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Use Trekking Poles to Increase Walking Speed and Comfort

[ KICK SCOOTING - 4/14/2013, updated 5/4/2013 - www.LetsKickScoot.com ]

>>  If you like getting out and about with a little push to your stride, by all means, ride a kick scooter. For a completely different, yet equally enjoyable experience, walk with trekking poles.

Landes stilt walkers of France

OK, the above picture does not show people using trekking poles. It is of shepherds from the Landes region of France with trekking poles attached to their legs. These trekking "stilts" allowed the "stilt walkers of Landes" to cover unpaved ground at high speeds; some as fast as trotting horses!

Likewise, using trekking poles when walking actually pushs you along, letting you walk at speeds similar to jogging, but without strain. Even when strolling, the use of trekking poles reduces the impact of walking on your knees, ankles, hips, and spine. At the same time, they exercise your upper arms. Best, while offering the means for excellent cardio workouts, they also provide stability, especially on uneven ground.

These Komperdell trekking poles are typical of telescoping types

Quoting from the website www.SlackPacker.com, "A landmark study published by Dr. G. Neureuther in 1981 proved that use of 'ski poles' while walking reduces the pressure strain on the opposite leg by approximately 20%. Furthermore, while walking on level ground, poles reduce the body weight carried by the legs by approximately 5 kg every step. Move to an incline, and that reduction increases to 8 kg. This translates into tons of weight - yes, tons - for even a two hour hike."

Gripping Trekking Poles

To walk with trekking pols, slip your hands through palm straps, and, rather than directly grabbing pole grips, you use those weight-bearing straps to swing your poles back and forth.

To prepare for your almost non-existent hold, thread your hand up through the strap, as shown below.

How to thread your hands through trekking pole straps, part 1

How to thread your hands through trekking pole straps, part 2

When your hands are in position (the strap connects under your palm, then wraps back under your thumb and over the back of your hand until it reaches a point under your little finger, at which time it leads back to your palm), swing a pole forward, pressing down on the strap after it lands, rather than on its head. Don't move the poles by clutching their grip.

Example of how loose your hand should be when swinging a trekking pole

How you match your stride to pole use is up to you. If you walk up a steep hill, consider shortening the poles. Lengthen them when walking down a very steep hill. On level ground, the top of your poles should be tall enough so that when holding them at their grips, your arms are bent at approximately 90 degrees, which is achievable by adjusting your poles' adjusting segments up or down. A little higher is also OK.

Karen Little of www.letskickscoot.com walking with trekking poles

Experts suggest various walking styles, including instructions on how to stop walking and rest! All information is valuable, but at minimum, do what comes naturally. Do not, however, stomp along as though your trekking polls were weight-bearing canes, although physical needs will dictate your style.

Note: I am not particular about matching the length of each my trekking pole adjustment segments from one pole to the other, but you might want to be more tidy.

Selecting Trekking Poles

Invest in the lightest-weight, strongest poles available.

The most popular poles "telescope," letting you quickly change their length as your terraine changes. That said, some people prefer single-length poles, such as those made from bamboo. No matter which style is purchased, they are most commonly sold as matched sets, although single trekking poles are sold for use as walking sticks.

Cork handgrips are supposed to be more comfortable when your hands sweat, but are not necessary. No matter what handgrips you buy, if you walk a lot on hot days, I recommend wearing palm-padded biking gloves. Possibly more comfortable are thick washcloths secured to each grip with rubberbands.

Make sure that the poles' telescope-enabling locking devices lock securely and are easy to use. If locks are poor, the poles will shorten as you walk, rendering them useless. Worse, pole length can unexpectedly give out when you increase pressure on them during up and down hill walks.

A variety of tips can be used, with rubber tips designed for walking on sidewalks, packed trails and roads. Metal tips (which the rubber tips conceal) pierce non-stable surfaces, like loose gravel paths, for greater stability.

The disk seen above a tip is called a "basket." Some basket designs are used to keep poles from sinking too deeply into the earth (especially helpful when using trekking sticks as tent poles or camera stands), while others are control tip depth in snow.

If you travel a lot and hope to carry poles in your carry-on, make sure that your selection's collapsed length fits.

Example of folded trekking poles

Add-ons include camera mounts, compasses, snap-on sports lights, and nylon tents specifically designed to use trekking poles as stays.


If you casually stroll with trekking poles, wear any shoes or sandals that are comfortable.

Keep in mind, however, that the use of poles encourages you to walk faster, which, in turn, heats and expands your feet. For blister-free adventures, consider wearing shoes with socks. Even better, wear shoes at least one size longer than normal. Invest in "professional" hiking shoes for walks up and down stiff hills and rough, natural terrain.

Mobility Improvement

Kick scooters and trekking poles extend travel ranges with greater comfort, stability, and speed. Some people who are afflicted with MS, balance issues, and arthritis not only agree, a few even use trekking poles to compete in community walking events!

Scoot with Trekking Poles!

For those of you who want the benefit of trekking poles and kick scooters, but aren't looking for a fancy solution, consider the following (taken from a YouTube Video).

hiking with trekking polls and kick scooter

Other Uses of Trekking Poles

Hitting attacking critters - Moving poison ivy and/or brush out of the way - Substituting for a tarp or tent pole - Resting and/or stretching - Probing the depth of a puddle or mud - Stabilizing a camera - Poking companions to gain their attention, or just for fun.


Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
Karen Little - Karen@LetsKickScoot.com

Article by Karen Little. Photos of Karen demonstrating trekking poles by Philip Little. Historical photo of Landes shepherds on a postcard and actual poles from the web. First published on 4/14/2013. All rights reserved by www.LetsKickScoot.com.

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