When my usually active elderly dad spent some time in the hospital, he was weak and unsteady when he came home. I worried that he would fall, which could result in broken bones or worse. So I got him a walking cane – but not just any old regular cane. Instead, I got him a quad cane which is a broad-based cane that provides better support.
Who should use a quad cane? Quad canes should be used by anyone needing more balance stability than a standard cane provides. The elderly and those who have issues with mobility can benefit from a quad cane. Also, people recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery often benefit from a 4-prong walking cane.
A quad cane is similar to a standard cane except it has a metal base with 4 cane tips. This kind of base means you have more points touching the floor than you do with a traditional, single-point cane.
Generally, the 4 feet (or tips) on a quad cane base extend out in an X-pattern to give the user more stability, however, there are some quad canes that have feet in a K-shaped pattern. In my opinion, the K-shape is close, but not quite as stable as the X-pattern.
If you are weakened from a medical condition or injury like my dad was, you may have changes in your balance when you walk. Because of their widened base, quad canes provide more support than traditional canes.
Often, individuals who had hip replacement surgery advance from a rolling walker immediately after surgery to a quad cane and then to a single-tip cane.
In general, the height of a quad cane can be adjusted to fit the correct size of the person using it. These canes are usually made of aluminum, which makes them lightweight.
An additional advantage of quad canes is that the cane stands up next to you when you aren’t using it. This reduces the need to prop up the cane to keep it from falling. It also keeps an unsteady person from having to reach down or squat to retrieve one that slipped to the floor.
About the Different Types of Canes
Walking canes are an essential tool for many individuals, providing support, balance, and an increased sense of independence. There are a variety of canes of different styles and designs, each with their unique features and benefits.
Of course there are multiple sizes as well to accommodate various heights and preferences. The most common types are the traditional single-tip cane, quad cane, folding or adjustable cane, offset cane, and hemi walker.
The type of cane a person chooses can depend on several factors, including their physical needs, lifestyle, and personal preferences.
Here’s a table summarizing the different types of walking canes:
|Type of Cane||Description||Key Features||Best For|
|Standard Cane||A simple, single-point cane.||Lightweight, easy to maneuver.||Those needing minimal support.|
|Quad Cane||A four-prong cane.||Provides more stability than a standard cane.||Those needing extra support and balance.|
|Foldable Canes||A cane that can be folded up when not in use.||Portable and easy to store.||Travelers and those who only need a cane occasionally.|
|Adjustable Canes||A cane whose height can be adjusted.||Can be customized to the user’s height.||Those who need a specific height for comfort and support.|
|Seat Cane||A cane that includes a seat.||Provides a place to rest when needed.||Those who tire easily or need frequent breaks.|
|Hemi Walker Cane||A wider cane that provides more support than a standard cane.||More stable than a standard cane but lighter than a walker.||Those with significant balance issues or partial paralysis.|
|Cane with Arm Support||A cane that includes a forearm brace.||Provides additional support for the wrist and arm.||Those with wrist or arm weakness or injury.|
|Fashion Cane||A cane designed with aesthetic appeal in mind.||Comes in a variety of designs and materials.||Those looking for a stylish option.|
|White Cane||A cane used by individuals who are blind or visually impaired.||Often longer and lighter than a standard cane, with a tip that can be tapped or swept in front of the user.||Individuals with visual impairments.|
Walking canes are also made out of different materials:
- Wood canes
- Aluminum canes
- Steel canes
- Lucite and acrylic canes
- Carbon fiber canes
Walking canes can be one of the most inexpensive mobility aids that you will be able to purchase.
Choosing the correct cane for yourself is a personal preference depending on the amount of weight that you can manage to handle. An aluminum cane will likely weigh less than a wooden cane.
Remember, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional when choosing a walking cane to ensure it meets your specific needs and is used correctly.
Quad Cane: Small Base vs Large Base
Quad canes come with different-sized bases – small, large, and what I call “mini”, which is actually a quad tip (as opposed to a 4-legged base). While large base quad canes are the most stable, they do have some drawbacks as you’ll see below.
Mini Base (Quad Tip):
My dad used an offset quad-tip cane. That’s his cane in the image to the right. He thought it was easy to maneuver and it wasn’t too heavy for him.
I still have his cane and I used it myself when I went through treatment for breast cancer.
