Walking sticks are essential mobility aids for many people. But like any mobility aid, walking sticks should be used with care. Before getting started, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to use the assistive device safely and prevent injuries.
A walking stick should be used as an aid only, not as the primary source of mobility support. If you find yourself relying heavily on a walking stick to get around, you may need to consider a rollator or wheelie walker.
There are some essential guidelines to follow to ensure you use a walking stick safely. The Friendly Society Pharmacy team shares some tips on making the most of your walking stick and staying safe while you are getting around.
If you haven’t yet purchased a walking stick, check out our other story, Choosing the best walking stick for your needs.
Getting set up to use a walking stick
- Get a professional to adjust the walking stick to the right height for you. Your shoulder should be relaxed and not elevated.
- After adjusting the length, check that all adjustment buttons are fully locked.
- Have someone with you until you build confidence and can walk safely on your own.
- Wear well-fitting, comfortable and flat shoes with non-slip soles.
- Start in a flat, even location free from trip hazards.
- Walk at a safe and comfortable pace.
- Avoid wet or slippery floors.
Which side should you place a walking stick?
The best side to use a walking stick depends on its purpose.
Using a walking stick for injury, pain or weakness: place the walking stick on your strongest side or the one unaffected by injury.
Using a walking stick for balance: hold the stick in the most comfortable hand.
How to walk with a walking stick
- Position the walking stick forward at the same time as stepping forward with the injured or weak leg. The leg and the cane should move together at about the same angle.
- Position the stick forward and slightly to the side.
- Place all points on the ground at the same time. Keep the stick close to your body, not too far ahead or too wide, especially when getting started. With three or four-point sticks, the straight side should be nearest the body.
- Take your time moving and don’t turn too quickly.
- Be careful when walking over uneven, soft or wet ground.
- Look ahead to watch where you are going rather than down at the floor.
- If you’re using a three or four-point walking stick, be careful the legs don’t become a trip hazard.
Using a walking stick on stairs or gutters
- Hold onto a handrail for support if possible.
- Place the walking stick on the opposite side to the handrail.
- Step up with the strongest leg first.
- Then step up with the other leg and walking stick simultaneously.
- When stepping down, place your walking stick on the step below and move your weak leg first. Bring both feet onto the same step before taking the next.
Check out this video to see how it’s done. Your Friendly Society Pharmacy team, a Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist can demonstrate how to stand, sit and go down stairs.
Getting out of a chair with a walking stick
- Move to the edge of your chair.
- Place the walking stick firmly on the ground.
- Lean forward slightly and transfer some of your weight onto the walking stick.
- Push on the hand support to lift your torso and steady yourself before moving.
Walking stick maintenance
Your walking stick should stay in top condition for many years with some simple care and maintenance.
- Check the stick is well maintained before each use and do not use if cracked or damaged.
- Wipe off any dirt or moisture with a dry cloth as soon as possible.
- Keep your walking stick in top condition by cleaning it regularly with a soft sponge and mild detergent.
- Regularly check that rubber tips (ferrules) are attached securely. Carry some spares in case of any issues.
- Keep timber sticks dry and away from direct sunlight. Do not store in damp locations.
Friendly Society Pharmacy can help
The team at Friendly Society Pharmacy can help you choose the right walking stick or walking aid for your needs and show you how to use it. We stock many different types of walking sticks, including traditional T handle, crook handle, ergonomic, folding, quad canes and bariatric walking sticks. Visit us in-store for more information.