How To Choose and Use a Cane

A cane is a stick used to give you support and balance when walking. Most canes are made of metal, wood or plastic. A cane may help you feel less tired or lessen your pain when walking. This is because the cane takes weight off your leg and joints. You may need to use a cane:

  • If you are weak on one side of your body
  • If you have balance problems 

Types of Canes

There are many kinds of canes. A cane can be made longer or shorter to fit your height. When standing with a cane that is the correct length for your height, your elbow should be bent slightly (about 30 degrees).

If the elbow is bent too little or too much, it will be more difficult for you to use the cane. Your caregiver will help choose the correct cane for you. You can buy canes at drug stores and medical supply stores.

Using the Cane

Your caregiver will teach you how to use a cane. Be sure to ask questions or write down reminders if needed.

On Flat Floors

  • Put the cane about four inches (10 cm) to the side of your stronger leg
  • Put weight on your stronger side
  • Move the cane about four inches (10 cm) in front of your stronger leg, bringing your weaker leg forward at the same time
  • Using the cane to help keep your weight off your weaker leg, move your stronger leg ahead
  • Your heel will be a little beyond the tip of the cane
  • Repeat these steps and try to walk straight

On Stairs

When you are using a cane on stairs, ask your caregiver to show you how to do this safely. Do not use your cane on the stairs unless someone is with you.

Going Up

  • Walk with your cane up to the step; if there is a railing on the side without your cane, you may use it
  • Step up onto the first step with your stronger leg, then move your cane and weaker leg up onto the same step
  • Continue up the stairs, repeating this process 

Going Down

  • Walk with your cane up to the step; if there is a railing on the side without your cane, you may use it
  • Place your cane down onto the first step, then move your weaker leg onto the step, then move your stronger leg onto the step
  • Continue down the stairs, repeating this process

Getting In a Chair

  • Put all your weight on your stronger leg
  • Slowly sit down and slide backwards into the chair 

Getting Out of a Chair

  • Hold your cane with your stronger hand
  • Grasp the arms of the chair
  • Put your stronger foot a little forward
  • Lean a little forward and push on the arms of the chair to raise yourself
  • Stand with your cane about four inches (10 cm) to the side of your stronger foot
  • Wait a few seconds to get used to standing before you start walking

Additional Safety Tips

  • Wear shoes with rubber soles, such as tennis shoes; do not wear shoes that can slide and cause a fall including slippers (which can slide off your feet) or shoes with leather heels or soles
  • Make sure the floor is safe for using the cane; it should be clean, dry and lighted; remove throw rugs, tape or nail down loose carpet edges, keep traffic areas and the floor free of clutter
  • Stand a few seconds before you start moving with your cane to get your body used to standing; do not start walking if you are dizzy
  • Look straight ahead when you walk; if you are looking at your feet, you may run into or trip over something
  • If you need to carry light things, use a backpack or carry a bag; do not try to carry heavy things


Disclaimer: TEXT This material provides general information only. It should not be used in place of advice, instructions, or treatment given by your doctor or other health care professional.