Should you be using walking poles?

Chances are that if you’re reading this you’ve perhaps seen someone using a set of walking poles and thought, I wonder why they’re using those? Or perhaps thought you’d like to give them a try for yourself but weren’t sure where to start?

Well let us and our friends at Leki help you out!

LEKI 2017 © Claudia Ziegler

What are the different types of walking poles?

The first thing to note is that not all walking poles are made equal and much like walking boots, there are a variety of poles out there – each has been designed with a specific purpose in mind.

To keep things simple, there are typically 3 main types of walking pole that you’ll find: Nordic walking poles, Trekking poles and Walking sticks.

Trekking poles:

Primarily intended for walking in the hills and mountains, trekking poles are fantastic for climbers as they improve your stability and stamina, especially while climbing or descending down steep inclines with extra weight such as a backpack. See our Guide To Choosing Trekking Poles for help in deciding what will suit you best.

Nordic Walking Poles:

Nordic walking is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and for good reason!  These are the most common types of pole you’ll find in the UK and they are designed to they transform walking into a full body workout. They are a great way of keeping fit and enjoying the countryside at the same time. The reason Nordic walking poles are so popular is because they involve activating muscles in the upper body to add greater intensity to the level of exercise whilst walking; all while reducing the impact on the legs and knees. Learn more in our Nordic Walking Poles guide. This is the type of pole we will be mostly focusing on today.

Walking Sticks:

Last but not least, we have the common walking stick. Designed for exactly what you think, these poles are generally recommended for those who are perhaps just looking for a little added security and stability when walking on uneven or slippery surfaces.

Why do people use walking poles?

As mentioned, people will use Nordic walking poles for a whole host of reasons other than just climbing mountains. The main reason many people have converted to walking poles is that it has been shown that using walking poles will reduce the accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees and back by sharing the load more evenly across the whole body.

There have even been some stories of expedition leaders who regularly use walking poles being able to work for many years longer than non-walking pole peers as the gradual reduction of stress on the knees can allow people to carry on walking further for longer.

Because poles essentially give you two extra ‘feet’ so to speak, they are also fantastic at protecting your knees when walking down hills, improving balance, improving your posture, walking faster, reducing fatigue and our personal favourite…Working out your upper body too!

Poles are also especially great when you have a heavier backpack on. There’s no getting around that when you have some serious weight on your back, hiking poles can help keep you stable, especially on a steep incline or decline. This is also why many people use poles when crossing streams or slippery surfaces as the poles can help anchor your step across slippery rocks. Even if you are not using trekking poles on a  hike, it can be great practice just to carry them in your pack just for this reason.

Other things to note:

Many walking poles also contain a number of features that you might not expect, for example those who use public transport and don’t fancy putting a big metal spike through the floor of a bus or train many are collapsible for your convenience.

When it comes to materials, carbon fiber and aluminum are both fantastic materials for walking poles as they are really light and sturdy to walk on. If you’re going to bang them up a lot, go with aluminum. Carbon offers a little more shock dampening, but can shatter if you really smash them around (which we wouldn’t really recommend!)

Something worth noting is that walking poles are really NOT for everyone. They are very much a marmite like product, some people love them, others simply can’t get on with them and that’s absolutely fine. As with most things, the knack usually comes with practice! If you would like to learn more about walking poles, or their uses, head over to or contact our expert team today!

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