It can be easy to assume that all canes are the same because they serve the same purpose. However, this could not be further from the truth. Canes have quite a bit of variance in their styles, designs, and functions. The various materials and features of different types of walking canes have a large impact on their functions.
Understanding Cane Design
Canes may seem simple—many think they’re no different than any other stick—but canes do have distinct designs with various parts. To understand why different types of walking canes function the way they do, you need to understand their components. Most canes only have three major parts to their design: the handle, the cane, and the tip.
A cane’s handle is typically at the top of the tool—it’s the part that people hold when using the cane. It generally sits at a different angle from the rest of the cane, giving the user a better grip. Generally, there are two styles of handles that you can choose from: grips and natural.
A natural handle is usually composed of the same materials as the rest of the cane. They do come in different shapes and designs, but they blend well with the cane for a more natural appearance. They provide the user with a good grip; however, they can’t compare to an actual grip handle.
A grip handle is an addition to the cane’s natural handle. The materials that make up most grips are softer, like rubber. It provides a great grip on the walking cane overall. However, this type of grip often doesn’t blend in with the cane. It emphasizes function over form and can seem less attractive than more natural-looking handles.
The cane style is the biggest factor that will alter how your cane functions. Different canes not only change their look but their capabilities as well. Different types of walking canes can perform different functions, so knowing the differences between them is crucial.
The most typical form is a long solid rod that can support your weight as you walk. This style is typically wooden or another type of hard material. The standard cane comes with all the functionality one would expect, such as extending your reach or providing a tool for protection.
The folding walking stick is just what it sounds like. Like a standard cane, this style can support you as you walk; however, it can also fold into a smaller shape. Such versatility won’t change its weight, but it will make it more convenient to carry around and store. When folded, it can fit easily into bags or purses, unlike a regular walking cane.
A seat cane has a special design so that it functions as both a cane and a seat. These come in several different designs and sitting styles, but they all provide a place to rest when you feel the need. They work by using additional parts that move into position to create a place to sit. Sadly, seat canes typically can’t sustain prolonged sitting, as the materials need to light enough for easy mobility, but they do provide a short respite on walks.
An extendable cane has an adjustable height, as necessary. There are several different styles of extending canes, but most require some form of twisting to alter their height. Usually, the cane is composed of an inner rod and an outer casing. The inner rod moves separately from the outer casing and locks into place wherever you need it to. While the capacity to adjust a cane’s height is a very cool feature, it typically doesn’t come in handy all that often. Usually, every person has a single height that the cane should be, and once it is set to that height, there is no reason to change it. It really only becomes useful if different people are using the same cane, as in a hospital environment.
Every cane has a point opposite the handle that comes into contact with the ground during proper use—the tip. This part will often receive the most wear during regular use. That’s why choosing the right kind of tip is so integral. Each type has a different purpose and can change how you use your cane. Keep this in mind when you’re weighing your options.
Most canes have moved away from the hard tips that canes naturally have. Although they can look very good since they match the rest of the cane, they provide no extra functionality. A hard-tipped cane will wear down quickly, show signs of wear more prominently, and may leave marks on some types of flooring. However, if you’re just looking for an aesthetic cane, one with a hard tip might serve you well.
The most common type of tip that you can find on canes today is of the rubber variety. Different canes use different kinds of rubber—some use hard rubber while others use soft. There are many reasons that rubber finds so much use. It helps to protect the cane while also providing greater traction for the user. You can even replace some rubber tips once they have worn down, extending your cane’s longevity.
Some canes have a special feature in which the end of the cane branches out to multiple tips that each touch the ground at the same time. This provides extra stability by preventing the cane from tilting or sliding when you use it. It does increase the cane’s weight by a small amount, and since it takes up more room, storing it might be a little harder. But it can really add some great stability, particularly for users with mobility issues.
These are some of the different kinds of canes, but there are plenty of other options to consider if these do not meet your needs. Just know what you are looking for in both functionality and beauty, and that should guide you to what you want.