Trusty Cane: Does it work?

Selling point number one for the Trusty Cane is that it stands alone. Selling point two is that it that it has a wide, 3-footed, pivoting base. The promoter calls it "The cane you can trust!" I took a Trusty Cane to some real cane experts at the West Seattle Senior Center, where people know first hand how a good cane can help you get around when you need extra stability.

Emily Malgren and Sharon Doman, who both use canes, were intrigued. It wasn't so much the fact that Trusty Cane is collapsible -- there are a plenty of those on the market -- but by the fact that the triple-footed, wide-based, pivoting-headed, stand alone cane also has built-in lights in the handle. It requires three AAA batteries, which must be installed in the handle with the use of a small, phillips-head screwdriver.

Sharon took it for a walk around the room and found Trusty Cane a big improvement over her old, traditional stick cane, which once belonged to a relative. Emily gave it a test drive and seemed to like it, too. But Emily already has a three footed, pivoting, stand alone folding cane called Hurry Cane. And therein lies the controversy.

According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, Hurry Cane was first on the Market. Last summer, the company that makes the Hurry Cane, martFive, cried foul and took the makers of Trusty Cane to court. MartFive alleged that the similarities between the two canes amounted to deceptive trade practices and copyright infringement.

In the end martFive's motion for a preliminary injunction was denied, so both canes are on the market. Trusty Cane has the built-in lights. The makers of the Hurry Cane have since come out with a new and improved model called the Freedom Edition. Both sell for about $40.

Emily and Sharon say they can see how people might confuse Hurry Cane and Trusty Cane.

"Absolutely," said the women, almost in unison. "It'd be very confusing," added Sharon.

On a scale of one to four, the ladies feel both canes deserve four stars, although Emily says she's happy with the Hurry Cane that she's used to. Emily says she likes the added light feature of the Trusty Cane and looks forward to getting one soon.

Based on our test and other consumer reviews, both canes require an even, flat surface in order to stand alone. Even with the 3-footed bases, some stabilizing might be required to make sure the canes are actually standing before you let them go.

Users emphasize the importance of regularly inspecting the base, the rubber feet, and the elastic cord inside the foldable shaft segments, to insure that they're in good condition. It's also critical to make sure the locking buttons on the adjustable shafts are in good condition and secure. Some users report the buttons eventually shearing breaking. The long-term success of the canes was not addressed in our test.