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Walking Poles

More and more people are becoming aware that using a pair of walking poles, will benefit your walking, however there are many, both young and old who still view them as an irritant with no potential benefit.

This was brought to our attention once again first hand in 2009 when Beth, our University aged daughter, joined us for a week or so during the cross Scotland walk for the TGO Challenge. Although she was carrying a light 8kg pack, we both insisted, much to her objections, to take a pair of poles for the journey. Despite her protests and reluctance to initially use them, by the end of the first day she was thanking us for our gritted parental determination. In no time she became an advocate for pole use and whenever we met anyone that week on the hills NOT using them, she would explain all the benefits!

So what do they do?

Simply put, it turns your body into 4 wheel drive! Using poles will reduce the accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees and back by an estimated 8,877+ kg (31,500+ lb) per mile. It does this by sharing the load, helping with balance, improving posture and always providing three points of contact with terra firma.

Basically if two trekking poles are used effectively it:

·    Increases speed
·    Provides extra stability
·    Reduces fatigue and
·    In turn can increase the distance traveled in a day
·    Provides an upper body work out too
·    Allows you to walk looking up at the view and NOT down at the ground!

Anyone who is not sure about the value of using poles need only borrow a pair, load up a pack and walk for half an hour. Then carry on for another half an hour without using the poles. Your body soon tells you to use poles!

Pole Length

It is worth mentioning that the pole length should be set within the manufacturers guidelines.

There is some debate about what length poles should be set.  Some folk say you should adjust the length of your poles according to the terrain, as descending (longer) and ascending (shorter) requires a different length. Some poles have long handles to accommodate you moving your hand up and down the pole rather than changing the length.

However, Bob and I generally set the poles at one length and leave them. Our preference is to have the hand section in the grip of your palm when your arm makes a right angle to the ground (Forearm parallel to the ground bent at the elbow) but others advise having the top of the pole 2 to 3 inches below your armpit.

What does become apparent is that you accommodate to the poles if needs be. So for example the Trail Blaze Poles that are a set length, work fine for me at 115cm although I would generally set my Leki poles a little shorter.

Part 2 - Wrist straps and other pole uses