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Buying Guide - Walking Canes


There are many canes on the market today, made from different materials and offering different functionality and designs. Here is a brief overview of the different types of canes and what you should consider before making a purchase.

Cane Materials:

  • Wood - the most traditional cane around, usually with a round handle. Wood canes are made with several different species of wood. Often inexpensive and with a rubber tip at the bottom for gripping on a variety of surfaces. Wood canes are not adjustable and usually cut to the appropriate length by the purchaser. Take great care when making a cut as you don't get a second chance!
  • Aluminum – the main advantage is weight savings and higher strength than wood – most canes today are made from this material. Canes made from aluminum also feature a rubber tip at the bottom for better gripping on a variety of surfaces.
  •  Steel – canes made from steel are usually the strongest and have the highest weight rating.

Cane Types:

  • Single point cane – as the name implies, just one point makes contact with the ground. Many are height adjustable allowing for a custom fit for the user.
  • Quad canes – quad canes have a base with 4 points of contact with the ground. You can choose from a small base or a large base quad cane. Quad canes offer much more stability for the user and are usually purchased on the recommendation of a doctor. They are heavier than a single point cane but the increased stability offered usually outweighs the lightness factor.
  • Folding canes – single point canes that can be folded for easy transport or storage. Many cane purchasers will also purchase a folding cane for use while traveling, or simply to keep handy in the car.
  • Specialty canes – canes for the visually impaired, ice grip canes for cold weather climates, seat canes that fold in to a mini seat while on the go.

Handle Types:

  • Round – the most traditional looking handle, it is simply a round handle – something like an upside down “U”. Many wood canes have this handle as well as some aluminum canes.
  • Derby – the elegant shape provides a comfortable grip. The Derby shape is good for people who have trouble gripping (such as people with arthritis). Derby handles can be found on wood or aluminum canes.
  • Offset – Offset handle canes have a curve below the gripping surface so that when you bear weight on the cane, it is transferred straight down the shaft of the cane. Since you are putting more weight down the shaft and the tip, you will have more stability.
Main Considerations for Most Users:
  • Doctor advice – If you are under a doctor’s care for your condition, it may be advisable to ask your doctor for a recommendation before purchasing. For example, they may recommend a quad cane over a single point cane, or could indicate that a walker would be a better choice.
  • Cane height – make sure the cane is the proper height for your body frame. Most canes are adjustable in height but make sure the adjustment falls to the proper height for safety and good posture. See below for instructions on how to measure for proper height.
  • Capacity – canes are designed to support your entire weight as well as for balance. Make sure not exceed any listed capacities.
  • Designs – many canes today offer fun patterns and interesting colors to suit a variety of tastes and styles.
  • Traveling – foldable canes are great for travel. You may purchase your regular cane and pick up a foldable cane for traveling.

Measuring for the Proper Cane Height:

  • Wearing your normal shoes, stand upright on a level surface
  • Let your arms fall to your side
  • Measure from the bottom crease of your wrist to the floor and note the dimension – this is your proper cane height. It might help to have someone giving you a hand with this step. You can use a yard stick, tape measure, or a tailor’s tape.
  • If the cane you wish to purchase is adjustable, make sure the adjustment falls within the measurement you obtained. For wood canes, make sure you have enough length to cut it to the correct size.
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