Walking Stick Designs
Walking sticks are available with solid shafts or with telescopic or folding shafts, which are easier to pack.
Walking Stick Length
As a rule of thumb, a correctly sized walking stick should reach the height of the user's wrist when the user is standing and the stick is placed on the ground. This puts the handle at a comfortable height for the hand and allows weight to be transferred to the stick without placing undue strain on the muscles or joints of the arm. However, personal preference always plays an important part in this. Some prefer to be able to lock their elbow and to keep a straight arm when their weight is directly over the stick, whilst others judge a correct fit to be when the hand is on the top of the stick and the forearm is parallel to the ground.
A walking stick with a fixed length must therefore be chosen carefully although, particularly with wooden sticks, it is often possible to cut one to the exact length required (perhaps allowing for the attachment of a non-slip rubber ferrule.) Walking sticks made from metal are normally height-adjustable so the user can be sure of a comfortable fit, and he or she may even alter the length to suit different conditions or activities. This is particularly true of lightweight, telescopic walking poles, which are designed for use on steep slopes and uneven ground, and which therefore allow for considerable adjustment.
Walking Stick Shapes
The most common design for a walking stick is to have a straight shaft that ends with a single, slip-resistant rubber ferrule. This design is simple and easy to store and pack away. However, for people who require greater stability and support, there are wide-base walking sticks that branch toward the bottom of the stick and have three or even four 'feet' that spread the weight and achieve better contact with the ground. This makes them well suited for people who have difficulty balancing but the disadvantages are that they may be heavier than conventional walking sticks and their unusual shape may make them more difficult to pack away - for example on the back of a wheelchair or scooter.
Walking Stick Handles
Think of a walking stick and you'll probably imagine a traditional design with a shepherd's crook handle, but modern walking aids offer many other handle designs, too. The conventional crook is simple, elegant and easy to pack away or hang from a coat hook, but it is not ideal for people who have limited grip strength or who may need to place considerable weight upon it.
The ergonomically designed Comfy Grip handle is designed to spread weight evenly across the whole hand and is ideal for people with reduced dexterity or grip strength. There are other comfortable and weight-distributing handles available but they all work in a similar way by placing the weight on the palm
and the ball of the thumb rather than on the wrist and fingers.
The Derby grip handle combines a shallower curve on one side of the shaft with a short raised section on the other. The extra 'spur' provides support for the joint between the forefinger and thumb, so it prevents the hand rotating forwards. This makes it potentially easier for the user to transfer a greater amount of weight whilst still retaining much of the style of the traditional curved crook.