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You are currently viewing Shin stretches, tips for walking on tarmac and the latest developments in poles and paws

One of the benefits of the active heel/toe roll in Nordic walking is that it works all the muscles in your lower body, including your calf and shin muscles.  Not only does this give you beautifully toned legs and boost circulation, it also means that you’ll never, ever be a ‘shuffler’. (If you want a re-cap on how to get active with your feet, why not re-visit my blog Technique focus – heel/toe roll.) 

Of course, the more you work your muscles, the more important it is to stretch them afterwards.  We cover the big muscle groups during the cool-down at the end of our classes, but we rarely stretch the shins, simply because it’s tricky with your shoes on!  I’ve explained how to stretch this area before (Leg stretches – for your hips, calf and shins), but I wanted to mention it again as I know many of you are training for some longer walks, including weekends away and 10ks.

Upping your training frequency and walking distances challenges and strengthens your whole body but if you don’t stretch properly at the end, you also increase the risk of injuring yourself.  I would especially recommend that you incorporate a shin stretch into your post walking routine and I’ve recorded a short video clip to help you on your way – click here to view it.

For those of you training for Nordic walking the Bristol 10K (I gather there’s a great team of 16) don’t forget that walking on hard surfaces such as tarmac increases the stresses on your tibia (shin) bone and can result in shin splints.  To help prevent this happening:

  • do as much of your training as possible on softer surfaces such as grass;
  • buy some training shoes with good shock absorption as walking boots and shoes aren’t designed for walking long distances on tarmac and generally don’t provide sufficient cushioning;
  • don’t try to increase your speed by forcing a lengthening of your stride – this just results in overstriding which is bad for your hips, knees and shins.  Instead concentrate on increasing your cadence (I focus on the speed of my arm swing) and pushing off actively with your toes.

The latest Leki pole adjustment system and the new Lesu paws
As most of you know, I’m a bit of a pole geek.  I love tracking the developments in Nordic walking poles and testing the latest designs on the market.  Most of us use the excellent Exel fixed poles but I was very interested to see that Leki have brought out a new tightening system for their adjustable and travel poles.  It’s called the speedlock.  This adjustment system has been widely used on trekking poles for some time and I think it’s a great development for adjustable and travel Nordic walking poles. 

Instead of having to twist the pole shaft to lengthen/shorten the pole (we all know how irritating that can be), you simply open and lock a clip, in much the same way as you do for adjusting the saddle on a bike.  I’ve been testing its effectiveness on the latest Leki Instructor Carbon Lite and I’ve been very impressed.  It’s quick and easy to adjust and seems to clamp sufficiently tightly to stop any pole slide when walking with firm downward pressure.  A good advance for adjustable and travel poles.  The only disappointment is that the mechanism sits proud of the pole shaft so spoils the sleek look of the pole.

Switching from poles to paws, there’s a new type of paw on the market called the Lesu paw.  It isn’t really that relevant for those of us with the Exel poles and All Terrain tips, but all the same it’s worth knowing what’s out there.  This paw comes with all singing all dancing reviews from Nordic Walking UK, the main UK supplier of Leki and Gabel poles, but I’ve been unimpressed.  I couldn’t buy black for a start – so I opted for red over pink or bright green.  It looks like I’ve time-warped into red nose day or, as Laura said this morning, morphed into the old man from Up with the tennis balls on his walker.  Putting aesthetic considerations to one side, I have two issues with the performance:

  1. They are heavy, over twice the weight of our Exel paws and the other Leki paws. It felt a bit like an anchor at the base of my pole which in turn affected the swing weight and impacted on my technique.
  2. They slipped frequently when I extended the push behind my hip, again affecting the effectiveness of my technique.

The reviews would suggest that many people love this new style of paw but it isn’t for me.  On that note, my next blog will include a review of all the different types of paw and tips currently available on the market, including the options available for Exel poles.  Well worth a read if you have poles or are thinking of buying.