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What’s the difference between Nordic walking and trekking poles?

Don’t get caught out!

Using any type of walking pole is a great way to increase your core fitness and strength and having your own pair means you’re always ready for your exercise session – no gym required! You can start exercising as soon as you walk out of your front door, go to a local park with friends or use them in a class run by an organised club.

Buying Nordic walking poles on the internet is fast and convenient and for some reason very few high street shops stock them, but we are meeting too many budding Nordic walkers who’ve been sold trekking poles by online sellers who are categorising them incorrectly. To make sure you’re not caught out here are some differences to look out for when you buy..

Nordic walking poles have a glove style strap

The most obvious difference is NW poles have a glove style strap which goes from the wrist up to to the palm of the hand and which always has a separate thumb hole. This is so when you release the pole using the Nordic walking swing technique you’re still able to maintain control of the pole.

Trekking poles have a loop

With trekking poles the grip is constant so there’s only a loose wrist ‘loop’ just to keep the poles attached should you let go for any reason.

Nordic walking poles have a quick release system

NW poles usually come with a quick release system for the strap, whereas most trekking poles don’t have these. The popular poles (Leki and Exel) usually have a button on the top to press or slide forward.

Trekking poles have a curved shape at the top 

Most trekking poles have a square or a curved shape at the top. Nordic walking poles are more streamlined. 

If you see poles that you like but are still not sure what they’re for feel free to contact us and we’ll advise you.

Six Tips to Get You Started when Buying Poles

If you’re feeling inspired to go out and buy poles here are six tips to get you started:

1  NW poles are adapted ski poles that are lightweight and can come as either a fixed length one-piece or in up to 4 pieces. Their job is to keep you in an upright and symmetrical position when walking, to strengthen the upper body and core and to help take the pressure off joints.
 
2  Nordic walking straps can come in different sizes and are usually sized for mens hands, so if you’re able it’s worth checking with the supplier which size is right for you. You want a snug strap but not too tight that it cuts off your circulation.
 
3  Trekking poles and hiking poles are basically the same thing. Their main role is to provide stability, help walkers get into a good rhythm and like NW poles they help spread your bodyweight.
 
4  Nordic walking poles are more sporty and work better on smoother terrain, including hills and most coastal paths. Trekking poles are better for rocky, uneven and mountainous terrain. 
 
5  If you want to walk on tarmac using trekking or NW poles you’ll need rubber ‘paws’ for the road end of your poles. Paws can either be attached to the pole and or manually put on/taken off. You do not need paws on grass or trail as you’ll be using the inbuilt spike as an anchor in the ground.
 
6  Using one hiking/trekking pole is not advisable as you are using one side of the body more than the other, usually the already stronger side. If you have to use one pole make sure you swap it to the other hand every 15 minutes or so. You should always use two Nordic walking poles. 

Whichever way you walk you’ll find there are a plethora of benefits when you add poles and if it’s muddy or slippery they can give you that extra confidence to get out there. Poles really can give you power!

The Bristol & Bath Nordic Walking Team

You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you’re looking for our advice on best walking kit here’s our recommendations: 

walking shoes     

waterproof boots     

waterproof jackets or  

walking socks (socks are an important but forgotten factor!).