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Crutches vs Walking Sticks

Posted by Mike Phipps on April 4, 2022

The lower half of a man; his right foot is bandaged and his left foot is without shoes and socks. There are two crutches that the man is using that are on either side of him

If you need a mobility aid that feels more stable and secure than a walking stick does, then crutches may be for you.

Crutches provide more support and are an excellent disability aid to help people get back on their feet if they’ve had an accident, are recovering from surgery, or simply require more support than a walking stick.

The Benefits Of Crutches

Crutches help those with restricted mobility, or a health condition that makes walking, or weight-bearing on one, or both legs, difficult.

Crutches can be used for short-term, or for long-term needs, such as when living with certain conditions, or with a lifelong disability.

Crutches have been around for centuries and finding the ideal crutch depends on what you need.


Crutches come in all shapes and sizes, with the majority being made from aluminium.

A picture of the Evolution Elbow Crutch that has an ergonomic handle

Some of our range come with special features, such as ergonomic handles which help to spread weight evenly through the hands.

Most crutches are height adjustable.

Our mobility aids include forearm crutches where you can bear weight on your forearms instead of your hands, lightweight elbow crutches that reduces pressure on hands and fingers, as well as bariatric crutches that support a heavier weight.

A close up of the Wedge Handle Elbow Crutches

Elbow crutches are the most popular.


A link to the Let's Twist Again Crutches

Crutches don’t just have to be NHS grey, either! Although we do stock grey crutches, we also have other colours and designs.

Safe Use

There are some simple ways to make your home safer when using crutches.

A living room with large clear areas that would be accessible for someone using a crutch

Be mindful of the dangers while moving around. Try to make sure you have wide pathways around your home, move any trip hazards such as electric leads, boxes and rugs. If possible, move furniture to leave clear areas so you can move easily from room to room.


One of the many bath mats that are available for sale on the Ability Superstore website

To make sure you stay safe while in the bathroom, use non-slip bathmats and grab bars, and remove any loose bathmats.

Carrying Items

A backpack next to some books. There are some objects inside the backpack – folder, paints

If you need to carry items around the house, then consider using a backpack, or an apron with pockets, in order to keep your hands free to use the crutches.


A link to the – Lifemax Plug Through Night Lights

At nighttime, try and install a couple of nightlights so, if you need to go to the bathroom, the way will be clearly lit.

First Steps

When you are ready to take your first steps with crutches, you might find it useful to have a friend to help steady you and provide additional support.

The Right Way

When using crutches, including elbow crutches, it’s important that you use them in the correct way.

A photograph of a man facing towards the reader; he is using a pair of crutches. There are words explaining the correct way of using the crutches

When standing straight, the top of your crutches should be about 2.5-5 cm (1-2 inches) or 2 finger tips width below your armpits. The handgrips should be in line with your hips and your elbows should be slightly bent.

The weight of your body, including your upper body, needs to rest in your hand supports.


A photo showing the bottom half of man – the bottom of his crutches are around the size of his feet in front of him, as though he is about to take a step

Lean forward slightly and put the crutches (about the size of your foot) in front of you. As you prepare to step forward, begin as if you were going to use your injured foot, or leg, but instead, shift your weight onto the crutches.

Now, slowly move your body forward, finishing the step with your good leg.

Once your good leg, or foot is on the ground, move the crutches in front of you in readiness for the next step. Try and look forwards, not down!

Sitting Down

When you want to sit, stand with your back facing a chair. Now place your injured leg, or foot in front of you and hold the crutches in one hand. With your other hand, feel behind for the seat of the chair, lowering yourself gently onto it.

In the foreground are two crutches that are leaning against a chair. In the background is a man who is sitting on a chair - the two crutches are in easy reach of the man

When you are safely seated, place your crutches where you can reach them.

Standing Up From a Seated Position

When you’re ready to stand up, move yourself to the front of the chair. Now, hold both crutches in the hand on your injured side, then push yourself up and stand on your good leg.

