A guide to walking aids

There are several reasons why you may feel you need a walking aid these can include feeling unbalanced, fearful of falling, dizziness, pain or having a long-term condition that affects your mobility. 

Finding the right mobility aid will make moving around easier, reduce pain, increase confidence and allow you to participate in activities that are meaningful to you. 

There are several walking aids available and each has pros and cons.

Walking sticks

Offload 25% of body weight and are good for people with mild balance issues who have good upper body strength.  

Types

Wooden

Usually have a curved handle, may need to be cut to correct height.  

Metal

Can have a flat or swan neck handle, easily adjustable. Metal sticks are available as 3- or 4-point sticks (tripod/ quad stick) these are not suitable for use on the stairs. 

Folding

Can be folded and carried in a bag until needed. Make sure its easy to unfold but feels robust when unfolded. 

How to measure for a walking stick? 

To measure the correct height stand normally wearing your usual footwear, allow the arm that you will hold the walking stick in to drop to your side; the handle of the stick should be the same as the wrist crease which can be seen when the hand is bent upwards. (add photo currently on website) 

What else to consider? 
The ferrules need to be checked regularly and replaced when they become worn.   

Walking sticks are inexpensive, easy to purchase and easy to store.   

A walking stick can be used on the stairs, but it is important to learn the correct technique to this, otherwise you will be at a greater risk of falling.    

However, they are not suitable for people who have moderate to severe balance issues.  

 

Walking frames

Offload 64% of body weight and are good for people with moderate to severe balance problems who need to walk short distances indoors. 

Types

4 ferrules provide greater stability but are harder to move.  

2 wheels at the front and 2 ferrules at the back which make the frame easier to move. A caddy can be fitted to this frame to transport food/drinks. 

The frame needs to be adjusted to the correct height the same as measuring for a walking stick. 

A frame cannot be used on the stairs so you may need two frames; one for downstairs and one for upstairs 

The legs splay out which could be a trip/fall risk. 

Wheeled walkers/Rollator

Good for people who have some mobility issues or breathing issues but can walk outdoors. A more continuous walking pattern is possible. Can be used indoors and outdoors. Some have storage or a seat. Wheeled walkers have brakes which can be confusing for some people. 

Types

3 wheeled; can have storage and fold up for easy storage. It is less stable than a 4 wheeled walker.

4 wheeled; usually has storage and a seat. More stable than a 3 wheeled walker. 

Walkers needs to be adjusted to the correct height to ensure good posture. The brakes need to be used correctly. Walkers cannot be used on the stairs. 

It is advisable to ask you GP to refer you to a Physiotherapist who can assess your mobility needs and recommend that correct walking aid for you, using a walking aid that isn’t suitable for you could increase your risk of falls. 

 

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