Menu Close

How To Walk Up And Down Stairs With A Cane

Share This Article
stairs

Climbing or descending a set of stairs with a walking cane takes practice. To avoid injury from an unexpected fall, it is often safer (and more stable) to hold the hand rail with one hand, which may mean switching the cane to the opposite side of your body and holding it in that hand.

When using a cane, you should always lead with your strongest or good leg. This is especially true when using a cane on the stairs. To help you remember this, think about this saying: “up with the good, down with the bad.”

Walking Up And Down Stairs With A Cane (Single Point Canes)

Knowing how to use a standard cane on stairs will help you and/or a senior loved one to more safely age in place in a multi level home.

Chances are that a physical therapist taught you how to properly use your walking aid (whether it’s a cane or a walker or other mobility aid) at some point.  But as you became more comfortable with it you may have started to forget some of the finer details on how to use it as safely as possible.

Following are the steps on the proper technique for how to safely climb stairs with a cane and of course, how to go back down the stairs too.

Going Up Stairs With A Cane:

  • Hold onto the handrail
  • Put your uninjured leg (or your strongest leg) on the first stair step. For example, if your right leg is weak, use your strong left leg to take the first step.
  • Next, shift your body weight to step up with both the affected (weaker) leg and the cane at the same time until they meet your strong leg on the first stair step.
  • Repeat this process while climbing up the stairs until you reach the top of the stairs.

Going Down Stairs With A Cane:

  • Hold onto the handrail
  • Put your weight on your stronger (unaffected) leg (example: if your left leg is stronger, put your weight on that leg).
  • Move the cane down to the next step below you.
  • Then move the weaker leg down to the step the cane is now balancing on.
  • Last, step down with your stronger (unaffected) leg. Both legs and the cane should now all be on the same stair step.
  • Repeat, step by step until you reach the bottom.

*Sometimes it is recommended to move the cane and weak leg simultaneously while descending stairs, but I think this can make you too unstable in some cases. When I used my dad’s cane while I was weak from getting chemo, I was much more balanced when I used the method I detailed above.

Step By Step Instructions On How To Use A Walking Cane On Stairs

The following video will demonstrate the proper use of a walking aid on stairs.

:

How To Use A Quad Cane On Stairs

Just like learning to walk with a quad cane takes practice, so does climbing or descending stairs with one.

The procedure for going down the stairs with a quad cane is very similar to how you do it while using a traditional cane, HOWEVER, you must take the wider base of support into account. Be very certain that the entire base is on the stairs before you lean your weight on the cane!

Going Up Stairs With A Quad Cane

  • Hold onto the handrail for extra support
  • Use the unaffected (or strongest) leg to step up onto the first stair step. For example, if your left leg is weak, use your strong right leg to step up first.
  • Next, simultaneously move the affected (weaker side) leg and the quad cane to the same stair step you are standing on.
  • Repeat this pattern for each stair step

Going Down Stairs With A Quad Cane

  • Hold onto the handrail, hold your cane in your free hand
  • Stand on the stronger (unaffected) leg. So, if your right leg is stronger, put your weight on that leg.
  • Move the cane down to the next step below you
  • Then move the affected leg down to the step the cane is now balancing on
  • Last, step down with your stronger (unaffected) leg. Both legs and the cane should now all be on the same stair step
  • Repeat, stair step by stair step until you reach the bottom.

EZ-Step Stair Climbing Cane

When my mom-in-law was alive, she had an awful time getting up and down stairs.  It got to be so bad that she couldn’t even join the family at her nephew’s home (where most family gatherings were held) because she simply could not get up the five steps necessary to get into his home, which kept her more isolated.

I wish I had known back then that there was a product that would have made it easier for someone like her who couldn’t climb stairs, period.

I’m talking about the EZ- Step Stair Climbing Cane.

The idea behind this product is that it gives the user another, smaller platform to step up onto if they are unable to lift their leg high enough to get it up on a traditional riser / stair step.

