Properly Walking with a Cane

A cane is the simplest and lightest of assistive devices for walking. There are many different types of canes, with different materials, colors, and handles. Your cane can be an expression of your own style. When used correctly, a cane provides stability and helps increase mobility for people with pain or difficulty with one of their legs. Here are some guidelines for choosing and properly walking with a cane.

How many points?

For people who have arthritis in the knee, hip, or ankle, a cane with a single point is the best choice. The cane will distribute your weight away from the bad leg as you move with a regular gait, with three “points” instead of the two usual ones- your legs.

Determining your cane’s height

The height is the most important consideration when choosing a cane. Many canes have an adjustable length.  To measure the optimal height for your cane, stand up wearing your normal walking shoes. Allow your arms to hang at your sides naturally, with a normal bend in your elbows. Have someone measure the length from your wrist to the floor. That is the best height for your cane. If you are unable to measure in this way, a good alternative is to get a cane that is half of your height. Though not as accurate as taking a measurement, this is generally accurate within an inch or so.

Walking with a Cane

To walk with your cane, hold it on the opposite side of your weak leg. Place the cane about two inches forward or to the side of your front foot at the same time as you bring your weak leg forward. Then follow with your strong leg. Don’t place the cane too far out in front. That takes away from how much weight you can place on it and decreases stability. Always lead with your weak leg and the cane at the same time on level surfaces.


When climbing a staircase, lead with your good leg (“up with the good”). Then follow with the weak leg and cane (if there is no railing to hold onto). When coming down the stairs, put your cane on the step below first, followed by your weak leg and finally your stronger leg (“down with the bad”). The saying to remember is, you guessed it, “up with the good and down with the bad.”

Learning to walk with a cane takes some time and practice, but whether you use it during rehabilitation from an injury or surgery, or as a long-term solution for a degenerative condition, walking with a cane will soon become second nature. You will find that a cane can increase your speed and stability as well as reduce the pain you feel by decreasing the amount of weight you have to put on your injured leg.

Tarpon Orthopedics has experienced and compassionate orthopedic physicians that help people who have trouble with their joints and leg pain every day. We are experts in sports medicine, spine, and pain management, as well as joint replacement. Call (972) 596-1059 for a consultation today in our West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas locations.

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