Adjusting a Cane to the Correct Height for Walking

a woman leaning on a cane

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Walking with a cane that is too short or too tall can be difficult, and it can put you at risk for falling or for injury. It's important to get the right cane so you can get around safely.

There are different types of canes, such as the common "C cane" with its curved head, or the functional grip model with its straight head for a better hold. The four-point quad cane offers more stability at the base. But they all need to be at the right height for the safest, most effective use.

This article explains how to properly size and adjust a walking cane, and how a physical therapist can help with your choices. It also details a few health problems you may encounter if the size is wrong.

a woman leaning on a cane
Rapeeporn Dangchan / EyeEm / Getty Images

How to Find the Proper Cane Height

While a cane can be an effective device to help you walk better, it works best when sized and adjusted properly. Canes are usually made out of wood or metal.

Metal Canes

Most metal canes are adjustable. Simply loosen the tension screw near the bottom and push the small button in on the side of the cane. You can then slide the metal parts of the cane to make your cane shorter or longer.

Remember to make sure that the push button is fully engaged in a hole and that you tighten the tension screw once you are done.

Wooden Canes

If your cane is wooden, you can make it shorter by cutting off the right amount on the bottom. Be careful not to cut too much off; you cannot make a wooden cane longer. A good rule to follow is "measure twice, cut once."

Fitting to the Proper Height

Follow these steps to make sure your cane is fitted properly. You should always consult your physical therapist or healthcare provider to make sure that your cane is right for your specific condition.

  1. While standing, hold your cane in one hand and let the tip of the cane rest on the floor. Typically, you should hold your cane on the side of your body opposite your injury. For example, if you have left knee pain, hold the cane in your right hand.
  2. When holding the handle of the cane, the cane should come to the level of your hip bone on the side of your upper thigh.
  3. When you grab the handle of your cane, your elbow should be bent approximately 20 degrees. A visit to a physical therapist may be in order so he or she can use a goniometer to measure your elbow position to ensure it is correct.
  4. An alternative way to measure your cane height is to stand with the cane at your side. The top of the cane should be at the level of your wrist when your arm is hanging comfortably at your side.

Your physical therapist can also work with you to help improve the way you walk. Hip and leg strengthening exercises can be done, and your PT can prescribe balance exercises to help improve your balance and proprioception. (That's your sense of body awareness in your environment.)

Your physical therapist can also show you common mistakes to avoid when using a cane.

Canes and Walking Assistance

If you are having a problem walking or moving about, you may need an assistive device to help you safely get around. A straight cane is a device that you can use after injury or illness to help you improve your balance and ability to walk.

Your healthcare provider or physical therapist should check to make sure that your cane is sized properly and that you are using your cane correctly.

If You Use a Cane Wrong

Sizing your cane improperly can limit your overall functional mobility and safety.

If your cane is too long, it won't provide the needed support for you while walking. If it is too small, it may cause you to have a forward-bent posture. This may cause back pain and it may bring your center of mass forward, leading to loss of balance and falls.

Be sure to take some time to size your cane correctly.


Walking with a cane can help you keep both your mobility and balance if you're having trouble walking due to an injury or illness. There are several styles you can choose, and your physical therapist can help guide your decision about the right one.

Your physical therapist also can help to ensure your cane is the proper height and that you are using it the right way. The general instructions presented here are meant to explain why the type and height of your cane matter, and how to avoid problems when using one.

Walking with a cane should feel natural and easy if you have taken the time to make sure it is the proper height. If you fail to size your cane properly, it can make walking difficult and may set you up for an injury due to a fall, so be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about its use.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Using a cane: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.

  2. Arthritis Foundation. How to choose the right cane.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.