In other words, the EZ-Step platform cuts the height of a stair riser in half, so the person only has to raise their leg about 3.5 inches per step, instead of the standard 7 inches. You essentially double the number of stairs but cut the height of each step in half.

This cane is also very helpful for those who can raise their leg just fine, but can’t flex their knee enough to get up onto a traditional step (example: while healing after knee replacement surgery).

The cane is lightweight (weighs less than 2 pounds) and adjustable from 29” to 39”. It also has an offset ergonomic handle and a non-skid surface. It’s base can be adjusted for right-handed or left-handed users.

It also can double as a quad cane and can support up to 350 pounds.

Going Up A Curb With A Cane

As long as we are discussing using a cane on the stairs, I should also address how to tackle curbs with a cane. As you might imagine, it is similar to how you would use a cane on the stairs.

The following instructions were obtained from the MedlinePlus website (from the U. S. National Library Of Medicine).

Stepping Up Onto A Curb With A Cane

  • If there is a handrail or very secure object that you can hold on to available, use it
  • Step up with your stronger leg first.
  • Place your weight on your stronger leg and bring your cane and weaker leg up to meet the stronger leg.
  • Use the cane to help your balance.

Stepping Down Off A Curb With A Cane

  • If there is a handrail or very secure object that you can hold on to available, use it
  • Set your cane down below the step.
  • Bring your weaker leg down. Use the cane for balance and support.
  • Bring your stronger leg down next to your weaker leg.

Remember, the general rule of thumb when going up or down stairs or steps of any kind – Up With The Good and Down With The Bad.

If at some point it simply becomes too difficult to use the stairs either with or without a cane, I recommend considering a stair lift or installing a residential elevator.

How To Select The Right Sized Cane

Nowadays, you can pick up a cane from a variety of places, ranging from the local grocery store up to online shops to medical supply stores.

There are many factors that cane users need to consider when selecting new walking canes, but size is perhaps the most important. Getting the wrong size cane can cause balance problems. If the cane is too short, you’ll have to stoop forward to use it, which can cause pain in your back and shoulders. If the cane is too tall, you’ll have to hunch over to grip it properly, which can also lead to discomfort.

  • First, you are testing a cane for the right size / height, be sure to try them out in the shoes you’ll be wearing most often. Heel height can make a difference in how comfortable the cane feels.
  • Next, when selecting the right height cane, the general rule is that the top of the cane handle should line up with the crease of your wrist when your arm is hanging naturally at your side. Another option is to measure from the floor to the top of the user’s hip, and then add three inches
  • In addition to finding the correct size cane, you should also make sure that the handle is comfortable to grip and that the base is wide enough to provide stability. Seniors who have arthritis will be more comfortable if the handle of the cane has a foam grip instead of a hard one.
  • Also, it’s important to consider the weight and materials of the cane. Seniors may prefer a lighter cane made from aluminum or composite materials.
  • Finally, it’s important to choose the right tip. The tip should be made of a material that will provide good traction and not slip on smooth surface (such as rubber tips). It should also be the right size for the cane. The cane tip should be attached to the top of the cane so that it doesn’t slide down. And finally, it should be easy to replace when it wears out.
  • Be aware that canes have a limit of the amount of weight they can bear. A cane that is one long piece can support up to about 300 pounds. An adjustable walking cane or a folding cane will support around 250 pounds. A bariatric cane should be able to support up to 500 pounds. Be sure to check a cane’s weight-bearing capacity before you purchase one.

Related Articles

How Does A Cane Help You Walk?

Who Should Use A Quad Cane?

Is Stair Climbing Good For Seniors?

How To Go Upstairs With A Walker

Modifying Stairs For Elderly Adults

What’s The Right Cane For You?

How To Help An Elderly Person Up The Stairs

Are Carpeted Stairs Safer?

Join our email list for SeniorSafetyAdvice