One of the biggest challenges in trail running is maintaining traction and balance on steep, technical trails.
While trail shoes help, there are times and places where even the best trail runners need a little extra. For additional support while on the trail, it’s tough to pass on trail running poles.
They improve stability, provide greater safety on extreme trails, and allow runners to use arm strength on climbs to supplement the legs. In fact, poles are required gear in certain mountain races.
Whatever model you choose, poles help you maintain stability and safety. But the best trail running poles offer a superior user experience: lightweight materials, comfortable hand grips, and collapsibility are critical when you’re preparing to embark on a rugged and physically demanding trail.
Fortunately, there are many great options for collapsible trail running poles that offer users the benefit of portability and durability.
We recommend the Leki Black Series Fx Carbon Trail Running Pole. It has a comfortable cork handle, an ergonomic glove-like strap, and an easy push-button to adjust it on the go.
Here are seven top picks suitable for every trail runner, regardless of height, ability, or location.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Leki Black Series Fx Carbon
Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
LEKI Ultratrail FX.One Superlite
1. Leki Black Series Fx Carbon
Leki is a mountain adventure brand, and they make robust equipment designed to handle the elements and rough terrain.
The Black Series Fx Carbon Poles comes top of our list for its hardiness and ergonomic features.
What We Like
The Leki Black Series Fx Carbon Poles are designed to withstand harsh conditions while still easy to use.
These carbon poles weigh around 8 oz, so it’s easy to carry them with you whether they’re folded up in your running vest, you’re holding them in your hands, or you’re actively using them to guide you on the trail.
One of the things we really like is the handle and strap configuration. A glove-like strap wraps around the wrist and palm and features a metal loop that can be attached to the pole quickly and easily thanks to the Trigger Shark Active Grip System.
This requires a quick push of a button with the thumb while lifting the hand—to remove the glove from the pole—or lowering the hand to clip the glove/strap onto the pole.
It makes it easy to use this pole as both an attached and an unattached pole. If you feel that you’re too restricted with the strap on your wrist, you can simply unclip it on the go and have more freedom to maneuver the pole.
The handle itself is ergonomically designed, and made of cork for sweat absorption, grippiness, and durability. It’s also light enough for the weight distribution of the pole to be very even, so it’s not top-heavy at all.
Folding the poles is simple. Just unlock the snap lock, pull the inner pole out, and fold it up. A handy cord inside keeps the pole together, ready to be folded and stored.
The tip is durable and grippy, perfect for uneven, rocky terrain. Another great feature is that these poles are light enough to not cause a vibration when you land them, which reduces fatigue on your arms and hands.
You should note that these poles are fairly pricey, although you will be getting a top-quality set of poles that can handle all types of conditions.
Why We Like It
These trail running poles are made by a mountaineering company. They’re durable, comfortable, and effective on a variety of different surfaces.
- A wide, glove-like mesh strap can be clipped on or off
- Push-button lets you easily attach to or disengage the poles
- Cork handles absorb sweat and remain grippy as you move
- Tips offer secure placement over a variety of terrain
- Although high-quality, these poles are pricey
2. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Flz Trekking Poles
Black Diamond is another company that manufactures equipment for use on rock, ice, and snow.
The Distance Carbon Flz Trekking Poles are also designed to handle tough conditions easily, improve your performance, and keep you safe on rough ground.
What We Like
The Distance Carbon Flz Trekking poles are aptly named, as they’re both robust and comfortable enough to go the distance!
Made of carbon, they’re light enough for comfortable use for long periods of time. They also use new technology to make them 30% stiffer than the previous versions of this pole, making them more durable.
Another feature that boosts the durability is reinforced joints, which strengthen the weak points of the pole.
Those joints create a 3-piece foldable design, easy to activate with just a push of a button, allowing you to store it more compactly.
The company’s FlickLock technology allows you to adjust the length of the pole on the go, up to 8 inches in length, for use on various gradients.
You can also change between carbide and rubber Tech Tips, so you’ve got an option to keep you safe on every type of surface, technical or plain.
A non-slip EVA foam grip provides comfort for long runs and reduces the risk of chafing, keeping your hands comfortable, and reducing fatigue as you grip the pole.
The hand straps are fairly robust and serve their purpose well, providing support for the hands and forearms as you move through long runs.
You should note that the attachment point for the straps is thin and easily breakable on rough ground if you’re maneuvering the poles a lot. You can buy replacement straps, but it is a flaw in the design.
Why We Like It
These poles are durable, come with interchangeable tips for effective use on various terrain, and have a comfortable foam handle. Those features, plus their lightness, make them suitable for long, technical runs and short, simple ones.
- Quickly adjust the length up to 8 inches while you’re on the go
- EVA foam grip is slightly contoured for a comfortable, non-slip grip
- Interchangeable rubber and carbide metal tips let you tackle different trails
- Reinforced support at pole joints enhances durability
- The straps’ attachments are thin and prone to breaking
3. Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
The Distance Z Trekking Poles offer everything you need to help you stay balanced and maneuver easily through rough terrain.
