The benefits of walking poles are many: they reduce the stress on your knees, will help you cross rivers and provide stability on uneven or steep ground.
How poles help
Over a day’s tramping, walking poles can reduce the weight put onto your knees by several tonnes. Correctly adjusted, they improve posture, breathing, speed and stability over most terrain. Ascents, descents and river crossings are safer. Fatigue is reduced.
One or two?
Two poles is best – they will help with balance, stride and reduce the load on both legs.
Generally in three or four telescoping or folding shaft sections, made of aluminium.
Some poles are fixed length – offering extra strength and durability, but requiring careful selection to ensure correct size is bought. Variable length poles can be adjusted to suit the terrain or the user. Each pole section is secured with external clamps or internal expanders. Clamps are more secure because expanders can sometimes slip in wet conditions or when there is a lot of twisting on uneven surfaces.
Spring-loaded shock absorbers reduce impact on elbows and shoulders, though the compromise is a slightly heavier pole and a less secure grip.
Made from foam, which is soft and grippy even when wet, grips should be ergonomically-shaped. Some grips extend to the pole – allowing a quick change of grip without having to adjust the length of the pole.
Made from a breathable, moisture wicking material, the strap gives control over the pole without a muscle-tiring grip and can also help cushion impacts. They are easy to adjust and comfortable against the skin.
Baskets and tips
A hard-wearing carbide tip provides secure placement on all surfaces. However, these tips can damage tracks, so when walking on soft trails use the rubber end cap. A snow basket prevents the pole from sinking into soft ground or snow.
Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose a model.