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Avoid Missteps: A Small Guide on How to Use Some Walking Aids

To be injured and not be able to walk is certainly one of the most debilitating things. Whether due to an injury or surgery, reduced mobility is a challenge in everyday life … especially when we do not know how to use a cane or crutches to help ourselves! Here is a little easy and simple guide that will help you use these often misused walking aids .


The important thing with crutches is to adjust them properly for your size in order to optimize the comfort and to prevent further injury, such as a compression of the brachial plexus. Here’s how to adjust crutches:

  1. Height
    • To determine the appropriate height, place the crutch about 7-8 cm next to the foot when in upright position. When properly ajusted, the top of the crutch should arrive at a distance of 2 fingers under the armpit. If this is not the case, change the height with the adjustable part located at the bottom.
  2. Hand rest
    • The hand rest is the part that allows to hold the crutches. To adjust it, still place the crutch 7-8cm next to the foot of the person (standing). A well-fitting hand rest will arrive at the wrist when the crutch is placed under the armpit and arm extended, hands on the side. If this is not the case, use the adjustable screws to move the hand rests in the right height.

Once the crutches are properly adjusted, it is possible to place towels around the support at the armpit for comfort.

Regarding walking with crutches,  the gait recommended will depend on the problem for which it is needed to use them. Indeed, if you want to completely remove the weight from one leg , or only partially, the gait with crutches will vary. Here are two examples of possible patterns, a weightless and with minimal weightbearing on the affected leg.


  1. Bring the crutches forward
  2. Bring the good leg forward (weight on the affected leg)

Minimal weightbearing

If the right leg is injured :

  1. Bring both crutches forward
  2. Bring the right leg forward
  3. Bring the left leg forward


Your knee is sore? You have osteoarthritis in the hip? These conditions may cause you to want to use a cane to reduce the demands on the affected leg and facilitate your work. However, like crutches, the cane should be snug and the gait pattern must be adequate to ensure not to cause further injury with its use. Let’s start first with the adjustment.

Adjustment :

  • As with crutches, the cane is placed 7-8 cm from the foot of the person standing to adjust its height .
  • For cane, the hand rest is the only thing to adjust and must reach the crease of the wrist when the person is standing and the arm is elongated along the body.

Gait pattern with a cane

Contrary to what one might think, the cane is used on the opposite side of the affected leg. In this way, stress is reduced on the affected side, facilitating movements. Here are the steps to walk with a cane :

  1. Bring the cane and the affected leg forward
  2. Bring the good leg forward

If you want more information or have questions about the use of walking aids, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional !

Andrée-Anne Lorrain M.Sc. pht

Clinique PhysioMédic