6 Walking Stick Mistakes to Avoid

Written by Brendon Arizala

Jun 6, 2024

Avoiding these 6 mistakes can improve how fast and how far you can walk with a walking stick.

1. Not using a walking stick, when you should be

Some people avoid using a walking stick because they’re afraid it might make them look old. Some people think if they use one, their family might think something is wrong with them. The last thing some people want is to worry others around them. 

But the thing to remember is:
If someone was to have a fall or start limping more because of worsening pain, that would be a huge cause of concern for family and friends. 

So how do you know if you should be using a walking stick?

The best thing to do is ask your doctor or physiotherapist.

But if don’t have access to one right now here’s some general advise that works for a lot of people.
You may need to use a walking stick if you:
[ ] have had a fall in the past
[ ] have pain limiting your movement
[ ] feel & look unsteady while walking
[ ] feel weak in the leg

2. Using a walking stick when you should be using a walker

This is similar to the previous point, a walking device should be comfortable and help enough so you stay safe while walking.

Some of the things that would tell you that you need a more supportive walking aid is:
   [ ] you’ve had a fall even while using a walking stick
[ ] you have pain, weakness or a fear of falling that’s getting worse
[ ] the walking stick is shaky while you’re using it 

   [ ] you’re leaning over the top of the stick excessively

   [ ],you’re starting to get pain anywhere in arm & hand because of the walking stick


3. Holding your walking stick on the wrong hand

The general recommendation is to hold your walking stick on the OPPOSITE side of your weaker or injured leg. Doing this gives someone more support as they walk. 

When people hold the walking stick on the SAME side as their sore or weak leg, they have to walk with a strange walking pattern. They use up a lot of energy & effort with every step. (Analogy: if someone was trying to roll a barrel down a hill.. but the barrel is square shaped. Every step requires effort)

When we walk and hold the walking stick on the opposite side of the weaker or injured leg side, we can make use of the momentum of our arms and body. This might seem uncomfortable at the start, but overtime, this should lead to more effortless and its safer walking. (Analogy: like rolling a barrel down a hill… and the barrel is actually round.) 

4. Adjusting the walking stick height to the wrong height

If we hold a walking stick too low, we end up stopping down.
If we hold it too high, it doesn’t actually support us very well.

A good walking stick height is when the handle of the walking stick is in line with the person using it’s wrist crease. This will allow them to straighten up their elbow fully if they need to, but still have enough bend in the elbow while holding the stick to allow for free movement.


5. Poor walking stick placement while walking

Some people do not know where to place the stick while using it.
If it’s too close, it blocks their step and puts them at risk.
If it’s too far, they need to stretch out too much and the walking stick doesn’t actually provide support.
Or they’re just not putting it down with the right timing.

The general recommendation is that you should put the walking stick down at the same time that your weak or injured leg hits the ground.


6. Not spending time to address the REASON that the walking stick was needed walking stick in the first place.

The reason someone would need a walking stick is because of pain, poor balance and weakness.
But people forget to do things within their control that can reduce pain.
Or they don’t work on improving their balance and strengthening their body. They just become reliant on the walking stick.

Usually the cause of pain, poor balance and weakness is some other health conditions that we don’t have control over. But there are things within our control that we can try. Research found that find that improving your general health and lifestyle is helpful in reducing pain and improving weakness or balance issues. These can be done by doing things like sleeping more, eating healthy food, exercising better and stressing less. 

Improving our health is like giving our plants the right water, sunlight & fertiliser.


Brought to you by Brendon (Senior Physiotherapist) from Vuno Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation, a mobile physiotherapy & allied health practice in Seven Hills, Australia (Sydney).

We help people with disabilities gain more confidence and the independence to do the day to day activities that they want to do.

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