4. How to Measure a Cane, Walk with a Cane and More

How to Measure a Cane, Walk with a Cane and More

Sizing Your Cane

After purchasing a cane it is very important to walk with it at the correct length.  Walking with a cane at an improper length can lead to more aches and pains rather than helping you lessen them.  If your cane is too short or long, the pressure applied to the cane handle will transfer directly to your shoulders eventually causing headaches and shoulder tension.  Undue wear and tear on your wrist, elbow, shoulders and lower back can be avoided by walking with a cane correctly.  Your best choice is to have your physician or physical therapist help fit your daily-use cane. If no professional help is available, these instructions will assist you in creating a comfortable fit.

  1. Find someone to help you measure yourself so they can ensure that you are standing correctly.
  2. With the shoes you most often wear stand on a hard surface.
  3. Stand upright in a relaxed stance.
  4. Choose the hand you will use. Normally it is the opposite of the injury but in some cases it is the same. Talk to your Dr. or physiotherapist to determine the correct side for your situation. 
  5. Hang your arm loosely at your side. Your elbow should have a nice bend in it.  Not straight nor overly bent.  The final bend to your elbow when walking with the cane will be approx. 15 – 20 degrees if measured correctly. 
  6. From here you have two options.
  • First option: with your arm hanging loosely at your side (natural bend), you can measure from the floor to the crook of your wrist right below your thumb. (The wrinkle that separates your hand from your arm.)

  • Second option: place your elbow at the 15 – 20 degree bend and measure from the floor to the centre of the crook of your wrist. (15 degrees is 1/6 of the arc of your arm when it swings from vertical to horizontal

Either of the above methods should give you the same measurement.


Cutting Your Cane

While gripping the cane shaft, not the handle, twist the rubber tip from the end of the cane. If the rubber tip is too tight, work a squirt of WD-40 or a solution of warm water and liquid soap between the cane shaft and the tip.

Once the tip has been removed, cut the cane with a miter saw or cut-off saw at the marked point, and then replace the rubber tip back onto the bottom of the cane. To allow for individual differences, you should cut the cane longer than the determined size and check for comfort before making the final cut. (Tips add an approx. ½” cushion to the final height of a cane.) Just remember, canes can be shortened but not lengthened.

The final cane height should give you a slight bend to your elbow so you have a bit of a "lift off". See above for sizing instructions.

Congratulations! You look marvelous and able to Walk with Style®.

 

Please note, all canes or hikers that have been sized or altered in anyway before shipping or after being received by the purchaser or user cannot be returned for a refund.

Support vs. Balance

When using a cane for support due to an injury or disability, it is very important to choose one that safely supports your weight as well as supports your hand. You may find the weight guidelines (petite, standard, extra strength) that accompany some of our cane selections to be helpful in deciding which cane(s) are suitable.

Many people who carry a cane or walking stick use it for balance or light support and thus don't need one as “heavy” as they would if it had to support the majority of their weight. Using an attractive cane, walking stick or hiking stick for balance, especially when walking on uneven or slippery surfaces is a preventative measure to ensure many more years of mobility independence.

Please remember that these are only guidelines - we don't know your specific needs. If you have any doubt as to what weight of cane you need, please seek professional advice from your physician or therapist.

 

How to Walk with a Cane

Many people don’t realize there are right and wrong ways to walk with a cane.  For the majority of injuries a cane should be used in the opposite hand to the injury. (recovering from knee surgery, broken leg or hip)  Walking with a cane in this manner helps to exercise the recovering muscles while still allowing for weight reduction on the injury.

 When walking with a cane in the opposite hand, remember that it is to touch the ground at the same time the opposite foot does (weaker or injured side).  This allows the user to optimize their gait.  The goal is to keep your shoulders and hips in alignment to avoid any further injuries or wear and tear on your joints. 

 There are cases where walking with a cane on the same side of an injury or weakness is correct.  If you have a muscular or nerve problem whereby the muscles just stop working properly in mid step or without warning, then a cane becomes a tool to catch your step or stop you from falling over.  People who have MS often walk with a cane in this way.  If you are to walk with one in this manner, it is VERY important to ensure you don't hobble when you walk.  Hobbling puts undue stress on the lower back and shoulders at the same time losing strength in the leg.

 When using a cane for balance, walking with it in either hand is acceptable.  It is recommended to walk so that the cane and the opposite foot touch the ground at the same time.  Walking with a cane in this manner helps to keep a better gait.

It is best to discuss your situation over with a knowledgeable professional to determine the best way for you to walk with a cane.



Lengths of Canes – only a guideline

 Walking canes are generally sold at 36” with some as tall as 44”.  The majority of us will need to have our canes sized before we use them.  If you are seeing a physiotherapist, they will be able to measure you.  For a full set of instructions see our “Sizing Your Cane”  above or in our FAQ on our home page.  We have a chart below to give you a general idea of what size of cane an individual should walk with.  Please note, everyone’s body size is unique and they should be measured to determine the actual length needed. 

User’s Height            Approx Cane Size
    5’– 5’3”                      30”- 32.5”
    5’3– 5’6”                    32.5”- 33.5”
    5’6– 5’9”                    33.5”- 34.5”
    5’9”– 6’                      34.5”- 36”
    6’ – 6’3”                     36” - 39”


Weight Limits

When using a cane it is important to consider its weight limit.  We have walking canes from petite to extra strength.  A petite cane is usually made for someone who weighs up to 170 pounds with extra length for those up to 500 pounds.  Even though no one ever places their full weight on a walking cane during regular use, it is important to remember that we apply more weight to the cane in the event of slips and near falls.  This is why it is essential to buy one that will keep you safe.  Below are the general dimensions of each size.  Please note the measures stated below are approximate.  Also, weight capacities of canes can very depending on the material used to make the cane from.

                                   
        Petite                   Regular             Extra Tall            Extra Strength
     up to 170lbs     up to 230lbs        up to 250lbs           up to 500lbs
       5/8” shaft          3/4” shaft              7/8” shaft               1” plus shaft

    Petite                   Regular              Bariatric
  up to 230             up to 280lbs      up to 500lbs
   5/8” tip                 3/4” tip size         1” tip size

All measures are approximate.

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