What is the best kind of cane to buy?
People who have never used a cane often imagine there might be five or six models on the market, but once a person finds they need a cane they also find that the choice is far greater than they imagined. It can be perplexing to the first-time cane buyer, who is naturally concerned that they find the right one for their particular requirements.
In the first instance, check whether you have a physical need that means you have to have a certain type of cane. If your doctor or physiotherapist has told you that you need a cane, then take their advice on function and search accordingly.
Height of cane
This is very important as a cane that is too short or too long for the individual can cause damage to the muscles and skeleton over time. One often sees people walking stooped over because their cane is too short, or with their shoulder raised unnaturally because the cane is too long. The ideal is for the user to find their shoulders remain level whilst using the cane, with a slight bend in the arm to allow for forward movement while using the cane. Do not rely on a 'ready-reckoner' chart where you read off the height of the stick next to the height of the person. Any physiotherapist will tell you that the length of people's arms relative to their bodies varies a great deal. You are not looking for a cane to fit your height, you are looking for a cane to fit the distance between your hand and the ground. Read our separate guide to stick height
and have yourself properly measured by a knowledgeable retailer of canes or a suitable healthcare professional if you are in doubt. Many canes available today are height-adjustable so they can be easily made taller or shorter to suit the cane user. If buying online, consider a height-adjustable cane for this reason, although a wooden one can easily be shortened if necessary. Remember, measure twice, cut once!
Type of handle for cane
The traditional handle shape for many canes is the crook
, which is steamed into shape and can be easily hooked over the arm when not in use. Crooks are smart and traditional but do not always offer such good support as the derby handle, which is the most popular style available today. The derby
is an elegant shape with an upturned sweep to the handle shape. The user holds it with their weight supported directly over the shaft of the stick, and the sweep-shape prevents the hand from slipping forward or backward. Derby canes are available to suit every price point, from inexpensive beech wood and aluminium models to luxurious canes in fine woods and even decorated with smart collars, decorative crystals or beautiful patterns. People with hand complaints such as rheumatism or arthritis often find specially-shaped, orthopaedic models
such as Fischer
handle canes comfortable and supportive. Everyone's hands are different so it pays to try out a few different variations to find the style that is most comfortable for you personally. There are many other kinds of handles including knobsticks
, which are usually more rustic and made from a single piece of wood, and formal cap sticks
, which are very elegant for smart occasions but offer less support to the palm of the hand.
Weight of user
We are often asked if a particular cane will take the weight of a particular person. However, the answer is not so simple because it is not the weight of the person that matters: it is the amount of force they exert on their cane. An 8 stone person with a serious impediment may need to exert far more force on their cane than a 16 stone person who just taps along with theirs for light balance. If you are in any doubt, consult a medical professional. It may be that a stick, which is only an aid to balance, is not suitable for you at all and you would be better off with crutches or a walking frame. This might not be what you want to hear, but safety is the most important thing.
Style of cane
This is where personal taste comes in. No one abandons their personal sense of style just because they have to use a cane. Indeed many people are given a cheap and ugly cane by the hospital or physiotherapist and are so appalled at its appearance that they refuse to use it at all. There is no need to sacrifice your sartorial standards: there is a beautiful cane for everyone. For example, a country gentleman who always dresses in tweeds will probably be comfortable with a rustic stick with its bark on, whereas a man who is always seen in a blazer and smart trousers is likely to prefer a tapered wood crook or derby in an elegant, varnished finish. For ladies, there is a huge choice on the market now, especially in the area of patterned aluminium canes
and folding canes
. It is possible to find canes in every colour to match every outfit in your wardrobe if you so desire (and who wouldn't want this dream cane wardrobe we wonder?). Classic floral prints are always popular but if you have very contemporary tastes you can find patterns of everything from skulls
patterns and hundreds more besides. These canes make great talking points and should always be thought of as fashion accessories every bit as much as mobility aids.
A word about ferrules
'Ferrule' is a very specialised piece of vocabulary and refers to the metal or rubber tip on a cane that protects it from contact with the ground. Metal ferrules are usually restricted to country and formal canes. For most other canes, a rubber ferrule
is preferred for its non-slip properties when used on pavements and sidewalks. If your cane has a rubber ferrule, take care to inspect it regularly for signs of wear. They often wear down on one side faster than the other because of the way the user walks. Like car tyres, they are not very effective once the tread is worn down, but they are cheap and easy to replace so make sure you do this regularly in the interests of your own safety.
Using a cane is not a reason to allow yourself to feel frumpy or unglamorous. Many of the best-dressed people of all time have used a cane for its appearance value as much as its practical support. Embrace using a cane and equip yourself with one that you feel enhances your appearance rather than detracting from it. You will see people using morale-sapping canes but you do not need to be one of these people. Choose a cane that is fun, eye-catching, elegant or plain outrageous, but do it with style.
Classic Canes Limited