Weight-bearing, Or Non-weight-bearing

Weight-bearing refers to how much weight a person can put through an injured part of their body. When you've had surgery, a joint dislocation, tendon, or ligament ruptures, these injuries affect how much weight you will be able to bear on your crutches.

A person with no physical limitations will carry 100% of their body weight through each leg. Different grades of weight-bearing are generally expressed as a percentage.

Following surgery, or an injury, you will be told by your surgeon how much you weight you can bear.

The different weight-bearing grades are…

  • Non-weight-bearing (NWB) – 0% of your body weight can go through your injured leg and foot; neither leg, or foot should touch the floor.

  • Touch-down weight-bearing, or Toe-touch weight-bearing – your foot, or toes may touch the floor in order to help you balance, but they should not support any weight.

  • Partial weight-bearing (PWB) – a small amount of weight can be supported by the injured leg.

  • Weight-bearing, as tolerated – this grade is for people that can support from 50 to 100% of their body weight on their injured leg/foot. The amount of weight that can be tolerated will increase, as time passes.

A man looking very happy and holding two crutches in the air

  • Full weight-bearing – the leg can support 100% of the body weight, and walking unaided should be possible.

When recovering, it's important to follow guidelines set for how much weight you can bear, allowing for a quicker recovery.

Climbing Stairs with Crutches

To manage stairs with crutches, you need to be strong and flexible. This can be tricky to do, so it might be best to ask a friend, or a family member to help you on the first couple of attempts.

Climbing Stairs When You Can Bear Weight Partially

A graphic showing how to go upstairs when using crutches

To go upstairs when you can partially support some weight you should face the stairs. Now bring yourself close to the first step. Place your weight through your arms and the crutches and bring your good leg/foot up onto the first step. Now bring your injured leg/foot and your crutches to the same step to join it. Repeat this movement for each step.

Descending Stairs When You Can Bear Weight Partially

A graphic showing how to go down stairs when using crutches

To go down the stairs if you have a partial weight-bearing injury, you need to do the following – make sure you’re close to the edge of the first step. Now move your crutches down to the next step, followed by your injured leg, or foot. Then bring your good leg down to join it. Make sure you take your weight through your arms to support yourself.

Climbing Stairs When You Can't Bear Any Weight

When you have a non-weight bearing injury – you shouldn't be putting any weight through your injured leg; all of your weight needs to be taken through the arms, the crutches and the good leg.

Bring yourself close to the first step. You’re going to take the weight through your arms. Bend the injured leg if you can, so that your toes don’t hit the step on the way through. Shift your body weight forward, bend your good leg and bring it up to the next step. Make sure you’re balanced before moving onto the next step.

Descending Stairs When You Can't Bear Any Weight

When going down the stairs with a non-weight bearing injury, you need to ensure your injured leg clears the step as you move, so you want to try and hold it out in front of you, or bend it.

Make sure you’re close to the edge of the step, then take the weight through your good leg and bring the crutches down to the step below. Then, utilising the weight shift of your body, bring your weight onto the crutches and bring the good leg down onto the step below. Wait until you’ve got your balance before moving onto the next step.

Take it one step at a time. If you feel unsteady, it may be easier to sit on each step and move up, or down, on your bottom.

Crutches can be a great way to improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls, but they should only be used as instructed by a medical professional.

Crutches are more stable walking aids than walking sticks and, with Ability Superstore’s extensive range of crutches, including elbow crutches, you’re sure to find a walking aid that works with your needs. Most crutches are sold as pairs, unless otherwise stated

Here To Help

Don't forget that we are always here to help and advise on any mobility and disability aid that would help you live your life to the full. Our team are available Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) 8.30am to 5pm. Or you can email us at or fill in our Contact Us form, if you click here!

Why Not Visit Our Retail Store?

A lady from Ability Superstore (Carol) standing in the Ability Superstore retail shop

Of course, if you are local to us, you could also pop into our local store in East Lancashire.

You can find at us The Mill, Gertrude Street, Nelson BB9 8RS. Our retail store is open Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) 10am to 4pm.