Raising Canes

Greg Williams

CALGARY HEARLD YOUR CITY, Thursday, November 28th 2002

At one time, canes were a common fashion accessory, and whether they were required for support or balance mattered not.

But there now seems to be a stigma attached to a cane, and before Calgarian Llano Gorman would use a cane, he had to swallow his pride.

"I was 30 years old, and I was in my prime," Gorman explains." And I was dead set against having a cane."

Due to a work related injury, Gorman's right ankle has been fused and he walks the aid of a special support in his boot. He didn't want to use a cane, but his doctor warned him of the consequences.

"My doctor said hip surgery would be next if I didn't start using a cane," Gorman recalls. "Walking unaided when a cane is medically warranted can prolong an injury, and in some cases, make the injury worse." The body will compensate for an injury or pain, and this compensation often leads to an imbalance or misalignment. Further on, a misaligned body could cause even more problems.

After Gorman realized he would definitely require a cane, he says he was disappointed in the selection found at local retail outlets.

"When I went out and looked for a cane, I came up with a lot of ugly ones," Gorman says. "And a cane with little or no personality really takes away from a person's self esteem."

Gorman notes the cane used to be a fashionable item, and that walkers would carry a cane with a source of pride. But he says in our fast paced environment, a cane is simply associated with aging.

Go anywhere in Europe and you will see people walking with beautiful works of art. Their canes are wonderful," Gorman says. "In European countries, people are not so against having a cane, and in fact they are fashionable."

Disappointed as he was in the selection of canes, Gorman saw an instant opportunity. He set up a Web site, named his fledgling business, and began sourcing, importing and selling a wide variety of canes and walking sticks. And don't simply think of a cane as a wooden stick with a crook for a handle.

"Canes can be anything you want them to be," Gorman maintains. "They can be from plain to fancy, but never boring."

Shafts made of exotic woods such as ebony, bamboo or cherry topped by a sterling silver handle have an air of aristocracy, but as Gorman says: "Canes are like clothes; make them a fashion statement, don't make them a medical aid. Look smart and smell the roses."

For the avid fishermen, Gorman even has a cane that telescopes to become a fishing rod. And as this is a health column, I feel badly mentioning this one, but he also has a cane where the handle unthreads from the shaft, and the handle becomes a fully functional smoking pipe.

Canes are usually used for support or balance, and depending on the specific need, maybe heavy or light. A cane used for support will, by necessity, have to be strong enough to handle the weight of the user. A cane used for balance doesn't need to be as robust, and can be much thinner and lighter.

Regardless of the requirement, a cane must be used properly in order to be effective.

"It took me two weeks to get to the point where I was comfortable with a cane," Gorman relates. "One common mistake I see people make when they get a cane is to use it on the wrong side. A cane should be held in the hand opposite to the side of the injury. Think of it as a tripod."

In Gorman's case, with his right foot injury, he walks with a cane in his left hand. When his right foot goes forward to take a step, so does his cane.

"That helps distribute the weight evenly so I'm not putting more pressure on my left side as compensation," Gorman explains.

To size a cane, stand erect wearing regular walking shoes. Turn the cane upside down, rest the handle on the floor. Bend the arm that will regularly use the cane slightly at the elbow. Note the position of the tip of the cane; it should set at the crease in the wrist, just above the hand. If it doesn't, the cane will need to be shortened. "Get a few canes, one for indoors, one for outdoors, one for dressing up, and one for casual use," Gorman says.

"But they should make you feel good about yourself, whatever your need."

return to top of page mixes fashion with function: Products help disabled maintain sense of confidence

Calgary Herald, Monday, May 2, 2005 , Page: F2, Section: Calgary Business, Byline: Michael Lau, Source: Calgary Herald

Llano Gorman was installing ceiling speakers late one night when the ladder collapsed beneath him and he took a bad fall. The accident smashed his tibia, fibula, blew out his ankle and caused a spiral leg fracture that's required more than a dozen corrective surgeries.

Eleven years later, the injury has reduced his mobility, but Gorman's self-confidence and sense of style are intact -- thanks in part to his walking cane.

"As soon as you're dressed up and you have this in your hand, people all of a sudden notice you," said Gorman, proudly brandishing his Italian-made cane with a silver elephant head handle.

"Most people with a disability don't have confidence. I want them to understand that you can walk into a room with your disability with confidence."

Gorman's love of style and the poor selection of canes in Calgary convinced him to launch an import business four years ago, now called

The Calgary-based company, which markets mainly on the Internet, sells more than 1,800 different styles of daily use and collectors canes and walking sticks.

Its products are manufactured in Canada, the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Taiwan and Vietnam.

After his accident, Gorman was advised by a doctor to start using a cane, but the only ones he found were plain aluminum models. Wood canes are rarely sold in pharmacies and other stores because they have to be measured.

"I was 30 years old and there was just nothing out there that was masculine or had my personality to it," said Gorman. "I've always worked in fashion. When I have on a suit, and I've got an ugly looking cane, it just looks terrible. It doesn't give you any sense of pride or confidence within yourself."

Gorman started Classic Canes in October 2001, selling canes in men's wear stores and seniors lodges. Early on, Robert Hayward became his business partner.

The name was changed to in 2002 when the company began marketing on the Internet. "You can reach more people at the same time on the Internet, plus I can put a 1-800 number in there. If anybody has a question, they can phone me directly," Gorman said. "Because I have a disability, I can usually answer their questions. A big advantage we have over our competitors is first-hand knowledge."

Many customers are reluctant to leave the house. "They do most of their shopping online, and that's why right now you're seeing a surge of people shopping online."

Hayward left the business in 2004 and was replaced as co-owner by Gorman's wife Sheila.

About 90 per cent of customers live in the U.S. Orders have also come from Canada, France, Norway, Germany, Australia, England, Taiwan and Mexico. Buyers include the elderly, stroke victims and people with multiple sclerosis, arthritis, nerve damage and poor balance.

Prices range from $22 for a basic crook cane to $700 for a cane featuring a horn tip, ebony shaft and gold-plated horse-and-rider handle. Orders are cut to the requested length. The canes are up to 1.1 metres tall and one style can support 225 kilograms.

Llano, who also works as a contracted sales associate for a flag manufacturer, and Sheila have three children. The Gormans are constantly searching for new product.

"We would like to continue expanding because most people will go to the drug stores, or wherever, and see the minor selection," said Sheila. "When they see our selection, they're always excited. We're trying very hard to bring the styles so people can feel they're human. "It's great to hear them say 'Oh wonderful. "That's exactly what I was thinking of. That's exactly how I feel."