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How to Use Walking Poles and their Benefits

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 by Tim Willis

how to use walking poles

 

How to Use Walking Poles and their Benefits

How to use walking poles is one of those subjects that can divide opinion. In fact, whether to use them at all is also often a point of contention! You either love them and would not consider walking without them or you hate them and think they are a waste of money. No sitting on the fence there then!

It took me many years to change my opinion of walking poles, having carted them around on numerous expeditions and never actually using them. It was not until a friend mentioned that in addition to saving my knees on the descents, that they actually can make you quicker on the ascents. I have never looked back!

So what are some of the benefits of using walking poles, here are a few examples:

  • Probably the greatest benefit is to help your knees on the downhill sections of hills and trails. If you are one of the lucky people that do not have knees past their sell by date, then count your lucky stars, but also think about that old adage “prevention is better than cure”.  Poles can be very helpful in taking the pressure off your knees and they can also help protect your knees in the years to come, because one thing is for certain – we are all getting older! Walking off hills puts a large amount of impact through your knees and poles ease this considerably.
  • As mentioned above, using poles on the ascents is a great way to increase your speed. I find myself pushing up with my arms as well as my legs these days and this allows me to get to the top of the hill quicker and in better shape.
  • Using poles is also a great way of toning your triceps, loosing those bingo wings and getting more of your body involved when out walking instead of just using your legs.
  • On icy days, poles are a great asset to have as they provide 2 more points of contact with the ground and as they have sharp ends, they give good traction on the ground.
  • Most of us will not be wading across rivers, but on occasion, when the streams have been well fed by rain, then you may find yourself negotiating small sections of stream or shallow rivers where a set of poles will be a huge help in steadying yourself on the way across.
  • I often use my poles as a monopod for taking photos where the subject is quite far away and I need to steady the camera and lens. Also useful for sunset photos where you will need a slow shutter speed!
  • As with most kit, the technology has really moved on leaps and bounds and nowadays walking poles come with ergonomic handles, spring loaded tips, are made from super lightweight materials and are collapsible, allowing you to carry them easily on your rucksack.

 

How to Use Your Walking Poles

Well this blog would not be complete without a few handy tips on how to use walking poles. In keeping with the huge amount of bullet points in this post, we’ll try for a new record, here are some more useful bullets.

  • Going uphill it’s best to shorten the pole slightly and depending on the gradient these can be adjusted to be really quite short. This will mean that your arms are not way above your head when climbing and you’ll gain the maximum leverage from your poles. Similarly when descending the converse applies.
  • You may find that using the wrist straps gives you a great advantage by transferring the pressure and distributing it across a wider area. I find that when climbing this provides much more power and means I get to lunch and the views before my friends, (competitive streak alert).
  • Also using the wrist straps does stop you from dropping the poles which can happen with frustrating regularity.
  • They are equally useful in summer and winter and if you find a tricky obstacle like a deep stream or boulder section, they provide excellent balance. Just use the pole to triangulate with your foot position to provide you with a solid platform from which to make your next move.
  • Make sure you have a few extra straps on your backpack to carry the poles when you don’t need them as they can become frustrating if you’ve nowhere to put them.

Put your walking poles to good use – come and join us on an unforgettable Wilderness Scotland Walking trip

 

About the author

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Tim Willis

Having travelled and enjoyed adventures in much of the world, for Tim there is nowhere more beautiful, dramatic and captivating than home in Scotland. Travel has made Tim realise just how lucky he is to live in a country with so much history, tradition, scenic beauty and incredible accessibility. In his words "It is a total pleasure and a great privilege to host and guide visitors to Scotland each year."

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