Seniors Mobility Aids

Differences Between a Walking Stick And a Cane

Written by Claire Bonneau
Last Updated :
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People often use the term walking stick or cane interchangeably.

Is there a difference between the two though?

Are there situations that call for when to use a cane or when to use a walking stick?

If there is a difference between the two, which is the better one to get?

Difference Between a Walking Stick And a Cane

Yes, both are used as walking aids by many people. Not known to many though is the fact that there is a difference between the two.

If you were to choose between canes vs. walking sticks, which one would be a more practical choice?

Walking Stick – Overview

In the past,  a walking stick was used as a defensive weapon. It could conceal a sword that could be drawn out at any time.

walking sticks with different designs

These days, a walking stick is like a fancy cane that is often used as a fashion accessory. It comes in many different materials and designs.

There are aluminum sticks and those that look like traditional sticks as well.

There are actually avid collectors of walking sticks but despite this, it must be remembered that none of these are actually meant to bear any amount of body weight.

Walking Cane – Overview

multiple point walking cane

A cane is a walking aid that can be used for individuals long term. It is designed to be able to bear a certain amount of body weight for people who may find it slightly difficult to walk or maintain balance.

Examples of these are individuals slowly recovering from a leg injury or seniors who are in need of slight assistance when walking.

When canes are mentioned, what may come to your mind is a standard cane with a wooden handle. There are, however, different kinds of canes designed to fit the needs of a particular individual.

Single-Point Canes

Single-point canes are the most common type of canes. It is a simple cane with only one single tip at the end.

Multiple-Point Canes

Multiple-point canes have more than one tip at the end. The more common one is the quad cane and the tripod cane. Quad canes are 4-prong canes while tripod canes have only three prongs.

Quad canes are the most stable of all canes and are recommended for those who may need assistance when it comes to keeping their balance.

Folding Canes

man holding a folding cane while sitting on a bench, one of the types of canes

Folding canes are the ones that can be easily stored. A folding cane offers can be pretty convenient for those who are usually on the go.

Seat Canes

Seat canes are foldable canes that have seats so that the individual can sit down on it when taking a break from a walk or from an activity.

Comfortable handles are a must when choosing a cane. There are different cane handle designs that can suit every user’s particular condition.

Crook Cane Handles

Crook cane handles are found in standard canes. These are rounded so as to allow the user to look for the most comfortable position possible when using the cane.

T-handle Canes

T-handle canes are also known as straight handle canes. These are for individuals who easily suffer from hand fatigue since the handles are designed to lessen stress in the area during use.

Fritz Canes

Fritz canes are similar to T-handle canes but with more curvature at the hand area. This is highly recommended for individuals suffering from arthritis.

In fact, this handle design is one of the most popular when it comes to cane handles.

Offset Cane Handles

Offset cane handles have the shape of a question mark. It is a curved handle that allows the proper distribution of weight.

Most quad canes use this handle design although this is not exclusive to quad canes alone.

Cane handle grips come in different cane grip styles. The cane grip style is equally important since it can offer different degrees of support and comfort to the user.

  • Foam grips are soft. comfortable grips.
  • Gel grips are made to reduce stress and fatigue on the hands.
  • Large grips are highly recommended for those who are suffering from arthritis or pain in the joint areas
  • Orthopedic grips are specially-designed grips customized to fit the hand of an individual.

Take a look at this video of the most common types of canes:

Canes and walking sticks are two entirely different kinds of objects.

Walking sticks are not designed for support since they are not able to withstand any extra weight or load that a person may place on them during walking or while standing up.

Although there is a vast selection or wide range of designs to choose from, none of these are designed to be walking aids. They do make for good fashion accessories or conversation starters though.

Canes are designed to support the bodyweight of an individual. In fact, there is a specific capacity that a particular cane can withstand.

For heavier individuals, there heavy duty canes known as bariatric canes which are made with an aluminum shaft or even steel for an even bigger weight capacity.

What Should You Choose: Walking Stick or Cane?

Should it Bear Weight?

a men getting help with walking cane

If you are looking for something that can bear your body weight, then it would be better for you to get a cane rather than a walking stick. Keep in mind that canes are designed to be able to bear the load, not like walking sticks.

If you do intend to get a cane, do take note of its maximum weight capacity when choosing one that will fit you.

What Do You Intend to Use it for?

A walking stick may probably be used as a walking or mobility aid for very short periods of time. Walking sticks serve more as fashion accessories so you cannot rely on them much if you need assistance during walks.

If you need something that will aid you during walking due to balance issues or recovering leg injuries, then a cane is definitely a much better choice.

If you are looking, however, for something stylish, a cane most probably will not be able to accomplish much. Canes are quite plainly designed, although there may be some designer canes that may still meet your fashion sense and taste.

Generally though, when it comes to fashion accessories, nothing can beat a walking stick.


Can a walking stick be used as a cane?

Generally speaking, no. Walking sticks are not designed to bear weight, unlike canes. Because of this, they are very limited when it comes to function so they can barely be used as walking aids.

Which is better a cane or a walking stick?

It really depends on what purpose one has in mind. As a fashion accessory, walking sticks have more designs to choose from that can certainly meet your personal preference.
If you are in need of assistance during long walks, or even just to accomplish certain chores, a cane is definitely more useful.

When should you use a walking stick?

There is no particular time when you should use a walking stick since this is more of a fashion accessory. It can therefore be used at any time.


Walking sticks and canes have different uses and purposes.

The former is used as a fashion piece and the latter is used as an aid for seniors and individuals who may have a problem in maintaining balance during activities such as walking.

There are many options available to suit the need of individuals who may be in need of walking canes and it is best to know which particular type can be used by you.

For seniors most especially, be sure to check out which are the best walking canes for seniors in order for them to get easily accustomed to using an aid that can greatly assist them in daily living.


  • “Turn Your Daily Walk into a Full-Body Workout.” 2020. Mayo Clinic. 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/walking-poles/faq-20057943.
  • “Which Type of Walking Cane Is Best for You?” 2020. Verywell Health. 2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/types-of-canes-2696276#:~:text=Canes%2C%20also%20known%20as%20walking%20canes%2C%20are%20just,balance%20by%20increasing%20a%20person%E2%80%99s%20base%20of%20support..
an old women getting help in running from walking cane

How about you, do you use a walking cane or stick? Let us know in the comments below!

About Author

Claire Bonneau
Claire is a registered nurse with experience in freelance medical writing. She is very passionate about geriatric nursing and seniors care and education (it is her favorite area of nursing). She worked with many seniors in a variety of medical settings to provide high-erLATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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