Walking poles are exactly as their name would suggest – poles or ‘sticks’ that you touch to the ground while walking.
There are several reasons to use walking poles when out trekking. Walking poles help you move across terrain quicker, provide additional support and reduce the amount of effort required, which means you can go further during your walks.
When used correctly walking poles can significantly increase your pace which has additional health benefits. You will increase your heart rate and oxygen uptake without feeling like you are expending vast amounts more energy and the workload will be spread across different muscle groups, not just your legs!
Walking poles also offer increased support and stability on unfamiliar ground and uneven surfaces. The extra two points of contact with the ground will increase your confidence, especially if you are feeling tired towards the end of your walk.
Another great benefit of using walking poles is that they improve posture, especially important if you are carrying a heavy load. Walking poles will make you more conscious of being upright whilst walking. There is a tendency to slump forward whilst going uphill which shifts your centre of gravity and actually increases the chances of slipping or stumbling on uneven terrain. The poles will help you keep your body position more upright so you can use your arms and shoulders to propel yourself up the trail easier.
Most walking poles will all contain the same features, such as…
Picking a walking pole is mostly down to personal preference. For example, you may want one that packs up small for traveling like the Compact Walking Pole or one that is spring assisted and ideal for mountain use like the Hiker Walking Pole.
Perhaps you are looking for extra grip, in which case the Walker Pole has a larger handle than most. Or if you are planning to walk mostly on hard surfaces, you might look for poles with a Tungsten Carbide Tip, which is a strong, dense metal on the end of the pole. You’ll also find this in the Walker Pole. Whatever your budget or needs, Mountain Warehouse have a walking pole ideal for completing your next trek.
Compact Walking Pole
Hiker Walking Pole
Nordic pole walking is different to normal walking pole trekking. Nordic walking can be traced back to Finland, when cross-country skiers used it as a training method in the summer. Instead of using the poles to distribute your weight, Nordic walking uses the poles to propel you forwards.
For this, you should use specially designed Nordic Walking Poles that have some different features:
Nordic Walking Poles
Generally speaking, walking poles should be the height from the top of your palm (when your arm is down by your side) with your forearm held out in front of you at 90 degrees to your body. Essentially the top of the handle should be at waist/hip level and your elbow at 90 degrees.
If you have particularly long legs for your height, you may find the height from the tip of your upturned thumb more comfortable and better matched to the length of your stride. Those with shorter legs might like to use the height from the bottom of your palm more suited.
Walking poles should be shortened by a few inches when you are traveling uphill to increase the load bearing pressure. If they are too long you might also find that you are overstretching when trying to plant them.
When travelling downhill the poles will take some of the strain off your knees. You should increase the length of the pole so you are not stretching out too much when placing the poles which will help improve balance. Depending on how steep the hill is this could be by as much as 10 inches.
If walking round the side of a hill rather than going up to the top, and down the other side use a shorter pole on the rise side and lengthen the pole for the fall side to give you best support.
All Mountain Warehouse poles will be adjustable, so you can change them for any height or terrain.
There is no definitive right or wrong way to use walking poles but there are ways that can help you use them more effectively.
Most walkers use their poles inefficiently, bending their arms at the elbow and placing the pole tip slightly in front to use the pole as support. A more effective way is to keep your arm in a fairly neutral position (which is with a very slight bend) and use the shoulders to propel yourself forwards.
Don’t grip the poles too tightly! Use a relaxed and loose grip on the poles, by using the straps you maintain good contact with the pole at all times.
Use baskets on your poles when traversing softer or unknown terrain as this will stop the poles from sinking too far into the ground and give you far greater stability and support.
Try to use poles in pairs, whilst it can be said that one pole is better than no pole, using a pair will give you the greatest level of stability and control as well as improving posture.
When travelling downhill position the poles slightly in front of you to lessen the impact of a fall off the hill. If you shorten your stride, this too will take some of the impact stress from the knee joints, which is especially important if you are carrying a backpack. If the terrain is very steep, icy or muddy, one useful technique is to walk down sideways, ramming the tip of the pole well into the ground and positioning the foot right up to it.
You should be using the poles to push off not help pull yourself up hill so try not to plant the tip of the pole in front of your lead foot. If the tip is too far forward, you will be using your energy pushing the pole downward instead of backwards. Try to keep the poles reasonably close to the body to improve efficiency too.
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