What Should I Consider When Buying a Walking Stick?

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

A walking stick is just what the name implies: a stick which assists a person in walking, hiking, or even standing still. It can be thought of as a sort of “third leg.” Many individuals find that their own two legs simply aren’t enough for the comfort and stability they are looking for when walking or hiking, even only for short distances. A walking stick or walking poles will give the needed help and make a person feel as though he is on more solid ground.

Walking sticks may serve as canes for the injured.
Walking sticks may serve as canes for the injured.

When buying a walking stick, one must consider his own individual desires and tastes. The need for the walking stick is the first consideration. A walking stick used for hiking steep trails will be quite different than the one used for walking indoors. A walking stick used to assist a person in walking after an injury or due to a physical ailment will vary in type than the one used for recreation. After determining the specific use of the walking stick, use the following guidelines when it is time to buy.

Using two hiking poles can relieve much of stress put on a hiker's joints and muscles.
Using two hiking poles can relieve much of stress put on a hiker's joints and muscles.

For hiking or other outdoor, adventuresome walking, a single walking stick will provide stability and relieve stress on the arms, legs, and back. Yet, using a pair of walking sticks or hiking poles provides even better balance and control; sometimes it takes a bit of practice to get used to a pair of sticks or poles, but most people find that once they get used to them, walking with hiking poles is even better for their joints and muscles than a single walking stick.

Using a walking stick for hiking can serve purposes other than just a third leg. A walking stick might be used as a sort of mini-pole vault for helping hikers jump across streams; it can be used to pull up other hikers who have fallen down or need a bit of help getting up a steep incline; and it can even be used to ward off wild animals, if necessary.

Walking sticks made primarily for indoor use differ mainly in the tip at the bottom of the stick. Many use a rubber tip, much like a tip that would be used on a cane, while others have a type of claw which keeps the walking stick sturdy, prevents it from slipping, and is beneficial in soft ground, such as sand or snow.

A walking stick can be anything from a tree branch which has been cut to size, or it can be made from strong, lightweight titanium, with the ability to collapse down and store in small spaces, such as backpacks or luggage. For walking on flat surfaces, a walking stick should be about one half the height of the person using the stick, while it should be at shoulder height for walking on inclines. Regardless of the style or type, the most important thing about a walking stick is that the person using it feels comfortable with it and helped by it.

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Paulla is a freelance writer and website editor who currently lives in Maine. Paulla has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University and over 15 years of experience as a freelancer. She relishes the flexibility and consistency of working on wiseGEEK articles, as well as the opportunity to constantly learn something new.

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Discussion Comments


My father made hand carved walking sticks. He could just look up into a tree and see which of the branches would make a good cane. Then he would cut the branch and go to work. He took a lot of care in getting the walking sticks just right. When he was finished, the canes would look much better than anything you could buy in a store, and they were strong.

Originally he made the canes for family members, but he fell in love with his new hobby, and he began making the canes and taking them to the local senior center to be passed out. I wish I knew how many of the canes he made. I know there were a large number of them. I have several of them, and I'm sure the day will come when I will need a little extra help moving about, and they will be there.


Accepting that they actually need a cane or walking stick is difficult for people. Think about it. When a person has been walking about all his adult life he sees a cane as the end of something. He is losing his mobility and freedom. He is getting older, and this is tough to get a handle on.

One of my neighbors refused to use the cane her children got for her. She stopped going outside in her garden, and she stopped walking to the mailbox because she was afraid she would fall and not be able to get up and get back to the house.

She refused to use the cane until one of her friends started using a cane. Now that she is making use of the cane, I see her outside again and she walks to the mailbox again. Getting older can be a challenge.

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