My leg muscles were weak and frequently gave out on me from the chemo side effects, and for a while, I wasn’t very steady when I walked
The thing I really liked about the quad-tipped cane was that it kept me stable, but didn’t get in the way when I walked. It had the added benefit of fitting on my stair treads so it wasn’t a problem to go up and down stairs with it.
Canes with offset handles like this one help you center your weight over the cane’s shaft. This distribution of weight gives you better balance.
Small base quad canes are more maneuverable than large base canes. Their narrow base can fit better on stair steps and isn’t as cumbersome if you are trying to get through a narrow hallway.
Also, there is less user fatigue with a small base quad cane because it is lighter.
As mentioned above, broader base quad canes provide the most stability, but their wider base can also be a disadvantage:
- The large base can be a tripping hazard because it’s easier to get it tangled up with your feet, which can result in a fall.
- Because of the wide base, you can’t walk as fast when using a large-base cane.
- The large base won’t fit on stair treads which makes this type of cane unusable if you need to use stairs. For stairs, the cane’s base should measure no more than about 6” x 8” inches to fit on the steps. Measure your stairs before you buy a wide-based cane, to ensure the cane will work for you!
- A large base quad cane is generally heavier than other canes.
Quad Cane User Tips
- Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to determine which type of cane is best for your needs.
- When you stand up from a sitting position, don’t try to use a quad cane for support. Instead, stand first, then take hold of the cane.
- Have your doctor or physical therapist watch you walk with your cane to be sure you are using it correctly. In my dad’s case, he thought it was perfectly okay to carry his cane over his arm like a purse if he wasn’t using it. A doctor or PT would have taught him the proper way to use his cane.
- Eventually, the cane tips will wear out and need to be replaced. Because they fit snugly, you sometimes need to use a blow dryer to heat the tip where it meets the cane, in order to loosen it. Try working a bobby pin between the tip and the cane handle to break the suction first.
How to Choose a Quad Cane
If possible, don’t do what I did (grab a cane from the nearest drug store). At the time, I did it because Dad was coming out of the hospital and I didn’t have time to consult with his doctor about what type of cane was best for him. I just wanted to be sure he wouldn’t fall.
In reality, if you or your senior loved one are transitioning to a cane, you hopefully have the time to go to the physician or work with a physical therapist to decide what type of cane is best.
- Balance and strength are the major factors in choosing the right cane, with the weight and size of the person adding to the decision. People with significant balance issues will most likely do best with a wide-base quad cane. A frailer senior will probably need a quad cane with a small base or one with a mini (compact) 4-legged tip.
- Be sure whichever cane you get has anti-slip rubber tips or some type of non-slip tips on the end.
- Unlike standard canes, quad canes can be purchased to be used with either your right hand or your left. Some models can also be adjusted to fit either hand. If this is something you desire, it’s important to be sure your cane has this feature before you make your purchase.
- Be sure to choose a cane that will support your weight. Bariatric canes are perfect for someone with a bigger frame. They can support up to 500 pounds. If you need a bariatric cane, look for the weight capacity in the product description.
How to Adjust a Quad Cane
Improperly fitted canes can cause back, should, and arm pain, so it’s important to make sure the cane is the correct height for the person using it. Most quad canes have push-button height settings so they can easily be adjusted for the user’s height.
The best way to choose the right height for a cane is to:
- Have someone measure you while you are wearing your regular shoes.
- Stand up straight
- Let your arms fall at your side in a natural position
- The correct cane height is the setting that puts the cane grip at your wrist level.
Where to Buy Walking Canes
You might think that the only place to purchase walking canes is a medical supply store but that is not true.
Many local drug stores like Walgreens and CVS (and family-owned ones too) have canes for sale. Walmart also stocks them and online stores like Amazon.
So, look through as many places as you can to find the correct cane for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Medicare Pay For A Quad Cane?
Medicare Part B does cover canes as DMEs (Durable Medical Equipment). To be covered, you need a prescription for the cane and must rent or purchase it from a Medicare-certified medical equipment supplier. Also, Medicare only covers a cane if your doctor and DME supplier are enrolled in Medicare.
How Much Does a Cane Weigh?
It depends on the cane. Aluminum canes weigh about two pounds, but wooden canes weigh around 1.5 to 2.0 pounds. Quad canes with a large base weigh 2.5 to 3.0 pounds, while a small base quad cane weighs about 2.0 – 2.5 pounds. There are even carbon fiber quad canes that weigh only 8.5 oz!