Cathie's Corner

What walking aid should I use? Rollator, frame, walking stick or crutches?


Sometimes things happen or nature just takes its course, and we find ourselves no longer leaping down the last 2 steps, or even becoming hesitant about going out in a crowd. Instead of changing our behaviour or getting out & about less, finding the right walking support - be it rollators, frames, walking sticks, or crutches - can help us to regain our confidence and freedom.


If you feel you need a little more support to get around confidently and safely, you should select the most appropriate walking aid based on your specific needs, abilities, the environments/terrain where it will be used, as well as your body shape.


Photo of consultation to pick crutches


From walking sticks, through to frames and rollators, the key is the right fit, ease of use, and comfort. You must like the support you select and be happy to use it as required for safely getting around. Many people use different items for different situations. For example, a walking stick might be enough support around the home where the ground is mostly flat, but a rollator walker might be a better choice for added stability when out in a crowd, venturing out to unknown terrain, or where the distance you need to walk is further than you are comfortable with.


The great advantage of many walkers is that they come with a built-in seat and handle brake for those times when you must stand and wait, or where you might need a rest on the way to your destination.


There are many types of walking supports to consider and each offer different levels of support and versatility.

This guide is designed to help you choose which walking aid is the right one for you and your needs.



Often used following an acute illness such as a broken leg or after surgery on a hip or knee replacement. Crutches tend to be not as comfortable as other walking aids and are therefore mostly recommended for short term use. You can use underarm crutches or elbow crutches, whichever feel best to you.


Walking sticks & canes


A walking stick is designed to aid balance, helping you to feel more confident while walking and more stable when standing still. Using a stick as a walking aid is also helpful if you have an injury or weakness in one leg; the stick reduces the weight that passes through the affected leg making walking less painful or tiring.


Walking sticks are available in a range of styles, heights (often adjustable), and colours. You can find ones with different handle designs and grips, some that offer greater levels of support, as well as adjustable folding walking sticks that you can put in your bag when you do not need it - meaning you will never leave it behind again!


Not only should you choose the handle that is comfortable for your hand, but also consider the following:

  • Do you want to be able to hang it over your arm while you are using both hands?
  • Does it need to stand up by itself?
  • Do you need a soft grip handle if you have a bit of arthritis or pain in your hand?
  • Do you need a good grip on the ferrule (the tip) to give extra stability?
  • Does it need to fold up?


Will you be giving it a “lightweight” workout, or will you be placing a lot of weight through it? All these questions must be considered, then once you know the functional needs, choose one you like the look of. Some clients like to have a couple of different walking sticks, likening it to a pair of shoes – different looks suit different outfits and outings! If you feel comfortable with it and you quite like it – you will use it more often, and that is a good thing.


Walkers or Rollators

Image of grandmother using a rollator playing with grandchildren

These come with two, three, four wheels or “pick up” frames with no wheels at all. Most have brakes to add stability when you want to take a rest. The more wheels they have, the more manoeuvrable they are. Manoeuvrability can be very useful, but it also means you need to have more control so that they do not get away from you.


Reviewing the best type of walker or rollator should include:

  • your ability to operate and squeeze the brakes,
  • the height range of the handlebar,
  • seat height and ability to safely sit and stand from the seat,
  • if you need to carry items,
  • the space needed for manoeuvrability, whether it needs to be folded, lifted into the car,
  • who will need to lift it and therefore what weight is appropriate?


Our most popular walkers are Peak Ellipse 4 wheeled rollators. These come in lightweight aluminium and ultra-lightweight carbon fibre (like aeroplanes!) that allow you or a helper to pop them into the boot without any strain. These rollators have quite large wheels, which mean that they move smoothly and don’t get stuck on bumps in the footpath. They will go over a small indoor threshold or change of flooring surface with ease and they tend to feel more stable. The Peak Ellipse range all fold neatly and easily, taking up little space to store.


outdoor rollator and indoor rollator


Again, many people I speak to often have more than one walker, a more heavy-duty style with a seat and basket for outside use and a handy indoor walker with a tray surface for use inside. Our favourite ones have a removeable tray and a basket under the tray. Have you ever tried to carry a plate of food or cup of tea using crutches? This can be tricky if you have a limp, even if you use a walking stick. The indoor tray trolley solves this beautifully – safe travels for your dinner and at other times a handy carrier for washing, moving any items from room to room and a bit of a help to put things away from around the house.

The best thing most of us can all do for our health and independence is to keep as strong as we can on our feet. Rather than reduce your walking if it is getting more difficult, INCREASE it instead to regain strength and endurance. And if you need additional support to do that safely and with confidence, then get that in place as soon as you can to slow the decline and maintain your freedom.


Still not sure which one is best for you?

While these tips are designed to provide general help about walking aids, Leef’s in-store Solutions Specialists can help you choose between our large range of walking sticks, frames and rollators - just drop into one of our 15 independent living centres and one of our expert and helpful team members will be more than happy to assist you.


There are also many wonderful caring health professionals to give you individualised support and advice to help you to choose the best support products for your needs and advise on any treatment that might help you to be the best you can be.


Our team have years of experience in finding the right products and will tailor the solutions based on your needs.
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