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How to Use a Cane Properly - Featured Image

How to Use a Cane Properly

Canes offer balance and stability to seniors with mobility issues. When you use it properly, the right cane can help you regain your freedom of movement and confidence while walking. However, it can also lead to falls or injuries if you don’t use it correctly.

Fortunately, we made this guide to help you learn the proper way to use your cane. We’ll share some tips on choosing the right cane, some mistakes to avoid, and other essential information. Read on as we thoroughly discuss each point!

In a hurry?

In general, the proper way of walking with a cane is to hold it on your “good” side. This means using your stronger leg first before moving the cane forward in unison with your weaker leg. Doing so gives you stability when walking on level or inclined surfaces. With that said, you should also place importance on choosing the right walking cane for your needs. And when in doubt, always consult a physical therapist for professional medical advice.

How to choose the right walking cane?

Before anything else, you need to invest in a cane that will match your needs and preferences. After all, choosing the wrong cane that doesn’t fit you will certainly cause falling or tripping. Therefore, the first step of using a cane properly is to choose the right one.

The following are the factors you should consider when choosing your walking cane:

Type of Cane

There are various types of canes available on the market that suit each individuals’ mobility issues. So it’s essential to know how much assistance you need, or if you ever require a cane at all.

If you want support in all aspects, go with a standard, single-point cane. As its name suggests, it features a single rubber tip at the base that provides necessary balance for everyday use.

But for those who need more stability than average, go for a quad cane. This type of cane has four bottom points that come into contact with the ground. Therefore, it’s generally more stable than a single-point cane.

Weight Capacity

Besides the type of cane, you should also consider its weight capacity. Make sure to purchase a cane that can support your weight. Otherwise, it may collapse quickly, leading to falls or injuries.


You should also look for a cane that is suitable for your height. Having one will prevent hunching, thus ensuring your safety and mobility.

Here’s how to find the appropriate cane height for you:

  • Stand upright with your regular shoes on.
  • Let your arms relax on your side and slightly bend your elbow at an angle of 15 to 25 degrees.
  • Measure the distance between your wrist and the ground. This gap is typically the length you should look for in a cane.

Fortunately, you can now find walking canes with a height-adjustable option. This feature allows you to set the appropriate height of the cane, according to your needs.


Selecting the right handle grip for your cane is also essential. However, this would entirely depend on your personal preferences. Just make sure to choose one with a shape that fits your hand and is comfortable to hold.

Intended Purpose

Last but not least, invest in a cane that will allow you to do whatever you require of it. You don’t want to use a cane that cannot support you.

For instance, if you’re on the heavier side, consider checking out bariatric canes. For those who tire quickly after walking long distances, you’ll find a seat cane handy. Do you travel a lot? Then a folding cane, with its lightweight and collapsible feature, will suit you best.

How to use a cane for balance?

Once you’ve chosen the right cane for your needs, you can now learn the proper way of using a cane.

Most seniors expect that it’s easy to use a cane for walk purposes. However, it requires practice and specific techniques, especially when walking on an incline. Here are three main ways on how to use your cane.

Walking on Level Surfaces

  • When walking on level surfaces, hold the cane in the hand of your “good” or stronger side. Doing so provides support to the opposite and weaker leg.
  • Always use your stronger leg for your first full-weight step forward.
  • Then, step forward with the “bad” or weak leg and bring the cane forward at the same time.
  • While doing this, bear your weight on the one hand that is holding the cane in place.
  • Lastly, move at an average distance of one step at a time. Do not force yourself to catch up to the cane or step ahead of it.

Walking Up the Stairs

  • When climbing stairs, put one hand on the handrail (if possible) and place your cane on the other hand. 
  • Keep your hand on the handrail and move the cane forward with your stronger leg.
  • Make sure your cane and your strong leg are on the same step.
  • After ensuring that, you can now lift your weaker leg up to the same step.
  • Always step with your stronger leg first when ascending the stairs.

Walking Down the Stairs

  • If possible, grasp the handrail with one hand and hold the cane using your other hand.
  • When going down the stairs, you should hold the cane with your weaker side first.
  • After making sure that your cane touches the stairs, you can now move the cane together with your weaker leg.
  • Then step down with your stronger leg.
  • Remember to use your weaker leg first when going down the stairs.

When using a cane, which leg goes first?

Most of the time, you should move the cane on the opposite side of your injured or weaker leg. Therefore, it’s best to walk with your stronger leg first.

When using a cane this way, you can enjoy more stability and balance. You may also reduce any discomfort or pain while walking as you’re relieving pressure from your injured side.

What are some mistakes to avoid when using a cane?

There are some common mistakes that seniors make when walking with a cane. We’ve listed them down below to help you become aware and avoid them. Doing so may help you gain the confidence to walk using a cane without any assistance from others.

  • Do not hold the cane on your weaker side.
  • When walking, avoid stepping with your cane too far ahead. Keep your steps small to prevent unnecessary straining.
  • Do not use a cane that is not ideal for your weight and height. Otherwise, you’re at risk of falling or losing your balance.
  • Avoid using your cane for long periods of time as this can cause hand or shoulder pain.
  • Do not use a cane unless you really need one. Talk with your physical therapist first to determine if you require one for your particular condition or needs.


You may have considered walking with a cane if you’re struggling with balance or mobility. However, it’s not as easy as it seems. If you don’t know how to use it properly, you risk falling and losing balance. Thanks for reading!

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