Trekking poles are no longer seen as something just for the elderly rambler. From ultra-runners to hikers and mountain climbers, trekking poles are now a familiar sight on hills and mountains across Britain.
It’s all down to a recognition of the benefits poles can give – both to your health and your performance. For anyone struggling with knee or ankle problems, popping a pole in each hand should result in an immediate, noticeable change. That’s because walking poles take a certain amount of strain and stress off the back and legs.
By using two poles, you’re doubling your contact points with the ground. This minimises the impacts on the joints in the lower body, distributing the body’s weight more evenly – particularly if you’re carrying a heavy backpack. By employing the upper body to propel you uphill, or stabilise you as you head downhill, you’re also spreading the effort. And as a handy extra, walking poles push your posture upright; walking tall opens up the lungs and improves breathing.
All of this means you can walk faster, for longer periods, and recover more quickly. “A lot of people find they fall into a rhythmic walking style when they use poles”, says Michael Brechtelsbauer from pole-makers LEKI. “This can help to increase your pace and maintain speed on tricky undulating terrain. And our poles offer outstanding support and uncompromising performance because of their easy length adjustment and perfect grip.”
Trekking poles were introduced by LEKI in 1974, as a development from ski poles. Now the leading manufacturer, LEKI poles are used by Great British and Olympic athletes, and have become the pole of choice for Britain’s two biggest outdoor activity centres; Plas y Brenin in Wales, and Glenmore Lodge in Scotland.
Walkers and runners who choose to use poles also tend to notice an improvement in their performance; with the extra stability you’re able to improve both power and endurance when walking uphill, and increase your speed on the downhills. You’ll also get an upper-body as well as lower body workout. Using poles builds and works the arms, shoulders and neck, strengthening the muscles that support your back.
To ensure you receive all of these benefits, make sure your poles are the right length. Ideally you want your forearms to rest at 90 degrees to your body when holding your poles out in front, with the tips on the ground. And consider poles with an anti-shock mechanism, which can reduce the impact on your wrist, elbows, shoulders and neck by up to 40 per cent compared to poles that do not incorporate this feature.