With a bewildering array of walking sticks available to buy on the internet and in the shops, here are five top things to consider before you buy to ensure you purchase the right stick for your requirements.
The most important thing when choosing a walking stick is to get the correct height. The easiest way to discover what height stick you need is to stand up straight with your arms to your side and measure the distance from your wrist to the ground, then this is the height you need.
It is important to find out more about the measurements of a walking stick on a website before you buy because sometimes the measurements shown describe the total height (i.e to the top of the handle) and sometimes it is the height from the ground to the underneath of the handle. This could mean a difference of up to a inch, depending on the handle type. Some sticks are sold as a one piece, fixed length item and others are adjustable.
The second consideration is the TYPE of handle that will best suit your needs. There are generally quite a few different styles to choose from, all with their own special purposes.
Derby walking canes are popular because the Derby style handle is designed to hook over the wrist to free up the hands when required. Crook handles offer the same benefit, hooking over the wrist or arm.
Anatomical shaped handles, i.e handles made of a resin or moulded plastic which fit the shape of the palms are the most comfortable handle type. These types of sticks are usually sold in a right and a left hand model and usually bought as a pair. They are best appreciated by people who rely heavily on a walking stick (or two).
Crutch handles provide a reassuring grip, promoting confidence in the user. Crutch handles are also lighter and generally smaller than other handle types.
The third thing to find out about a stick is the maximum weight it has been tested to support.
Some sticks are stronger than others depending on the materials used to make the shaft. Carbide walking sticks are the strongest (and most lightweight) that money can buy. Other materials used are usually: Aluminium (for hiking poles, collapsible canes and folding sticks), wood ( Chestnut, Hazel, Beech, Ash and Hardwoods) or Bamboo. Aluminium is strong and lightweight, wood used for stick making is carefully selected, dried for a year and treated so is a reliable source for stick making and bamboo is flexible and strong.
Number four. Will the stick be for occasional or frequent use?
This is a very practical question you need to ask yourself to save you money and to get the perfect stick for you. If a stick is for occasional use (for instance, you may need something to lean on when in a queue) a foldable or telescopic stick is probably best. It is best to have a lightweight stick that folds or collapses down to a small size that can be kept in a handbag or rucksack when it is not needed so that you donít need to unnecessarily carry around a walking stick.
A flip stick or foldaway seat is a good option if you need a seat when out and about when there might not be any available (i.e at an outdoor event such as a fair or in an airport). Flip sticks usually incorporate a seat and a walking stick (with handle)in one, so you have the choice of a quick seat or stick as required.
If a walking stick is going to be used for frequent use, then a lightweight stick with a comfortable handle is the best thing, or perhaps even two sticks to evenly distribute your weight and the pressure on your hands.
The fifth point to consider is where the walking stick will be used. Will it be used around the house, for going to the shops and out and about, for walks in the countryside or to take away on holidays?
For use around the home, you will a stick with a rubber ferrule (tip) which provides a better grip on slippery surfaces than steel or brass ferrules. For general use around town, things to consider are the same as the previous points already mentioned.
For country walkers and hikers; lightweight hiking poles are an excellent choice as they are strong, lightweight and most importantly, adjustable. Usually sold as a pair, hiking poles can be easily and quickly adjusted in height. This is particularly useful for hill walking because you can shorten both sticks to ascend, lengthen to descend or have them at different heights for walking across a hill on a steep slope to help keep your balance.
There is a large choice of walking sticks on the market suitable for holiday makers. Any sticks that are foldable or collapsible compact down to a small size for luggage.
To summarize, the five most important points to consider when choosing a walking stick for yourself or for someone else are; the height needed, the best handle type to buy, strength and weight designed to support, how often the stick will be used and where.