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What to look for in a cane

To anyone who has never used one, a cane seems like a straightforward purchase – it's simply a long stick that you lean on, more convenient than a walker, yet greatly assistive when a health condition or personal injury causes mobility problems. But to cane users, the right cane can make all the difference. Here's how to ensure you pick the perfect fit.

Ask yourself the following:

  • How often will I need my cane?
  • What kinds of situations will I want to use it in?
  • Is fashion important to me?
  • Can I wait for a cane to be specially made?
  • What can I afford?

Then consider a few different options:

Walking canes. This is the basic item that many people rely on to get them from place to place. Straight and durable, walking canes can be made from wood or aluminum. They generally come in fixed lengths but can be adjusted for a user's height. Many stores also sell "tall" canes for those who require a longer shaft in order to be able to stand up straight.

Folding canes. Women in particular enjoy folding canes because they can be compacted to fit into a bag or purse. These are more lightweight than conventional walking canes but not as durable. They are also slimmer than regular walking canes and often fold up to be about 9 inches in length.

Fashionable canes. Most canes now come with shapely handles that are both functional and lovely to look at. They can be formed into a variety of shapes and patterns. Canes can also make fashion statements through the materials with which they are made; fashionable canes are often made with high-quality woods.

Walking sticks. While still functional, walking sticks are somewhat more decorative than medical canes. They help users take the pressure off of their feet but also act as an interesting accessory. Most users who consider their canes walking sticks don't use them around the house.

Quad canes. Canes with four legs at their base offer more support than any other. The legs usually have rubber feet on them for nonslip traction. A four-legged cane also offers a wider base for users who might be shaky or have other mobility problems.

Canes and walking sticks can be purchased at health stores, including specialty stores and pharmacies. Sometimes, doctors can specially order canes as well. Don't eliminate other choices, though - some art stores or art shows have canes for sale because artists get creative with the shape of the walking stick. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary and handcrafted, visit these shows or woodcarvers' shops for interesting pieces.

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