What type of handle should my walking aid have?
There are many different types of handle for example standard T-shaped handle, crook handle, derby handle, ergonomic (Fischer) handle, contour handle, escort and swan neck. Each handle has different characteristics.
The standard T handle is usually seen on folding walking sticks and enables you to wrap your thumb around the front of the handle for good support.
The crook handle makes the stick easy to hang over something when it is not in use. It is not recommended if a lot of weight needs to be put on the stick.
The derby is a mix of both the standard and the crook handle to give great support.
The Fischer handle spreads your weight over the palm of your hand to reduce pressure on specific points. You can only use this stick with one hand so make sure you know which side you will use the stick on.
The contour handle is a smaller version of the Fischer handle and is designed for people with smaller hands. It has the same pressure distribution over your palm. Both the Fischer and the contour handle are for people who use the stick regularly and put a lot a weight on it.
The escort can also reduce the pressure on the palm and is easy to grip. It is also angled slightly, which will make it more comfortable for some people. The swan neck handle is to do with the shape of the shaft, which angles the handle forward and stops the stick from slipping forward.
What material do I want my walking stick to be?
There are two materials that walking sticks are usually made from, wood and aluminium.
Wood shafts are very robust, sturdy and most of the time lightweight. They are usually made from chestnut wood, but can be made from rosewood, ash, cherry, hazel, or oak. The disadvantages are that it can only be made smaller so if you cut it too short you will have to get a new one and it cannot be folded so can be frustrating in some situations.
Most aluminium walking sticks are height adjustable and are split to be foldable, but some have a fixed height because they can hold more weight. Aluminium shafts can also be decorated so that you can choose what pattern or colour you want.
What shaft shape do I want?
There are a few shaft shapes that are available and have different characteristics. The swan neck shaft angles the handle forward to reduce the risk of the stick slipping forwards. It is perfect if you put a lot of weight on the stick or are quite unstable. Riser canes have a double bend to give you support half way up the stick in order to help you get up from a sitting position. Tetrapod and quad canes have more that one
foot increasing the stability that the stick gives you and reduces the risk of the stick slipping.
Height adjustable or fixed height?
There are advantages and disadvantages of both height adjustable and fixed height walking sticks.
The advantages of height adjustable walking sticks are that you can change the height of the stick to suit the use and the person using it. The stick can be made shorter for transport or storage is need be. The disadvantages however are that the weight limit is much lower (usually less that 18st.), the stick may flex when a lot of weight is put on it and they can develop an annoying click if the height mechanism starts to wear down.
The advantages of a fixed height walking stick are that they are much stronger and can hold much more weight and they also feel more solid with no give. The disadvantages are that the length must be compromised as it is hard to cut a wooden stick to the correct size or get the correct sized aluminium stick.
What about folding walking sticks?
Folding walking sticks give you the best flexibility as they are usually height adjustable and can be folded down when you are not using them. They are easy to fold and it will unfold by itself. However there are a few things that you need to be careful of. Folding walking sticks are much weaker and are more likely to give under a lot of pressure as well as the maximum weight limit being much lower (about 16st.).
The sections could move around when in use and could cause an annoying ‘clicking’ noise.
How do I choose the correct height?
The height of the walking stick is very important as the wrong height can mean that there is less stability and less support given from the walking stick. The correct size stick is the same as the length between your wrist bone (when you are standing up straight with your arms by your side and wearing your regular footwear) and the floor.
What accessories are available?
There are many accessories for walking stick available including ferrules (the little bit of rubber at the tip of the walking stick), straps, grip and cases for folding sticks. Ferrules are available in different sizes and colours and reduce the risk of the stick slipping while also stopping the walking stick from being worn down. Straps will stop you from dropping the stick so you don’t have to bend down to get it if you accidentally let go. Grips attach to the stick and balance the stick on the surface of
something so that it doesn’t fall over. The cases will stop a folding walking stick from unfolding when it is not in use.
Tri wheel walking frames vs. Rollators (4 wheels)?
The main difference between tri wheel walking frames and rollators is the number of wheels. Rollators have 4 wheels, which give them extra stability and are less likely to tip over, however they are also wider and less manoeuvrable. They usually have a seat between the two handles so that you could rest if you wanted to. Both tri walkers and rollators are usually foldable for storage or transport.
What is the best braking mechanism?
There are two braking mechanisms, loop brakes and pressure brakes.
Loop brakes are similar to the brakes on a bicycle. Most of these can be used as a handbrake to stop the wheels from moving without you needing to hold the brakes all the time. These can be painful to use for some people especially those with arthritis. Pressure brakes are spring loaded and basically put a rubber ferrule on the floor, which is activated by putting more pressure down on the frame. You will need to take
some weight off the frame in order to move forward, similar to a Zimmer frame.
Single or double wheels?
Single wheels usually provide enough support however if you feel you need extra support double wheels are also available and give more stability.
Steel or aluminium?
Steels frames are strong but they are also heavy. Aluminium frames on the other hand are lighter, but therefore less strong.
What kind of handgrip should I get?
There are many different handgrips available. Some are ergonomically designed to distribute the pressure across you palm.
What accessories are available?
Shopping bags and trays can be added to the frame if you want them. Shopping bags are great so you don’t have to hang your shopping bags on the handles. Trays allow you to have the stability but also be able to carry food and drink around your home.
How do I choose the correct height?
Having a frame of the correct height is very important to have support and keep a good posture while using the frame. The height of the handles should be the same as the distance between the floor and your wrist bone when you are standing up straight with your regular walking shoes on and your elbows slightly bent.
Some alternatives that are available are household trolleys, Zimmer frames and shopping trolleys.
Household trolleys give you more confidence around the house especially when you are transporting food and drink. You should not put too mush weight on the trolley and they do not have brakes so you have to be careful.
Zimmer frames provide extra stability and support to use around the house.
Some shopping trolleys are to be pulled behind you and some are to be pushed in front of you. They will give you some support and also give you a place to put your shopping so you don’t have to carry heavy bags. Some shopping trolleys also have a seat so that you can have a short rest.