How to Choose the Right Cane

Choosing the correct cane and using it safely can improve balance and help relieve pressure on sore joints.

When used correctly, the right cane improves balance and reduces the risk of falling by widening the base of support, as well as decreasing weight on lower-body joints like the hips, knees, ankles and feet, says Lori Ramage, a physical therapist and the Joint Club Coordinator at Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, Arizona.  

While canes come in many materials, colors and handle types, it’s most important to choose the right cane type and size for you, to provide the best function and safety. 

The most common types of canes are single-point, and quad- or three-point canes. Most people with arthritis only need single-point canes. Those with a neurological impairment, significant weaknesses or balance limitations are best suited to quad canes, because they can handle more weight. 

When being fitted, wear your walking shoes and stand tall with your arms at your sides. The top or curve of the cane should hit at the crease in your wrist. If the cane is too high, you won’t get the support you need. A cane that is too low will cause slumping. 

Hold your cane on your strong side and move the cane with the weak side. When walking, place it about two inches in front or to the side of you, not way out in front. Move the affected leg and the cane together, so that each side shares the load. 

“Using the cane in the hand opposite your weakness shifts your body weight to the stronger side,” says Brian Benjamin, a physical therapist and owner of ProActive Physical Therapy and Exercise Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

To climb stairs, move your good leg first. Follow with your affected leg and cane simultaneously. When going down stairs, start with the cane, then put your weak leg forward, and follow with your good leg. “’Up with the good, down with the bad’ makes this easy to remember,” says Ramage. 

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