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close up of two hands on the top of a walking stick

Using Your Walking Stick

When used correctly, the right walking stick can improve your balance and help reduce strain on your hips, knees, ankles and feet. It's important that the walking stick you use is set up to suit your needs.


Is your walking stick the right height?

Your walking stick needs to be at the correct height for you, to gain maximum benefit and to allow your posture to remain symmetrical. Using a walking stick at the incorrect height results in poor posture and can lead to physical injury, particularly to the shoulder.


How to measure the right height

Woman standing with arms to her side. Arrow pointing to wrist joint.
  1. Stand with your arms relaxed by your side wearing your usual shoes
  1. Look in a mirror to locate the bump of bone on the little finger side of your wrist, or ask someone to help you.
Woman standing with arms at her side, walking stick measured to wrist joint.
  1. The height of the wrist bone is the location for the top of the walking stick handle
Woman standing holding a walking stick
  1. This should allow for your elbow to be slightly bent (about 30 degrees of flexion) when holding the stick


Adjusting a wooden walking stick

Once you've worked out the correct height, remove the rubber ferrule on the base of the stick. Walking sticks should be cut to size after removing the ferrule. Be careful not to cut too much off.

Wooden walking stick


Height adjustable aluminium walking sticks

  • Loosen the collar at the junction of the two sections of the stick (most sticks have a screw collar, if the collar is not a screw type, you do not need to loosen it)
  • Push in the button on the top section of the stick and push/pull the bottom section until the button pops out into the next hole
  • Recheck the height of the stick and adjust again if necessary
  • When the stick is at the correct height, re-tighten the collar on the stick.

Aluminium height adjustable walking stick showing collar

Height adjustable walking stick showing click buttons


Which hand to hold the walking stick?

To provide support for a weaker leg, hold the stick in the opposite hand to the weaker leg. This will provide extra support for your weaker leg when taking each step. If you are using the stick for balance, then try using the stick in either hand and make a decision based on what feels most comfortable. A walking stick can be used in both hands to provide even more stability.


Walking technique using a walking stick


Two senior men walking with walking sticks

A normal walking pattern involves the opposite arm and leg moving forward at the same time. This also happens when using a walking stick. The arm with the walking stick and the weaker leg move forward together. Your weight is then distributed over the weaker leg and the stick.

If you are using a stick in both hands the same principle applies – opposite arm and leg move together.Initially you may have some difficulty coordinating walking with a stick. If you do, slow your walking down and break it up into smaller parts, e.g., place the stick forward, step forward with the weaker leg, then bring the stronger leg through and then repeat the cycle until walking becomes rhythmical.


Checking the rubber ferrule

Check the rubber ferrule on the end of your walking stick regularly as it will wear with use and need replacing. Once the base of the ferrule is worn your walking stick will lose its grip and you will be at risk of sliding, particularly on smooth, wet surfaces – it is like driving a car with bald tyres!

 Worn ferrule showing no treadNew ferrule showing no wear



Read our related blog: Choosing The Right Walking Stick

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