Do You Need a Cane or a Walker?

person walking with a cane

It’s come the time for you to choose the right mobility device. After years of walking independently, this is a decision no adult looks forward to making. Do you need a cane or a walker? Are there different types of walkers? How do you really know what you need? These are all common questions that may be running through your mind. 

For starters, we know that this isn’t the most exciting process. Nobody grows up looking forward to figuring out whether they need a cane or a walker, much less admitting they need the assistance of a mobility device in the first place. However, you are not alone. More than 9% of older adults rely on multiple different walking devices. In fact, 16.4% of older Americans use a cane and 11.6% use a walker.

Being two of the most common types of mobility devices used by seniors in America, it’s important to know whether or not you need a cane or a walker. Let’s look at the differences between the two and the pros and cons of each.

Types of Canes

Canes are popular for their ease of use as they are lightweight and not bulky. If you have mild to moderate stability or balance problems, a cane may be the right device for you. There are three basic types of canes:

  1. Single-point canes – single-point canes are the traditional type of device you probably think of when you hear the word “cane.” These devices have a single point of contact with the ground and C-curve handles for gripping. Single-point canes are best for people who need minimal supplementary walking assistance. These are usually made out of wood or aluminum and can come in standard or fixed heights.
  2. Functional grip canes – rather than a C-curve handle, functional grip canes have a vertical grip handle. This type of handle helps reduce stress on the forearms and wrist plus allowing better control and overall stability. 
  3. Tripod or quad canes – Tripod canes have three points of contact with the ground whereas quad canes have four points of contact allowing for maximum mobility and weight gain. However, using these canes requires people to sacrifice some speed for mobility as multiple points of contact slow down the pace at which people can walk.

Pros and Cons of Using a Cane

There are many benefits to using a cane rather than a walker. First, canes are fairly inexpensive, so they are affordable for virtually any budget. They are also lightweight and portable, so they are easy to move from one space to the next. You can even purchase some canes that can fold so they are easy to store in small spaces when you don’t need to use them. 

Being affordable and easy to maneuver, canes are far easier to use than walkers. However, canes are best for people who need minimal assistance with mobility. This is because canes only support one side of your body rather than your entire body. As such, canes are less stable than walkers, and if you aren’t holding it the proper way, you can easily lose your balance and fall. 

Another drawback of canes is the fact that if you are using the wrong type of cane, you may experience pain in your wrist, back, or knees. If you notice pain after using a cane or that you can only walk short distances with one, you may want to consider a walker or an alternative type of mobility device.


Walkers are 4-legged mobility devices that are designed to help people achieve greater mobility. Unlike a cane, walkers are recommended for people with moderate to severe balance issues or individuals deemed a high fall risk.

Walkers feature a wide base and spaced out handles, allowing individuals to lean on the walker and place some of their body weight on it. This makes walkers a great choice not only for people with mobility issues but also for people who have recently endured a major surgery.

There are two different types of walkers.

  1. Standard walkers – This is what most people think of when they hear the word “walker.” This device is made out of an aluminum frame that is height-adjustable. The standard walker is lightweight but sturdy enough to support one’s body weight. This is the best option for people who have enough coordination and upper body strength to lift and maneuver the device. These walkers may come without wheels or with two front wheels to help with mobility.
  2. Rollator walkers – Rollators can be thought of as a cross between a wheelchair and a walker. These devices are recommended for people who cannot use a standard walker. Rollators feature four swiveling wheels that make it very easy to maneuver. Most rollators have a padded seat and backrest so users can rest whenever they need. Rollators are most often used among seniors because they require little to no effort to use.

Pros and Cons of Using a Walker

When deciding whether you need a cane or a walker, keep in mind that walkers provide the highest level of stability when compared to canes and crutches. They are also used with both hands so they support and provide balance to the entire body rather than just one side. You may even find some walkers that are foldable and easily portable when traveling. Many people also choose walkers instead of canes because they feature a seat and backrest so individuals can stop and rest if they need to.

While walkers are extremely useful, there are some downsides, as well. Patients who are constantly leaning on their walker for support may develop poor posture. In addition, individuals who get in a rush while using a walker may lose control over it and end up falling. As a result, people who use walkers must be prepared to take small, slow steps. Lastly, walkers require a decent amount of upper body strength, so if the individual doesn’t have strength in their upper body, they may be better suited for a rollator or wheelchair.

Cane or Walker: Figure Out Which One is Right For You

Before you decide whether you need a cane or a walker, you should consult with a medical professional. They can help you find the right walking aid based on your individual needs. Contact us today at Kelmedix to get started.