Walking canes can serve either a functional or decorative purpose. However, a functional cane can also be decorative. In most cases, people purchase canes to aid in walking. There are four basic types from which to choose.
The most common type of walking cane, called a C cane, resembles a curved candy cane in shape. These walking canes are readily available, and often chosen by people who have a slight and temporary injury or walking impairment. C canes are readily available at most pharmacies and drug stores, but finding the right size may be an issue. In general, the length of the cane should be no more than one inch (2.54 cm) above half the height of the body.
C canes generally have a rubberized bottom to prevent slipping, but they do not offer much in the way of balance control. On the other hand, functional grip canes offer more balance because of the shape of their handle. These walking canes have a straight handle, which provides better grip than the C cane. Aside from this grip, they differ little from the C cane, but a steadier grip can mean more confident walking.
Quad canes differ from both C and functional grip canes in the shape of their base. Instead of ending in a rubberized point, these walking canes have a rectangular base, ending in four points. The quad cane offers greater stability at the base of the cane, and those with longer-term injuries or impairments may want to consider this option. Quads are generally more durable than functional grip and C canes, as well.
Hemiwalker canes differ from quads in that their base is much larger. Many people moving from a walker to a cane find these walking canes the best choice. Hemiwalkers offer the most support and are best considered by those with permanent injuries or conditions that affect mobility.
When choosing a walking cane, both height and weight of the user must be considered. A cane may be the appropriate height, but not strong enough to bear the weight of the user. The length of time one intends to use the cane is another consideration. For long-term use, consumers should look for strong and durable canes. These cost more initially, but will probably prove, over time, to be more economical since they won't need to be replaced as often. Short-term users of walking canes can probably get by with a much less expensive cane.
Decorative walking canes or walking sticks have enjoyed a long history. People may choose a cane to reflect a particular design they like. Often, decorative canes are a long straight stick. The Internet and specialty stores carry many varieties of decorative canes, and if one cannot find a design that pleases, he or she can special order a particular type or design.
Walking canes, staffs or sticks that are decorative may also be functional for navigating through streets, providing a little bit of balance, or walking through rough terrain. When choosing a cane of any type, consider the following: one's height and weight, expected length of usage, frequency of usage, balance requirements, feel of the grip in one's hand, and to what degree any decorations may reflect one's aesthetic sensibilities. Doctors and physical therapists are excellent resources for recommendations on the most appropriate personal choice.