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Walking equipment

Walking Equipment Panel

Staying active and independent often involves regular walks, whether it's enjoying the scenic coastline, visiting local shops, or simply getting some fresh air. However, age-related changes like reduced balance, weaker legs, and foot pain can make walking challenging and raise concerns about falls.

Common scenarios and concerns

Lifestyle and equipment options to help you

Balance and stability issues: Difficulty maintaining balance can increase the risk of falls and injuries.

This can lead to reduced confidence, limited mobility, and potential fractures.

Walking sticks or canes: Provide additional support and stability while walking. 

Walking frames: Offer greater support and stability for individuals with significant balance challenges.

Reduced strength and stamina: Weakness in the legs can make walking difficult and tiring.

This can lead to limited walking distance and decreased activity levels.

Strength training exercises: Regularly strengthen your leg and core muscles for improved walking ability.

Foot pain and discomfort: Uncomfortable shoes or underlying foot conditions can make walking painful.

This can lead to reduced walking enjoyment and the potential avoidance of activities.

Supportive footwear: Choose well-fitting, comfortable shoes with good arch support and traction. 

Orthotics: Customised inserts can address specific foot problems and improve comfort.


Common challenges faced by walkers

Here are some common issues that can hinder your walking enjoyment and safety:

  • Balance and stability: As we age, our sense of balance can decline, increasing the risk of tripping and falling.
  • Reduced strength and stamina: Weaker leg muscles can make walking more tiring and limit the distance you can comfortably walk.
  • Foot pain and discomfort: Uncomfortable shoes, bunions, arthritis, or other foot problems can make walking painful and discourage you from being active.

Walking aids for enhanced stability and support

These walking aids can significantly improve your confidence and stability while walking:

  • Single-point canes: Offer basic support and balance assistance for those with mild balance issues.
  • Tripod canes: Provide a wider base of support for increased stability.
  • Quad canes: Offer the most stability with four points of contact, making them ideal for individuals with significant balance challenges.

Choosing the right walking stick or cane

  • Height: The handle should reach your wrist when you stand with your arm straight down by your side.
  • Weight: Choose a cane with a weight that feels comfortable and manageable for you.
  • Grip: Opt for a comfortable grip that provides a secure hold.
  • Rubber tip: Ensure the cane has a rubber tip for good traction on various surfaces.

Walking frames

These provide more substantial support than canes for individuals with significant balance issues or difficulty walking independently. There are various types of walking frames, including:

  • Standard walking frames: These have four legs and offer the most support.
  • Lightweight walking frames: Easier to manoeuvre but offer less stability.
  • Hemisphere walking frames: Designed for individuals with limited balance on one side of their body.

Choosing the right walking frame

  • Height: The handgrips should be level with your wrists when you stand with your arms straight down by your side.
  • Width: The frame should be wide enough for you to comfortably walk between the handles.
  • Weight: Choose a frame with a weight that you can easily lift and manoeuvre.
  • Rubber tips: Ensure the frame has rubber tips on all legs for better traction.

Maintaining strength and stamina for comfortable walking

Regular strength training exercises targeting your legs and core can significantly improve your walking ability and endurance. Here are some simple exercises you can do at home:

  • Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lower yourself down as if sitting in a chair, and then push back up to standing.
  • Lunges: Step forward with one leg, lower your body until both knees are bent at 90-degree angles, and then push back up to standing and repeat with the other leg.
  • Heel raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, rise up onto your tiptoes, hold for a few seconds, and then lower back down.

Footwear for comfort and support

Wearing proper footwear is crucial for pain-free walking. Here are some tips for choosing comfortable and supportive shoes:

  • Fit: Choose well-fitting shoes with enough room for your toes to wiggle.
  • Support: Opt for shoes with good arch support to maintain proper foot alignment.
  • Cushioning: Select shoes with adequate cushioning to absorb shock and reduce impact on your joints.
  • Traction: Ensure the soles of your shoes have good traction to prevent slipping on wet or uneven surfaces.
  • Fasteners: Choose shoes with laces or easy-to-adjust fasteners for a secure fit.
  • Consider orthotics: If you have specific foot problems like flat feet or plantar fasciitis, consult a podiatrist for custom-made orthotics that can significantly improve comfort and walking ability.

Additional things to consider

  • Start slow and gradually increase the distance and duration of your walks.
  • Walk with a friend or family member for added safety and socialization.
  • Choose well-lit and smooth walking paths to avoid obstacles and uneven terrain.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to traffic when walking outdoors.
  • Stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle on your walks, especially in warm weather.
  • Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

Where to buy equipment to help you walk

Plymouth City Council, NHS Devon, and Livewell Southwest have jointly commissioned NRS Healthcare to deliver the Safe+Well service, and they have over 2,500 daily living aids that you can purchase by mail order, telephone, or online.

View the Plymouth Safe+Well website

NRS has a dedicated phone line with a trained team of specialists who can answer any questions you might have. Just call 0345 6461860.

Other places to buy equipment from:

You might also like 

  • Free assessment tool: Select the area of difficulty that is relevant to you. You will then be asked a few questions to guide you towards helpful daily living aids. 
  • Free telephone advice line: Complete the online form, and we will contact you to arrange a convenient time to call.



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