What Walking Poles Are and Why They Are Used

You find yourself out on a hike and see someone walking towards you with what appear to be ski poles in their hands.

  • Why in the world would anyone use ski poles when they are clearly not on the slopes of a snow-covered mountain, careening down a steep hill?
  • Has this person lost their mind or is there a reason why they are using these contraptions?

Walking poles are known by many names:

  • walking poles
  • trekking poles
  • hiking staffs
  • Nordic walking poles

All virtually identical to their cousins used on ski slopes with a few notable differences.

Women on Mountain Peak using Trekking Pole

The Shock Absorbing System

Walking poles will typically utilize a shock-absorbing system, which vary by model, but are designed to lessen the shock of impact with the ground on the joints, in the hands, and the arms.

Some utilize rubber pads designed to also grip the terrain more proficiently while others employ metal studs with springs inside of an assembly.

What to Look For in the Best Trekking Pole Grips:

The best walking poles have hand grips that have been engineered to eliminate stress on the user’s joints.

Some of these feature special materials known for their ability to absorb sweat.

Materials typically utilized include:

  • cork
  • foam
  • rubber

Most of these grips will be accompanied by an attached strap that fastens around your forearm and helps keep the pole on your arm if you lose your grip.

However, these grips are ergonomically designed to make this event unlikely.

Pole Add-ons & Accessories:

Several brands of trekking poles offer various gadgets attached to the hand grip.

These can include but are not limited to:

  • a compass,
  • a thermometer, a flashlight, or
  • even a mount for a camera.

What’s the Best Walking Stick Material?

Female Two Walking Poles View over Ocean on Mountain

Trekking poles are fabricated from various materials.

Aluminum and carbon fiber are just two of the possible materials used.

Virtually every manufacturer is concerned with making a lightweight product that is user friendly.

Some trekking poles are sturdier than others depending on their composition. The price differences between products are generally associated with the types of materials used.

They can be as cheap as twenty dollars or as expensive as three hundred dollars.

How to Use Trekking Poles Like a Pro

A Collapsible Trekking Pole or a Non-Collapsible Trekking Pole, That is the Question

You have options as to whether you would like collapsible poles or non-collapsible poles.

Non-collapsible poles are simply straight poles, and it is highly unlikely that they will collapse when in weight-bearing situations. At most they will bend.

There is the possibility that when you use collapsible poles they will collapse when you do not want them to. However, for those who are space-conscious and would prefer to have a trekking pole that can be easily transported, a collapsible pole may be exactly what you need.

Besides, who wants to run around, or travel the world, with a long hiking pole poking out of their bag. Thus, in our opinion, collapsible poles are the best.

The designs of these collapsible poles vary greatly, and it is up to you to decide what system you prefer. Another benefit of collapsible poles is that their length can be adjusted to suit the terrain.

Why Are Walking Poles Used?

Now that you know a little bit about what walking poles are, it is time to talk about why they are used.

Balance and Stability

Trail Hike Pole Helps Stability on Uneven Ground

Much in the same way that ski poles help a skier maintain their balance on uneven terrain, trekking poles assist a hiker or walker with maintaining their balance and stability.

Depending on the type of terrain being traversed this can be a critical feature. Of particular significance are situations that call for a downhill descent. Slipping on loose dirt or gravel is common, and a hiking pole can help keep you steady and upright.

According to medical professionals, walking poles force you to engage your upper body in exercise that it would otherwise not participate in if you were simply walking without them.

The use of walking poles turns your walk or hike into an entire body exercise, so that while you are exercising and toning your legs you are also exercising and toning your upper body.

Defense and Protection

Trekking poles can be used as a defensive weapon in times of crisis.

This may sound a bit outlandish, but if you are placed in a situation where you must defend yourself a metal pole might do the trick.

Many people hike alone and without any means of defending themselves.

Dog, Women, Hiking Poles, Backpack

Predatory animals tend to stalk and attack people who are alone and avoid those in groups.

However, a metal pole might offer enough discouragement to the animal to keep you out of harm’s way.

Joint Relief

Walking poles help take pressure off of your legs and joints by distributing part of your weight to your upper body.

This weight distribution will help you avoid joint degradation in your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.

In particularly steep terrain this could become critical for those who suffer from any kind of arthritis.

Even on a day hike, trekking poles can make the difference between an enjoyable mountain trek or an arduous and unpleasant outdoor journey.

Perhaps it is time for you to go out and purchase some walking poles with all of this information in mind. Your body will thank you, and your level of fitness will improve with just one little change.

Hiking Poles Doc Heroic Icon

Nordic Walking vs Trekking Poles – What’s the Difference?