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How and When to Use Trekking Poles


Trekking poles are an important feature for hiking and mountaineering, providing the support and stability to help propel you forward and upward.

The idea of early retirement from our outdoor hiking adventures and replaced joints is a thought not many of us want to think about, but what can we do to ensure we still receive the enjoyment of hiking without putting too much pressure on our joints? Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see people taking up the use of trekking poles to provide optimal support to our knees.

How to Use Trekking Poles

flickr/emily polar
flickr/emily polar

Walking or trekking poles are designed to give the hiker maximum support so that they provide propulsion and support. Whether walking on flat ground or climbing steep hills, poles have the ability to increase your average speed, allowing you to cover greater distances.

Firstly, make sure that you adjust the poles so that they are at the correct length with the pole tip on the ground and that your elbow is bent at 90˚. Some prefer a pole that is slightly longer while others prefer one that is slightly shorter. Try different heights and see which one suits you best. Then make sure that everything has been adjusted before heading off, and you’re ready to go. It’s as simple as that.

The best technique to adopt is that of a ‘cross-country skier.’ The poles are angled backwards and in turn pushed into the ground before being dragged forward with each arm. With a little practice a smooth rhythm can be found with hikers experiencing the benefits of walking, particularly when walking uphill.

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When it comes to traversing over short, rocky steps, keep both poles behind you as you push down on them before making a step forward. When stepping down or descending steep sections, place both hands on top of the pole handles and lean forward placing the poles on the step below.

Benefits of Trekking Poles

flickr/emily polar
flickr/emily polar

There are three main reasons why people decide to use trekking poles. These are for maximum support and stability, reduced effort and better propulsion.

Support and Stability

The use of poles provides a walker with maximum support and balance, particularly when they are covering uneven ground or steep ground such as river crossings or along slippery bridges, which means that the hiker can cover more ground quickly.

Reduced Effort

By using trekking poles, you can reduce your walking effort, which means that you can go for longer while helping to reduce the impact on your legs, knees, ankles, hip joints and feet, which is certainly true when walking downhill.

Better Propulsion

By using your poles to ‘push off’ from the ground will help you to increase your forward motion, thus increasing your speed. This motion is copying that of cross-country skiers as it brings a walkers muscles together enabling an all-over body workout.

When to Use Trekking Poles

flickr/Ago Press
flickr/Ago Press

Hikers can benefit from the use of trekking poles if they:

  • Hike on a regular basis for fitness and enjoyment;
  • Walk on terrain that is considered challenging;
  • Carry heavy backpacks;
  • Want to utilize their whole body so that they can move quickly;
  • Suffer from knee, hip or ankle problems; and
  • Are looking for ways to increase their upper body strength.

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How and When to Use Trekking Poles