Proper cane use can still be stylish

Proper cane use can still be stylish

Q. I need a cane and will need one for the foreseeable future. I’m not pretending that I don’t have one, but I’d rather have one that looks more stylish and less “worry about me.” Can you tell me what is appropriate, what is medicinal, and what is ridiculous?

A. When one’s wardrobe (let alone one’s life) is altered because of physical requirements or limitations, it can often add uncertainty to injury. Whether it is a temporary walking boot on one leg and trying to determine appropriate footwear for the other, a sling, an eye patch, a cane as you are discussing, or even a wheelchair, it is natural to be at a loss for what these mean in terms of fashion or just simple day-to-day dressing.   

Canes are helpful, if not essential, objects that can take on the role of dressing accessory. They don’t need to be ugly to work, but they do need to be easy and comfortable to carry and use, or you may avoid using something you need to rely on. There really are hundreds of options; you needn’t settle for something hospital-like or go in the opposite direction and choose a Fred Astaire-like walking stick.

Because of their importance for your health and well-being, before thinking of the look, think of your needs. Reach out to your doctor or physical therapist for advice on the best cane for your needs and/or how to use one correctly. Mayo Clinic offers several online slide shows with helpful tips for choosing and using canes. With that information in place, when planning to purchase a new walking cane, after first considering your medical requirements, go for style. Keep the following in mind:

  • Type of cane. Choose a design that offers the right amount of stability for your needs. Consider how much the cane weighs, whether you want a foldable design, and other adjustment options.
  • Use. Consider your strength, stability, and overall fitness as well as how you plan to use the device. Select one that is suitable for the type of surfaces you’ll cover.
  • Style. Think about the type of handle you want. Decide what kind of tip or base you prefer. Make sure the model is suitable for your height and weight . . . and you like the look.

Today’s canes come in a variety of materials, in adjustable lengths, and in various strengths. 

Canes are available in wood, metal, and clear lucite. Options that are more functional and less fashionable include: folding canes that you can put in your briefcase, seat canes (which become a seat and allow you to stop and take a break as needed), adjustable-length canes, quad canes with four-prong ends, canes with an extra side-folding handle for added  support, even canes with an emergency alarm button. Prices vary from lightweight, foldable canes for $17 at Walmart to elegant silver-handled rosewood canes at $750.   

Quad canes can stand up on their own. They come with a stable, stand-alone footing, The wider four- tip base provides extra support, stability, and balance. However, they are more cumbersome, may be more challenging to navigate, and might have what you would consider “a medical look.” Nova Canes and Hurrycane feature a quad base that stands upright on flat surfaces and provides stability and traction on uneven ground. Aluminum quad canes come in black and several colorful patterns, thus, adding stylishness to their functionality.   

Even fashionable walking canes make it easier to walk safely and more comfortably. They can improve balance and help you perform your daily tasks while reducing your risk of falling. A variety of walking devices support different weights, offer a comfortable grip, and suit various surfaces. Some have tips; others have a prong base that works on icy surfaces. 

A functional cane can also be stylish. You can have a small collection of walking canes that don’t look “medicinal,” perhaps in a few different colors so they won’t clash with whatever color family you are wearing (the lucite ones go with everything). I prefer men’s canes to be solid-color; patterned canes don’t seem to look masculine. Some styles can be customized with monograms; this could be a perfect way to personalize a gift cane with a special message for any occasion or milestone. A major cane company, Fashionable Canes, offers an extensive online collection of canes that appeal to a variety of personal styles. Check out their array of men’s walking canes made by different manufacturers to find exactly what suits your taste.   

Among your different canes might be ones that are versatile and lightweight, as well as more dapper wooden ones with decorative metal handles. Perhaps you want a strong cane that you can put under heavy stress and frequent use, or a cane with a built-in flashlight. You will find all manner of canes with special features, such as sword canes and cleverly-hidden (perhaps “ridiculous”) gadget walking sticks (some hold a flask!), even canes with a built-in stun-gun (these cannot be shipped to several states, including Arkansas). specializes in stylish custom-engraved canes; your personalized message can go on the handle or the shaft.                               

Canes are valuable devices that can help make walking easier, safer, and more comfortable. And, if you choose carefully, they can also help you look good as you go about your daily activities. 

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