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Choosing A Suitable Mobility Device (Part 1): Walkers, Crutches and Canes

Mobility Aids/Assistive devices are equipment used to widen base of support, improve balance and stability, and unweighing to facilitate wound healing and relieve pain in walking. Studies have shown that most of the consumers obtain these devices on their own which predisposes them more to injury or fall due to the lack of knowledge in choosing the appropriate device to use based on their health conditions and needs.

Below are some of the common types of assistive devices classified from most to least stable:

1. Walkers/Walking Frames

Walkers/walking frames approximately transmit 85% of body weight and are the most stable assistive device providing support on both front and sides of the user. People with debilitating conditions, poor balance, and lower extremity injuries are frequently prescribed with this.

Standard Walker

Rolling Walker/ Rollator

Hemi Walker


Most stable among all walkers in facilitating mobility in the community.

Facilitate walking as a continuous movement sequence and better option for those who are unable to lift a standard walker.

Most stable option for stroke patients.

2. Crutches

Next to walkers, Crutches are the second most stable assistive devices transmitting approximately 40-80% of body weight depending on the types. Unlike walkers, these only provide stability on the sides of the user and require more coordination when used. These are usually prescribed to relieve weight bearing on lower extremities following joint replacements, injuries, or fractures among adults and children.

Axillary Crutches

Non-axillary Crutch



 Support about 80% of body weight, effectively redistributing weight of lower extremities.

Provides less stability (40-50% of body weight) but frees the hands for use without dropping the crutch


3. Canes/Walking Sticks

Canes/Walking Sticks unload weight bearing forces at the hip by 30% making it the least stable among the assistive devices. They are still effective in relieving pain in walking and widening the base of support to improve balance.

Quad Cane

Single Tip Cane



Provides a wider base of support.

Lightweight and inexpensive but least stable; prescribed to those whose upper extremities are not required to weight bear.


Aside from being familiar with these assistive devices, getting a medical professional help on the proper use and measurement of these devices are vital in achieving functional mobility and independence of the users in the safest manner.




Hernandez, B. S. M. R. (2011, August 15). Geriatric Assistive Devices. American Family Physician.

O’Sullivan, S. B. (2018). National Physical Therapy Examination Review and Study Guide (21st ed.). TherapyEd.

TherapyEd Physical Therapy Course Manual Version 6.0 (6.0 ed.). (2021). TherapyEd.

Image sources:

[Canes]. (n.d.).

[Walkers]. (n.d.).

[Non axillary crutch]. (n.d.).

[Hemi walker]. (n.d.).

[Axillary crutches]. (n.d.).