What Is The Difference Between a Cane and a Walking Stick?

Anyone who has an issue with walking because of aging, injuries, or any other reason may need the use of a mobility aid.  This could be anything from a walker, canes, rollators, knee scooters, or more to help in the aid of moving again.   When a wheelchair isn’t needed many people turn to canes or walking sticks.  This then brings on the question: 

What is the difference between a cane and a walking stick?  The condensed answer is that these two canes while similar differs in their function.  In short, a walking stick is a device uses for balance and stability during a walk or climb on terrains like walking trails, hiking trails, and other outdoor areas.  Canes are used to help with releasing the pressure of an injury, to gain stability and balance on a long term basis.

Many times a walking stick user might think to purchase a stick and then use that as a cane as well.  There are actually large differences in the two and while they both function as something to help in walking they are really different and should be used for different situations.  let’s see why they are used for different applications. 

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Differences Between Cane And a Walking Stick

A walking stick is more of a short-term device used in helping walk and navigates over rocky, uneven, or hilly terrain while outside on hikes and walks.  

Another major difference is that walking sticks are not built to take on major weight like a mobility cane is designed to do.

The cane is a long-term mobility aid that assists in the walking of someone that has had an injury or needs help with balance and stability to walk on a continuous basis around the home or when out.  It is also used to help relieve weight on the injured leg.

Canes are also different in the bottom prongs.  You can get other types of prongs like quad canes that offer a base with 4-prongs for extra stability.  Walking poles use a single prong in most situations. 

Cane Function

The cans function is a long term mobility aid that helps the person walk to relieve pain from the leg, foot, or ankle that is causing the person to have issues walking.

The main function behind the cane is to support some of the body-weight by transferring weight to the upper portion of the body making walking or moving easier than without a cane. 

These are extremely popular devices for helping with walking and mobility and it is said that there are some 1 in 10 adults who are over the age of 65 who use a cane within the United States. 

But like other medical mobility devices using a cane properly may take a little getting used to.  But when used properly they will help with your stability and balance while moving. 

Popular Types of Canes

There are different types of canes that you can purchase today and each will provide you with small differences of assistance while using that cane. Regardless of what type of cane you use it should fit your currents needs and fit your height properly.  Not using a cane that properly fits you can cause a fall to happen and even poor walking postures. 

Quad Canes

Quad canes are one of the most stable canes in terms of keeping your balance because they are designed to have 4 prongs at that bottom with a wider base allowing for you to get more stability when putting pressure down on the cane.  These prongs help distribute your weight across the base better than a traditional cane. 

Adjustable & Foldable Canes

These types of canes are able to fold and adjust to the user’s height.  Unlike solid canes that cannot adjust or fold they do not provide as much power in terms of stability but are more user-friendly for traveling as you can break them down smaller. 

C Cane

The C cane style is one of the more common types of cane most of us have seen.  They have a “C” style handle that looks like the letter C pointing down.  These are the most basic types of canes and have a single-tip straight cane and helps with balance.  Made for light support.

Functional Grip Canes

Functional grips offer a straight single-tip cane with a straight handle.  The shaft is perpendicular to the actual shaft of the cane.  When using a straight handle you get a better grip and control over a ‘C” cane.  This cane would be better for someone that needs a little more stability than a “C” grip cane

Hemi Walker

This is a type of mobility device which is a cane but is closer to a walker than others has the most support of any other type of cane.  But with the major support comes cons.  It is much more cumbersome than a traditional cane and it is really difficult to use on a staircase.

Walking Poles / Sticks Function

Walking sticks or trekking poles are more short time mobility tools that are used when someone is walking outside of terrain that is uneven.  Walking poles are great at helping to work your upper back muscles, shoulders, and arms by moving them in motions as you walk.

Must of these type of walking poles use wrist straps that help secure the pole to your arms as your walking. 

You can purchase a variety of adjustable or fixed length poles online and in some sporting good stores. 

Major benefits of walking poles:

  • Walking poles help improve stability and balance.
  • Arm movement adds a greater workout to the rest of your body.
  • Helps strengthen back muscles
  • Helps with taking off pressure or load off your hips, knees, and back
  • Walking poles help you get out in the fresh air 

Final Thoughts: Picking The Correct Walking Aid For You

So, What’s the difference between a cane and a walking stick? The difference between Walking poles or sticks and canes offer some similarities but still offer differences.  If you do not have any injuries and can walk with no major concerns you may want to think about using a walking stick. 

Remember, these walking poles and sticks are not meant to have as much weight put on them as a regular cane that someone would use for a leg injury.  

If you are walking or hiking on uneven grounds or terrain and want extra stability a walking stick would be better for you.

Canes that are need for someone getting older and has stability issues or for someone who suffers a leg injury and needs help moving would be better off with a cane. 

Canes offer greater stability and more weight can be put on the cane relieving pressure on the injury. 

Quad canes offer more stability than others.  Keep in mind that quad canes and Hemi Walkers offer the greatest support. 

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.