If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

How to Use a Cane on Stairs Safely - Featured Image

How to Use a Cane on Stairs Safely

Canes help seniors maintain their balance and regain their confidence while on the move. They provide stable support when walking, thus assisting the elderly who have trouble getting around their homes.

However, while using canes across flat terrains is a walk in the park, it’s different when moving up and down the stairs. Climbing and descending the stairs with a cane takes practice. And if you don’t know how to use it properly, you may risk falling or tripping, eventually leading to injuries.

Fortunately, in this article, we’ll dive into how to use the cane properly when climbing stairs and going down. We’ll also share some tips on how to make the stairs safer for seniors. So, without further ado, let’s get on with the article.

In a hurry?

Before attempting to descend or climb stairs, make sure you know how to use canes properly. Always lead with your strong or “good” leg first when walking with a cane. Doing so helps stabilize yourself, allowing the cane to support your weaker leg or side. You should also face the staircase head-on and, if possible, hold on to the handrails to improve stability.

How to properly use a cane?

Before anything else, going up and down the stairs requires both equipment and technique. After all, if you don’t invest in the right walking cane, it defeats the purpose of enjoying stability and support. Likewise, you won’t feel safe taking the stairs if you’re clueless about traversing flat surfaces in the first place.

Read on below for essential tips on choosing the best walking cane and how to use it properly.

Choose the appropriate cane height

A walking cane comes in different sizes to fit various people with unique needs. Therefore, you should look for a cane with the right height to ensure your comfort and safety when using it.

To measure the appropriate cane height, stand up straight with shoes on and let your arms relax on the side. Choose the walking cane with a handle that aligns to your wrist. This ensures that your elbow will have a slight bend when you hold your cane. Therefore, it’s more comfortable and safer to use when walking across even surfaces and ascending or descending the stairs.

When in doubt, invest in an adjustable walking cane. These canes have a height-adjustable base that allows you to find the perfect fit for your height.

Go for a comfortable handle grip

Besides the height, you should also consider using a walking cane with a comfortable handle grip. Of course, this feature will highly depend on your personal preference or needs.

Are you suffering from joint pain or arthritis? Then use a cane with a round handle and wrist strap for maximum comfort.

In contrast, if you’re looking for a no-frills walking cane, it’s best to choose one with a foam grip. Using a cane with this feature relieves unnecessary pressure on your joints and nerves. And when you don’t feel any discomfort or pain, you’re more likely to safely use the cane.

Use the correct hand and leg

Speaking of the grip, most seniors hold and step their cane on their weaker side. This is because they think that it offers more stability and support. However, this is the wrong way of using a cane.

Make sure to hold your cane on the side of your “good” or stronger leg. For instance, if your right side is the weaker leg, grip your cane using your left hand and vice versa.

By holding the cane opposite of your painful leg, you can offset your bodyweight. Doing so makes your grip and stance firmer, thus preventing falling or tripping when climbing up or down the stairs.

Select the right base for your cane

To further ensure your safety when using a cane, consider the type of base available. You have two main options: a single-point cane or a quad cane.

Standard or single-point canes, as their name suggests, feature a single rubber tip at the base. On the other hand, quad canes have four bottom points that come into contact with the ground. Since these canes have more rubber tips, they offer more stability than single-point canes.

With that said, quad canes are not necessary when ascending or descending stairs. This is because they can feel unstable if the user doesn’t connect all tips on the floor with each step.

But if you do use it, make sure that all four points directly touch the floor for every step you take. Doing so prevents you from tipping over or losing your balance when using a quad cane.

Wear the right shoes

Lastly, wear non-slip shoes if you’ll be using your cane inside or outside, or even climbing and descending the stairs. And as much as possible, avoid shoes with laces as they may increase the risk of falling or tripping.

How do you use a cane safely on stairs?

If you use a cane properly, it provides much-needed support and relieves the pressure on your joints. Therefore, it can effectively prevent falls and keep you safe.

However, as we mentioned earlier, climbing and descending the stairs is an entirely different situation from walking on even surfaces. It requires concentration and a specific approach, depending on your condition.

The following are safety tips on how to safely go up and back down the stairs with a cane. However, remember to take these basic tips with a grain of salt. We still recommend consulting your doctor or physical therapist for expert advice on how to use a cane on stairs.

Going up the stairs with a cane

  • Remember to face the staircase straight on to begin your first step of ascending safely.
  • Step on the stairs using your “good” or stronger leg first. For instance, if you have a left weaker leg, use your good leg (right side) to take the first step.
  • Then, step up with the weaker leg and your cane simultaneously until you meet your stronger leg on the staircase.
  • Repeat this procedure while climbing the stairs until you reach the final step of the stairwell.
  • If possible, hold onto the handrail with one hand and place your cane on the other hand. Doing so gives you additional stability and security.

Going down the stairs with a cane

  • Face the stairs head-on instead of angling your body to ensure your stability when descending the staircase.
  • Instead of stepping with your stronger leg first, use your weaker leg when going down the stairs. For instance, if your right leg is stronger, put your weight on that leg.
  • Then, move your walking cane down to the step below you.
  • Once you ensure that your cane directly touches the staircase, move your weaker leg down the step.
  • Now, you can step down with your stronger or “good” leg. During this time, both your legs and the cane should be on the same stair step.
  • Repeat these steps until you reach the bottom of the stairwell.
  • If possible, hold onto the handrail using one hand and grasp your cane with the other hand to ensure safety.

How to make stairs safer for the elderly?

If you’re still not confident taking the stairs, consider making the stairwell on your home safer. Doing so may give you the courage to finally take the first step on the stairs.

Here are some ways to make the stairway securer for seniors.

Install handrails

Surprisingly, not all homes have stairs with handrails. If this is the case with your home, it’s a must to install handrails for the safety of elderly individuals. And if possible, try to place bars on both sides of the stairwell to ensure safety further.

Use stair treads

Most seniors don’t like to take the stairs with a cane because of the fear of slipping or falling.

For peace of mind, make the steps less slippery by installing stair treads like carpet, rubber, or tape. But feel free to use other materials, such as non-skid floor paint, as well.

Consider fixing the lighting

Sometimes, the problem is as simple as poor lighting. Elderly individuals don’t feel confident going up or down the stairs because they have difficulty seeing where they’re going.

So, do check if the stairway in your home has little to no lighting. If this is the case, consider investing in high-quality and bright lighting.

What if I cannot take the stairs with a cane?

If you’re still afraid to climb stairs after trying out the methods above, know that it’s perfectly normal. There’s an explanation of why you feel that way. But remember not to push yourself to climb or descend the stairs with a cane until you feel ready enough.

We highly recommend asking for someone else’s help to get past this dilemma. For instance, if you’re at home, ask your loved one to guide you until you’re used to the stairs.

You can also contact a medical specialist with whom you can share your particular condition or fear of falling. You can even expect some specific approaches to going up and down the stairs from them. Overall, it’s always best to talk with a professional as they know what’s right for you.


A walking cane helps you move around your home, including stairways, with ease. However, you should know how to use it properly to prevent falling when climbing or descending stairs.

Hopefully, our article helped you gain new insights on how to use a cane on stairs safely. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *