Using a cane allows you to walk more naturally, correcting limps and other gait issues that lead to chronic pain.

Walking canes are also tremendously helpful for people who struggle with balance. Stroke patients and people who have loss of feeling/partial paralysis should use canes to avoid falls and stay upright without needing assistance from a caretaker. They give people the ability to be more mobile and independent than they otherwise would be.  

Cane Height: How Tall Should Your Cane Be?

One of the biggest dangers of getting a cane is that it may not be the right size. If your cane is improperly sized, you run the risk of developing injuries due to poor posture. Canes that are too short lead to the user stooping over when they lean on the cane. This can result in new motion issues developing because the user still doesn’t have proper weight distribution or walking mechanics.

Canes that are too tall can also make your balance worse because they affect your postural sway. “Postural sway” refers to the way your center of mass changes as you stand still. The greater your postural sway, the more likely you are to have poor balance and experience a fall. A study conducted with elderly women (who are generally more likely to be too short for a standard-length cane) found that canes, when they are too tall for the user, have a significant negative impact on postural sway.

One way to ensure that you choose the right cane height is to buy an adjustable cane that allows you to easily change the height of the cane. Many adjustable canes are also foldable for easier transport.  

How Much Does a Cane Cost?

Canes, unlike many other medical devices, are generally inexpensive. The cheapest single-point canes can be purchased for as little as $15; high-end quad canes rarely cost more than $70. Hand-made wooden canes, known more for style than functionality, can cost about $200.

If you need to get a cane, you don’t have to worry too much about the cost. Compared to walkers and rollators that routinely cost more than $150, walking canes are quite affordable!

How Can I Get a Cane for Free?

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you can get a cane covered through Medicare Part B. Medicaid, too, will pay for canes in most states (you can check your state’s guidelines here). Under Medicare Part B, you receive coverage for products classified as Durable Medical Equipment (DME).

In order to be considered DME, a product must be medically necessary, durable enough to last 5 years under normal circumstances, and be prescribed by a doctor. If you get a prescription, Medicare will pay for 80% of your cane; the rest will be paid out of pocket or through supplemental insurance.

Where to Buy a Cane (Online)

Amazon

With the widest selection of orthopedic walking canes anywhere on Earth, Amazon is the ideal place to shop for a cane. The prices you’ll find here are the same, or lower, than any other site. Amazon’s famous “two-day shipping” and lenient return/exchange policies make it a great place to buy a cane. You can try out a cane, not worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to return it if it’s not a good fit- you can return it, no questions asked!

Fashionable Canes (Online Store)

With this store, the name says it all. Fashionable Canes is seeking to be the go-to place for seniors looking for a walking cane that has a bit of style (whether it be for men or women). This is a great place to get hand-made wooden canes and handles that are hard to find anywhere else.


They have a wide selection, fast shipping, and an easy-to-use website. The only downside is that you’ll be paying more for your cane here than you would on Amazon.

Where to Buy a Cane Near Me

Pharmacies

Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid will each have 2-3 different canes available. If you’re not picky about the type of can you’ll use and aren’t worried about getting a cane with the wrong height, getting a cane at your pharmacy is a great idea. The selection won’t be as wide as it would be online, so you might not find a perfect match there, but it’s hard to beat that convenience!

Supermarkets

Just like your pharmacy, the local supermarket is a convenient place to grab a cane, even if the selection is narrow. Wal-Mart, Meijer, and Target each have stores in nearly every corner of the country, and they each carry a small selection of walking canes. If you’re heading out to get groceries soon, check the health aisles to see if there’s a cane that will fit you. You might get lucky!

Tips for Buying the Best Cane for Your Needs

Balance vs Walking Gait

For most people, there are two main reasons to get a cane: for balance, or to help their walking gait (although some people also get a cane for self defense).  


If you have balance/stability issues, you need a walking cane that will keep you from falling. When this is the case, a quad cane is far and away the best choice; they are extremely stable and will prop you up much more reliably than a single-point cane.


If a limp or another issue with your walking gait is causing you pain and soreness, a single-point cane is all you need. Using it properly will help relieve that pain, helping correct your walking gait. It will keep you moving about in an almost completely normal fashion!

Cane Height

The importance of cane height cannot be overstated. Canes that are too short cause stooping and poor posture; canes that are too tall throw off the user’s balance. Make sure that the can you buy (or make yourself) fits you by doing two simple tests:

  1. 1
    Make sure that, when standing upright and holding the cane in your hand, your elbow bends at a 15-degree angle.
  2. 2
    Also, confirm that when you stand next to the cane with your arm at your side, the handle of the cane matches up with your wrist, not your forearms or your fingertips.

Performing these tests with a cane you are looking at, or measuring out what height a cane should be by using a measuring tape, will ensure that you get a cane that fits your body. Then, you will be able to use your cane with confidence, knowing that it is promoting good posture, walking gait, and balance.

Grip/Handle Types

The handle of your cane isn’t quite as crucial as cane height, but it can still make a big difference in your walking ability. Traditional C-shaped canes are inexpensive but can be uncomfortable if you place a lot of your bodyweight on the cane.


Look for a cane that has a soft, ergonomic handle that will let you lean on it heavily without getting a sore hand. Ergonomic grips are also important for balance issues; if you have a sudden loss of balance, being able to quickly grip your cane and plant it in the ground makes all the difference.

Conclusion: Choosing a Walking Cane

Finding the right walking cane, for some people, is a very simple task. Depending on your needs, though, it can take a bit of searching and testing before you locate the perfect cane. Make sure you get the right type of cane and that it’s the right size, though, and you’ll be able to experience all the simple yet powerful benefits of walking canes.

Do you have any questions about canes, or suggestions for other readers? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below!


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