How To Use a Cane Properly (For Stability & Balance)

Using a cane can help bring a more independent lifestyle to you if you currently find it difficult to get around on your own.  This could be from an injury or from an older age.  Regardless of the reason using a cane may help  But if you are wondering how to use a cane properly your in the right place.  We have put together an in-depth guide to try and explain the process of using a cane for better stability and balance to get you moving again. 

To use a cane properly it should be held in the hand of your good or strong side.  The side that is not injured or weak.  So the opposite leg that will be needing support.  Next, move the can and place it firmly on the ground in conjunction or at the same time as the leg that is injured or weak.  This allows you to place weight on it as you see fit.  

Keep in mind that using the right cane with the right measurements to your body will reduce the chances of you falling, hopefully, reduce pain, and let you become more stable and balanced while walking.

Let’s take a look at the below guide on how to use a cane properly for stability and balance

Table of Contents

Type of Canes

There are different types of cans that you can choose from.  From single tip canes to more stable and balance friends quad canes.  Both can be adjustable and most are made from aluminum or steel.  Some single tip custom canes are also made from wood and can have unbelievable craftsmanship.   One of the best we have ever seen is Stinnett Sticks.  You can view his youtube channel to see Mikes’s unbelievable hand-carved canes. 

You Need to Pick the Right Cane For Your Needs

If you have researched canes you might have noticed there are different types of canes you can purchase for stability and balance issues.  The most common would be adjustable canes, quad canes, and forearm canes.   Let’s take a look at the parts of the cane, what they are called, and what you should look for when choosing a cane.

How to use a can for walking

Handgrip

The grip is important especially when you will be holding on the game by the handgrip.  Foam grips are comfortable and can help minimize fatigue and pain.  We also suggest a good pair of gloves for even a better grip and more comfort.  

Base

The base of the cane can be a few different types.  The most common is the single base tip that consists of one ferrule or cap.  Then you have quad canes that have a larger base and for tips often made of rubber.  These are the most common type of bases you will find.  The larger base or quad canes offer more stability than single tip canes.

Tip / Ferrule

The rubber tips also called ferrule is the cap that meats the floor when you put the cane down to walk.  The rubber tip is what gives you stability.  It also gives the cane the ability not to slip.  Some canes have a single tip and others have up to four tips that are known as quad canes.

Choosing The Right Cane Size is Very Important

This step is very important.  If you have a cane that is either too small or too large it may be even worst then having no cane while walking.  The good news is that a lot of the newer aluminum and steel canes are adjustable so you can find your perfect height.  

If you are purchasing a cane that does not adjust then you need to make sure the height of that cane is correct and optimal for you.  So how do you know height cane you should use?  Let’s find out.

Before you walk with a can it may be wise to consult with your doctor or physical therapist and ask their opinion on what height you should use.  If you do not then you can follow this basic rule when it comes to choosing the correct height. 

First, stand up with the can straight up next to your leg.  Make sure your arm is hanging down straight and you want to have your WRIST fall to the top of the cane.  If the top of the cane is higher then your wrist then lowers it assuming you have an adjustable cane.  And it if is to low then make it higher.

The second step would be to now hold onto your grip and your elbow should have a slight bend over around 20 degrees.  You should feel comfortable and no pain when holding the gain the proper way.

If you are getting a cane that is not adjustable you will need to make sure you get the proper height before purchasing.

How to Use Your Walking Cane properly

How to use a walking cane

Now that we explained the different types of canes and how to choose the best type of cane in reference to your size it is time to explain how to use a cane properly.  

Follow the below steps to using your cane properly for stability and balance because it is important that you use your cane correctly to get the most out of it

Holding You're Cane

When holding your cane it should be held in the hand opposite of the leg or foot that is injured or giving you issues.  Example:  If your left leg is hurt then you would hold the cane in your right hand.  So with the cane in hand, it should be next to your good leg.

Walking With Your Cane

When you start to move you will want to move your cane at the same time forward as you move with your injured or weak leg simultaneously.  So when you take that step with your good leg your cane and the tip should be firmly on the ground.

Pro tip: You should place the majority of your weight on your good leg during this so it helps with keeping your injured leg or foot supported as much as possible. 

Sometimes it is easier to see how to use a cane visually.   Check out this YouTube video from St Mary’s Center for Orthopaedics on how to use a cane. 

How to Walk up Stairs With a Cane

When having to navigate stairs with a cane it can be fighting.  But using your cane correctly to walkup stairs can be done and it will make things easier for you.

Here is a rule of thumb.  When you go up the stairs you want to go with your good limb and when going down you will want to lead with your weak limb.

Remember to also face forward when traversing stairs.  Even turning sideways is not recommended and if the staircase has no rails it’s even more important to face forward. 

Tips For Using a Cane to Walk Upstairs

When you have a handrail use the cane on the opposite side of the handrail when you are walking upstairs.  Always place your stronger leg on the next step first and then followed up by your cane, then your bad leg.

When you want to walk down the stairs place your cane first, then your leg that is injured or weak, and then your good or stronger leg. 

What happens if there is no handrail on the stairs?  

If you have no handrail then you want to keep the cane on the same size that you would normally use it and then follow the same pattern as you would if there was a handrail. 

Strong leg
Cane
Weak leg

How to Use a Cane With a Bad Knee

If you have a bad knee and need to use a cane the sample principals will apply as above when using a can properly.  Remember you want to have your cane move forward the same time your bad leg moves also.  Follow the same methods above to properly use a can with a bad knee.

How to Use a Quad Cane Properly

For those of us who need extra support and stability, you may want to use a quad cane.  A quad cane has a larger base with 4 tips at the bottom for extra support. 

Quad canes can also be used on stairs.   Another great advantage of a quad cane is that they stand upright and can be next to you at all times without you having to pick them up.  It will not fall over. 

You can also use a quad cane to get from a sitting position to a standing position by pulling yourself up with the help of the cane. 

A major difference using a quad cane versus a regular single tip cane is that a quad cane requires you to walk a little slower.  

The larger base may also cause you to get hooked into furniture legs or even kick the base.

Walking With a Quad Cane

  1. Like using a single tip cane you want to hold the quad cane in the hand of the opposite of the weak leg.
  2. Move the quad cane forward roughly an arms-length and be sure that all four legs are all in contact with the floor so it helps with stability and prevents tipping.
  3. Step forward with the leg that is weak or injured.
  4. Press down on the handle to help with balance and stability.  Now you will want to move your other leg a little past the first feet.

In Conclusion

There is a lot to take in before purchasing a cane and then using it correctly.  But do not worry if you follow these basic steps and guides and pick the right cane to your height using your new cane will not be that difficult.  It will also help you become more independent.  

We hope this guide has shed light on how to use a cane properly so you can move more freely. 

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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.