Walking Poles Buying Guide
Walking poles are a mainstay in many walkers’ kit, and for good reason. They can hugely reduce the fatigue of walking and offer a full-body workout with every use, as well as offering stability and pain relief to those who struggle with joint and muscle pains. Here’s our guide to what to look for when choosing a pair of walking poles.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of walking poles is the extra support they provide to people who suffer with pain in their ankles, knees or hips on particularly long or strenuous walks. Walking poles work by distributing the strain usually felt by these joints around the body, so the joint itself is under less pressure - on average, each pole plant removes around 3%-5% of the impact of that step!
Walking poles are great for stability on uneven, downhill or slippery terrain, and for judging the depths of potential obstacles that you can’t see very well, like streams or snow.
Using walking poles to push off from the ground is a great way to increase your speed and turn your walk into a full-body workout. Engaging your shoulders and arms contributes to excellent upper body strength, whilst distributing the weight of your load across the whole body is a great calorie-burning exercise, especially if your pack is heavy.
What To Look For
Telescopic vs Folding Poles
Folding walking poles are a great choice if weight and packability are your main priorities. They’re designed to be extra lightweight and to fit inside your rucksack instead of attaching to the outside, making them ideal for multi-day treks. Alternatively, telescopic walking poles tend to be the more durable option and are a great choice for most everyday adventures.
Shock-absorbing poles reduce even more impact, so are a great choice for downhill sections or if you have a previous injury or weakness to protect.
Different handle materials naturally bring individual benefits. Cork is a common material and the most environmentally friendly option, perfect for hot weather as it wicks sweat away from your hands and moulds to the shape of your hands. Rubber handles are great for insulating your hands and absorbing vibrations but can be a problem in summer as sweaty hands can cause rubbing and blistering.
Walking poles are usually made from aluminium or carbon. As with telescopic vs folding poles, the lighter option tends to be the less durable: carbon poles offer marginal weight savings but can be susceptible to cracking with extended or rough use. Aluminium poles offer great vibration absorption and durability over time.
Walking poles usually have either a clamp or twist-to-lock mechanism. Both are reliable, but clamps are easier to operate while wearing gloves.
Adjusting To The Right Length
Walking poles usually have two adjustable sections; for stability we recommend extending both parts equally. The correct length should create a 90-degree angle at your elbows when you hold the pole in front of you. When walking uphill, you should shorten the poles by 5-10cm, and lengthen them 5-10cm when walking downhill for the best possible support.
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