So you’ve discovered Nordic walking and want to buy your own poles? Good news! Having your own poles is liberating. You can go out any time you want using a pole that is suited to your needs and a strap that fits your hand properly. There’s also much more choice than a few years ago so it’s a great time to be buying.
This blog’s here to help you answer:
- Should I buy fixed length, adjustable or travel poles?
- What’s the right length pole for me?
- What’s the difference between carbon and aluminium poles?
- Do I need to worry about what type of strap and tip system the pole has?
Before you look at the nitty gritty, the first two questions I recommend you ask yourself are:
- What do I want my Nordic walking poles for?
- How much am I prepared to pay?
Once you’ve got an idea on these two counts it’s easier to work out which Nordic walking pole is best for you. Also, I have to tell you now that there isn’t one pole that’s perfect for every occasion. Foldable and travel poles are fabulous in many respects but their tip systems don’t make them well suited for winter walking in the UK. Likewise fixed/adjustable poles aren’t very portable.
Fixed length, adjustable or travel poles?
This is your most important decision and will be driven by what you want to use your Nordic walking poles for.
|Fixed length poles||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|One piece pole.
No adjustment areas
Feels nice to use (good ‘swing’ weight).
No vibration with top quality poles.
Often comes with a speed spike tip which digs into the ground well and helps with technique.
|You need to know your exact length – there’s no room for adjustment.
Poles are sold in 5cm increments (100-130cm) and you might be an ‘in-between’ size.
You can’t easily travel with them.
|One adjustment either in the middle of the shaft (called an ‘adjustable’ pole) or near the top (called an ‘extendable’ pole)
||Good if you:
Don’t know what height pole you need;
Want to share your poles with others;
Want flexibility to increase your pole height.
More portable than fixed poles but won’t fit in a suitcase.
The ‘clip lock’ adjustment is easy to use (but many poles still have the ‘twist lock’).
|The ‘twist lock’ adjustment point can cause problems.
Generally heavier than fixed length poles and not as nice to use (extendable poles excepted).
Generally come with a bevelled (blunt) tip which can plug in soft/wet ground and skate across hard/rocky surfaces.
May not be suitable if you are on the heavier side.
|A three piece pole with two adjustment/break points.
||Very portable, especially the foldable poles.
Foldable poles very light.
Collapsible poles have a wide adjustment range and can be used all year round.
|Same disadvantages as adjustable poles – except that foldable poles are very light.
The elastic cord inside foldable poles can stretch and ‘bounce’ on soft/wet ground.
Nordic walking pole height
The textbook formula: Your height (cms) x 0.68.
The ‘rule of thumb’ formula: Hold the pole vertically beside you with your elbow tucked into your side (make sure you grasp the handle at the point where the strap meets the pole). Your forearm should be horizontal or slightly lower than horizontal.
The above is only a guide. For instance, when you start Nordic walking, a shorter length pole will feel more comfortable. This is principally because you are still developing your technique and it is generally easier to learn on a shorter pole. As you become more proficient a longer pole may be more appropriate (you can get more rotation and greater propulsion behind you).
Other factors include:
- Joint mobility – if you’ve had a hip replacement for instance you will probably want a shorter pole;
- Limb proportion – your leg-to-torso proportion impacts on your pole length which is why most instructors use the ‘rule of thumb’ formula;
- Posture – Your posture may well improve with Nordic walking and you may end up needing longer poles;
- Stride length and fitness.
My best advice is that you don’t rush in to buying a fixed length pole – wait until you’ve become comfortable with the technique. Also, choose a pole height that feels comfortable for you even if it isn’t your ‘text book’ height.
What’s the difference between carbon and aluminium poles?
You may have noticed that poles come in carbon, aluminium, or a mix of the two. Aluminium poles are a sensible choice if you’re only Nordic walking occasionally. Carbon is lighter than aluminium and absorbs more vibrations when the pole strikes the ground. Like bicycles, the most expensive poles are 100% carbon. It’s really a question of what your budget is. Even the most expensive Nordic walking poles are cheap compared with golf clubs, tennis racquets and most other sports equipment.
A key feature of a Nordic walking pole is the glove type strap. Pushing through the strap allows you to swing your arm more fully, giving you greater power and enabling you to use your whole body. It’s why trekking poles, with their thin looped straps, don’t work as a Nordic walking pole.
Your strap should fit your hand snugly to ensure a smooth transfer of power. Most makes offer small, medium and large straps and you can also buy straps integrated into a full or half glove. These are useful if you have arthritic hands as it helps to spread the load, making it more comfortable to push through the strap.
The way the strap attaches to the pole differs between makes and models and could be a factor influencing which pole you buy. It’s best to try first if you can.
Tips and paws
The paw is the stopper at the base of the pole. On Nordic walking poles it is angled so that you get good grip without compromising your technique. Underneath is the tip, usually made from a very strong metal such as tungsten carbide. Generally, you walk with the paw on when walking on hard surfaces and the paw removed when on soft surface, as this enables the tip to dig in to the ground and give you extra purchase.
Some paws are removable, others remain attached to the pole. Some tips are blunt, others sharply pointed. Once again different people prefer different styles. I like a tip with a sharp point as it digs into the ground and provides excellent purchase. A paw that remains attached to the pole is also useful if you don’t want to get mucky hands taking it on and off (but it makes the pole heavier and can affect the swing weight). For more information on tips and paws click here.
What to buy?
If you’re ready to buy and want a bit of a steer, here are some recommendations to suit different budgets:
|Fixed length poles||Gabel X-2 Carbon (£44.95) 35% carbon||Leki Flash carbon (£69.95) 70% carbon||Exel Nordic Pro Straight/Curve
|Adjustable poles||Leki Spin Superlock (£54.95) aluminium||Leki Instructor Carbon Lite (£79.95) carbon/aluminium||Leki Speed Pacer Vario (£125)
|Travel poles||Gabel Fusion (£49.95) aluminium||Leki Traveller Carbon (£122)
|Leki MicroTrailstick/Trail Vario (£125/£135)
|Poles if you’re tall||Leki 100% Carbon Genius 130-150cm £99|
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details of where to buy or if you have any other questions.
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