Training - Selecting and Fitting Canes

User Services

Training - Selecting and Fitting Canes





The purpose of this procedure is to familiarize assistive technology reutilization workers with the different types of canes, and to explain the proper fitting of canes. Canes are sometimes called walking sticks.


Why Canes Are Prescribed


Canes are prescribed for patients who need assistance to bear weight on their legs because of an injury or illness, or who have limited coordination, strength, balance or joint motion. The cane is a walking aid that improves balance and security by adding a third point of ground contact. It helps to provide additional stability, to remove stress or pain from legs or feet, and to promote continued independence.  


The patient’s physician or physical therapist will prescribe the exact configuration for an assistive device for walking. It is very important to provide exactly the specified device. The wrong device may slow healing, increase the possibility of a fall, or aggravate the patient’s existing limitations.



Types of Canes and Their Uses


Type of cane

Description of cane

Used for patient who needs

C cane

Straight cane with curved handle

Slight assistance with balance and/or to take some weight off one leg

Functional grip cane

Straight cane with a straight handle

Better grip and more support than available with C cane

Quad cane

(small or large base)

Cane with a rectangular base with four small “feet”

Provides more balance support; often used for those who have suffered some degree of paralysis in one arm or leg


A cane with a large base with a “mini walker” base, that is, two wheels and two “feet”

Provides more lateral support to someone suffering severe weakness on one side of the body; sometimes used for patients recovering strength and balance as they transition from walker to a cane

Folding cane

Cane that folds for convenience;

typical of service canes for the blind

Only slight assistance with balance and wants convenience for travel

Seat cane

Usually a three-legged cane with a small seat that folds down for temporary rest

Slight assistance with balance and respite during prolonged walking. Good for shopping or travel.



Choosing a Cane


The table provides the general medical guidelines for the type of cane best for the patient’s condition, but there are other factors to consider. Perhaps the most important is whether the patient will actually use the device. To gain the patient’s acceptance, consider the patient’s goals, wishes and lifestyle.


Ø      Is the cane too heavy?

Ø      Is it too conspicuous?

Ø      Is it unattractive?

Ø      How much training will it take to learn to use it properly?


Most of the canes prescribed are made of aluminum. This makes them light-weight, easy to adjust for height, and easily fitted with different bases if needed. However, there are still traditional wooden canes that come in endless styles. If altered to the proper height, they absorb shock and provide traction. Wooden canes are usually heavier than aluminum canes.  More unusual canes may be made of bamboo or colorful specialty plastics.       


Parts of the Cane


A cane has four main parts: handle, shaft, collar, and tip (or ferrule.) The shaft is the straight (or main vertical) part of the cane. The lower end of the cane is the tip or ferrule. The tip is usually made of a substance to protect it from wear. It may be rubber or a metal (such as copper.)  The handle at the top of the cane is attached to the shaft by a collar, which is usually a band of metal.


Cane handles come in many shapes: knob, L-shaped, crutch, pistol grip and hook. The patient may prefer a grip that easily hooks or hangs on a chair.


Canes come in both youth and adult sizes.



Fitting the Cane


After determining the proper type of cane, the next step is to fit the patient. This is extremely important for compliance and comfort.


Have the patient strand up straight with elbows at his/her sides, wearing the shoes (or type of shoes) that he/she will be wearing when using the cane. The top of the cane should reach to the crease on the underside of the wrist. If the cane is the proper length, the elbow will be flexed 15 to 20 degrees when the cane is held while standing.


Try to find a cane with a replaceable tip, because it will wear.




This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor. 




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Other Information

Title: Training - Selecting and Fitting Canes
Module: User Services
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Implementer
Sub Title:
Procedure: User training
Organization Source: Pass It on Center
Last Reviewed: 01-22-2009 5:51 PM