They may not pack in as many features as others, but they’re light on the wallet as well as quite usable in a variety of environments.
What We Like
Black Diamond’s lightest folding pole, the Distance Carbon Z is made for traveling light. Weighing just 6 oz per pole and at half an inch in diameter, they’re unobtrusive and easy to carry anywhere.
They may be thin, but the joints have been reinforced to add extra strength and support.
Although they aren’t adjustable in length, they do fold down to around 15 inches, making it easy to stick them in a bag when you don’t need them on the trail.
The handle is made of comfortable EVA foam, which features ribbing to allow for better ventilation while you’re holding it and provide extra grip.
Straps attached just under the top of the handle are labeled left and right, but they work well on either hand.
You’ll get both rubber and carbide tips with these poles, which you can switch out depending on your terrain. You need pliers to remove them, though, so it’s not really easy to do on the go.
The poles are also compatible with snow and mud baskets, so they’re very versatile.
It’s worth noting that these trekking poles aren’t adjustable in length. This may be a con for those who want some adjustability to better handle up-and-down terrain.
Why We Like It
The Distance Z Trekking Poles are the lightest ones the company offers and are lower in price than others the company sells. They’re superb quality poles for their price point, great for beginners or those who like to pack light.
- Interchangeable tips make these poles adaptable to different environments
- Compatible with mud and snow baskets
- Comfortable, non-slip EVA ribbed foam grip
- Packs down to 15 inches in length so you can carry them unobtrusively
- These poles aren’t adjustable in their length
4. LEKI Ultratrail FX.One Superlite
If you’re a Leki fan, these poles are extremely light and easy to use anywhere, any time. The lightness is just one of the great features of these poles, and they’d make great trail companions if you need some extra support while hiking or running.
What We Like
If weight matters to you, choose the Leki Ultratrail FX One Superlite trail running poles. The lowered weight—4.8 oz each, 30% less than their usual poles—comes from the redesigned plastic and cork grip, which now includes revamped air channels.
This serves the dual purpose of making them lighter and giving you more hand ventilation, keeping you cooler for longer.
A push button system allows you to fold the pole up into a 3-section length of just under 16 inches, the ideal size to stow away when not in use. Quick and easy to fold and reassemble on the go!
Their lightness may cause them to feel a little flimsy if you’re used to heavier poles, or even if these are your first set. They are built for durability, but some people may prefer something with a bit more of a robust feeling.
Why We Like It
These poles are the lightest ones you’ll find, so if weight is your primary factor, these would be a great choice.
- Lightweight carbon construction
- Quick and easy to assemble and re-fold
- Breathable, comfortable glove keeps you securely attached to the poles
- A great option for long hikes, long distance trail runs, and ultras
- Their lightness may cause them to feel less sturdy
5. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
If you want a set of trail running poles you can take anywhere, the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles are excellent.
They’re very robust and come with all the features you need to hike or run the trails in any season, any weather.
What We Like
This is one of Black Diamond’s higher-end products, and one of the most versatile. Its most unique and handy feature is the 4-stage shock-absorption system, which protects your hands and arms from being jarred when you land your pole on a hard surface.
You should know that the shock-absorbing system can’t be locked, which means it’s always active. This may not be a worry for most people, but for those moments when you don’t want any give, it may spike some annoyance.
It has a smaller-than-average grip, which people with small hands will appreciate! The foam extends down the shaft a little, which means you can move your grip down if you need to maneuver yourself on the trails.
The shafts are made from aluminum, a little heavier than carbon but highly durable. If you run technical trails often where poles could get beaten up easily, these are hardy enough to take the knocks. They’re also almost twice the size of most others when packed down.
Black Diamond uses an external lever Flicklock system to lock the pole out when it’s fully extended. It’s simple and highly effective, as well as very durable.
The poles come with 4-Season Flex Tips and snow baskets, so you can use them year-round, on any type of surface, and in any weather.
Why We Like It
Thanks to their hardy construction and unique shock-absorbing system, take these trail running poles anywhere you like. A small-diameter grip makes them suitable for almost anyone as well.
- Ergonomic handle with extended foam for an additional gripping area if needed
- Shock-absorbing system cushions and controls rebound with each strike
- Durable, lightweight aluminum shafts can be used on technical and rugged terrain
- Comes with 4-Season Flex Tips and snow baskets
- These trail running poles are somewhat heavy, and cumbersome when folded
Best Adjustable Trekking Poles
6. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
These poles are quick and easy to adjust to your perfect height. Share trail running poles with someone else or struggle to find something to suit your height? We can almost guarantee that these will suit you just fine.
What We Like
With an adjustable length of 29 inches minimum to 55 inches maximum, people of all heights can comfortably use the Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles. This is great news for people who struggle to find the appropriate height poles for them normally!
It also means that you can adjust the poles as you’re trekking to help you along steeper or flatter sections of terrain.
