How to walk with a walking stick

a person walking with the aid of a walking stick

A walking stick is a mobility device that can provide you with extra support and balance while you walk - but how exactly do you use one, and do you even need to invest in one for yourself at all? In this article, we take a look at why you might decide to start using a walking stick, including tips on how to use it correctly and advice on how to pick the right style for you.

Why use a walking stick?

Many people use a walking stick for assistance with stability as they age, while others may use one to help compensate for a disability. They can also be used temporarily while you recover from an injury that has impacted your stability, such as a leg or hip injury.     

Sometimes it can be tricky to work out when you might need to start using a walking stick, but more often than not, your body will let you know. For example, if you feel extreme discomfort in your knees, legs or even your back while you walk, a stick could really help alleviate this pain. You may also find a walking stick helps if you often feel tired or out of breath as you walk. You might even benefit from using one if you feel unsteady on your feet, especially if you often worry you may fall. So, if you struggle to walk comfortably, or you suffer pain while you’re out and about, it may be time to invest in one of these aids to help you walk with more confidence.

How to use a walking stick correctly

If used in the right way, a walking stick has the ability to relieve pressure, alleviate pain and improve your balance. Meanwhile, using your stick incorrectly could increase your risk of falling over, which as a result, may lead to further injury. So, to ensure you’re using your stick correctly, here are some handy tips.

 -        Check the height   

First and foremost, it’s important that your stick is positioned at a height that’s right for you. To figure this out, you should stand up and keep your arms relaxed by your sides. The tip of the handle should be level with your wrist bone. Adjusting your stick so that it is at the perfect height will help reduce pressure on your wrists, arms and shoulders, helping you to walk with comfort and confidence. 

 -        Use it on the correct side  

If you have suffered an injury, you may be tempted to use your walking stick on your weaker side for extra support. However, doing this could mean that you lean more heavily on that side, which in turn, could cause more pain and discomfort. Instead, you should use your stick on your stronger side. This will allow you to shift your weight to your uninjured so you’re able to walk more comfortably.  

 -        Keep your posture in check   

When you’re walking with your stick, try your best to keep your back as straight as possible, and you should also try to stop yourself from leaning too far to one side or too far forward. Although it’s perfectly fine to put your weight on the walking stick itself, you should make a conscious effort to centre your balance as much as you can.   

 -        Practise your technique  

There’s no denying that using a walking stick can take some getting used to, so make sure that you practise using it regularly to get your technique just right. To help you get into the swing of using it, try to move your weaker leg and the stick at the same time. As you step forward, your stick and the opposite foot should both touch the ground at the same time.   

Similarly, when it comes to tackling stairs, make sure that you step up with your stronger leg in the first instance, followed by the stick and your other leg, using the stick to push you up. When you’re walking down a set of stairs, do the opposite and use your weaker leg and stick first. In this case, your stick will take the weight off your painful leg. 

How to pick a walking stick

When it comes to walking sticks, it’s not a case of one size fits all. In fact, there are a variety of different sizes, styles and additional features to choose from, giving you the chance to select one that’s perfect for you and your needs. To help you pick a stick that’s right for you, you might want to keep the following in mind.   

 -        Think about style   

Although the majority of walking sticks have a long, straight shape with a handle at the top, there are a variety of different styles to choose from. For example, you might want to go for one that has a swan shaped neck and an angled shaft close to the handle. This style of stick is ideal if you need to place a lot of your weight on the stick.   Alternatively, you could go for a tripod style stick which has three legs, rather than one single base like a traditional stick. These additional legs can provide extra stability if you are particularly unsteady on your feet. The three legs also means that this type of stick can stand up of its own accord, meaning you needn’t lean or bend over to pick it up.   

 -        Choose the right material   

Generally speaking, walking sticks are usually made out of wood or aluminium - but which material is best for you? Wooden walking sticks can be found in a variety of different woods, such as oak, ash and chestnut, in a variety of colours. This type of stick is popular due to its strong, durable qualities, as well as the traditional, attractive look of the stick itself. On the other hand, aluminum is often used in the manufacturing of walking sticks due to the fact this material is lightweight yet strong. A lot of aluminum sticks have a telescopic design, meaning you can collapse the stick and store it away with ease when you’re not using it.   

 -        Consider handle style   

Believe it or not, there are a whole host of different handle shapes to choose from too. The most traditional style is a crook handle which allows you to hook the walking stick over your arm when it's not in use. Alternatively, you could choose a specially designed ergonomic style handle which offers orthopaedic support for your hand. This style of handle is particularly suited to those who suffer from arthritis. Other handle styles include petite designs which, as the name suggests, are ideal for those with small hands, as well as Derby and Fischer handles which have elegant, curved designs to provide extra comfort.  

 -        Think about additional features   

After taking style, material and handle type into consideration, you may want to think about what additional features you’d like your stick to have. For example, you might want to go for a 3-in-1 walking stick which offers a variety of safety extras, including an LED light, siren and flashing light. You could even opt for a design that has a fold out handle or even a seat.      

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