Your hiking or walking pole will come with a range of features to allow you to adapt them to different types of terrain. A key feature is the three interchangeable additions to the end of your pole, which you can swap out according to your needs.
The ‘tip’ is a pointy end that bites into soft earth and ice (and is the most commonly replaced part of the pole as these can loosen or get stuck between rocks and lost mid-trek). The ‘paw’ is a rubber end that is best used for walking on pavement, and the ‘basket’ is mostly used for sand, snow or soft dirt surfaces.
How to choose walking poles
Step 1: choose the right walking poles for you
The first step is to choose the correct walking or hiking pole for your needs. Heading on long, flat hikes and want to up your workout game? Go for a Nordic-style walking pole. Hiking mountainous terrain? Try a supportive hiking pole to make your climb easier. Climbing Everest? You might need a little more than a set of walking poles for that one.
Step 2: set up your walking poles
Start with your arms at a 90-degree angle bent at the elbow. Adjust your pole sections from the bottom up, lengthening or shortening so that they fit comfortably and make contact with the ground when your arms are bent. Generally, you’ll find that the handle should be in line with your hip level.
If you feel that the length is too long or short once you start your hike due to long grass or uneven terrain, simply adjust the sections.
Next, loop your hands through the wrist strap, gripping the handle and ensuring the strap isn’t twisted. Tighten the strap so that the pole won’t fall if you release your grip, but also so that your hand isn’t restricted or uncomfortable.
Step 3: come to grips...
Once you have set up your walking poles, spend a little time mastering your grip with a quick stroll around the neighbourhood. Slip your hands through the strap, securing the strap in place with your thumbs. Start by gripping the pole with your thumb and forefinger, then closing the rest of your hand loosely around the grip.
Don’t hold your walking poles with an overly tight grip – the wrist straps will keep your poles secure from falling.
The straps on your poles act as shock absorbers as you walk. They free your hands from vibrations that run up the pole. With this in mind, try adjusting your strap so that as you grip the handle just with your fingertips, the strap should support your hand. Doing this will help to reduce any fatigue in your wrists that may come from flicking your poles ahead of you during an entire day of hiking. So remember, let the straps do the work during the majority of the hike, but keep a firmer grip when navigating descents or unstable footing.
Step 4: learn how to walk all over again
One of the biggest mistakes people make when using walking poles is to use too much arm motion. Try keeping your arms in a neutral position, using your shoulders to push yourself forward rather than the poles themselves. Pivot the opposite pole forward with a flick each time you take a step.
A great way to start is to just let your poles drag behind you as you walk. As you begin to forget that they are there, slowly introduce them into your walking style, digging the tips into the dirt sightly ahead of you. This will help you use your walking poles as an extension of your gait, rather than a separate propellant.
If you’re planning to up your workout, try applying a little more pressure every time you plant the tip down, flicking the opposite side forward with a loose grip on the next step.
Step 5: store your walking poles correctly
Before storing your poles away after a hike, make a mark on each adjustable section in permanent marker so that you don’t have to measure the height each time.
If you’ve been trekking in wet climates, disassemble and dry your poles before storing to ensure they stay in the best condition possible. If you find your poles become dirty or the mechanism becomes stuck, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean them.