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Inside The Outdoors

How to Size Hiking Poles

13.10.2014 | Hiking How to Guides

Nordic Walking Legs In MountainsThere are many benefits to using walking poles, from helping you establish a rhythm and covering more terrain quicker to providing support on unstable ground and reducing strain on your knees. Using poles set to the correct height will enable you to achieve the best from your walking poles.

Determining the Right Height

The best height for walking poles varies from user to user and is often down to personal preference. Always make sure you adjust the height of the poles to suit you.

For your height

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.

For different terrains

The above applies if you are walking on flat ground and you may find you need to adjust your poles for different terrains.


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 try 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.

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Adjusting Hiking Poles

Walking poles are available as fixed or adjustable. Adjustable poles can be useful for beginners who want to experiment with the height of the pole to see what suits them.

Adjustable hiking poles can vary in length from about 24 inches (61cms) to 55 inches (140cms). You will see numbers on walking pole that help you set the length of the pole to suit.

Adjustable walking poles will have a number of different sections that can be twisted to adjust the length. To unlock you will twist the pole one way and to lock you will twist the opposite way, this will often be indicated by arrows on the poles.

When adjusting to your height as per above it is best to start with the lower section. Hold the middle section, twist to unlock and pull the lower section until the stop mark appears. If you need to lengthen or shorten the poles when on the move you can adjust the middle section which is easier to reach when holding the poles.

Make sure to tighten the sections securely so the poles don’t shorten as you walk. Try not to over tighten as many poles work on friction systems within the poles that can often become jammed.

Once you are happy with the height of your poles, it is a good idea to mark them with permanent marker or a spot of correction fluid so you can set them up swiftly next time you go walking.