To accommodate the potential adjustment on the go, the grip is designed to be versatile. Made of moisture-wicking cork. The grip is angled at 15 degrees for extreme comfort and reduced fatigue over long periods of time.
It’s also extended down the shaft of the pole, for more versatility in where you grip when making your way across rough or uneven terrain.
These poles are made in both men’s and women’s models to comfortably fit the typical man or woman’s hand.
Even the bottoms are adjustable, with interchangeable tips and 2 different baskets included in your purchase. You can also adjust the tension on the FlickLock levels to your own liking.
The only thing that may be an issue for some is the folded length of these poles, at 29 inches. They’re one of the least packable poles on this list.
Why We Like It
These poles are adjustable in length for almost all heights, have an extended grip for more holding options, and you can also adjust the level tension to set the pole up exactly as you like it.
- Moisture-wicking cork grips that are angled for optimal grip position
- Foam extensions offer a lower grip for when you go up a steep hill
- Adjustable lengths between 29 and 55 inches can accommodate people of all heights
- Able to adjust the tension on the FlickLock levers
- The folded length of these poles is still quite long at 29 inches
Best Budget Carbon Poles
7. Mountainsmith Andesite
Sleek and durable carbon trail running poles tend to be pricey. These are one of the most affordable options we’ve found if you’ve got your heart set on getting a pair of carbon poles rather than aluminum.
What We Like
You can get these super lightweight carbon poles for a nice price, which will help you traverse tricky terrain quite easily.
The carbon construction makes them lightweight enough to carry with you wherever you go without much fatigue, although the folded length is a bit too long for comfort.
It also makes them extremely strong, so they should be able to handle any bumps and knocks they get on the trail.
This pole folds into 2 sections instead of the 3 that most others have. While that’s not necessarily a problem, they still extend to 32 inches when folded, which is close to 3 times as long as some of the others on this list!
These 2 sections telescope to any length between 31 and 55 inches, making them suitable for trail runners of many different heights.
As well as being light—11.2 inches per pole—the EVA foam handles are ergonomically designed for comfort. Their soft nature keeps your hands comfortable and helps to alleviate fatigue as you’re making your way through the trails.
The baskets also have locking pins that keep them stable but make them very easy to remove if you need to change them.
Why We Like It
These poles are made of carbon, making them strong and yet lightweight. They come in at a good price, making them ideal for newbies.
- Lightweight, with 2 foldable sections for easy storage
- Soft straps help you keep a secure grip when navigating terrain
- Adjustable length between 31 and 55 inches
- Removable baskets with locking pins
- It may be difficult to stow due to the 32-inch folded length
Buyer’s Guide – The Best Trail Running Poles
The lighter the better, when it comes to trail running poles. You don’t want to be swinging heavy, cumbersome poles around, as they’ll slow you down and have a higher chance of injuring yourself.
Material & Durability
Trail running poles are prone to bumps and knocks on the trail! You should consider the material of the pole to get a good idea of its durability.
Most trekking poles are made of either aluminum or carbon. Carbon poles are lighter and can take a huge amount of force applied from the top, so you can lean heavily on them.
Aluminum poles are slightly heavier but can take more of a beating than carbon poles on the trail. You may find small dents in aluminum poles after your runs, and even serious knocks will cause a bend rather than a break.
To find a pole that’s the right length for you, try this easy trick. Hold your upper arm next to your body, with your forearm at a 90-degree angle—parallel to the ground.
If the pole is the right size for you, the tip will be on the ground when you’re holding it with your arm in this position. If your wrist is lower than your elbow, the pole is too short for you. If your wrist is higher than your elbow, the pole is too long!
Folding or Fixed Length
Trail running poles come in either fixed lengths or adjustable/folding lengths. If you can find a fixed-length pole that’s the right height for you, you can use it quite effectively.
However, folding poles have some added advantages, and most of the poles on this list are folding ones.
Folding or adjustable length running poles have the advantage of being more compact. You can fold your pole quickly and stow it away in your vest, clip it to your belt, or place them in a backpack.
More advanced runners may enjoy changing the length of their poles depending on the terrain. If this is you, an adjustable-length running pole may be the right choice for you.
Foam grips are common, as the material is lightweight, comfortable, and easy to clean. You may also find plastic grips, but they can become slippery in sweaty hands. Cork is also sometimes seen, which is eco-friendly and absorbs sweat.
Wider straps disperse pressure better than thin straps, so they’re less likely to cause pain or chafing. A padded strap will also make the experience more pleasant.
Men’s Specific and Women’s Specific
Interestingly, some running poles come in versions specific to men and women. Men’s poles tend to be longer, with bigger grips that are designed for large hands. Conversely, women’s poles have smaller grips and come in shorter lengths.
Can You Use Trekking Poles for Running?
Yes, you can use trekking poles for running. They may not make much difference on straight, flat runs, but for hilly, uneven trail races, they can help immensely.
What Are the Benefits of Using Trail Running Poles?
Trail running poles can improve your performance and reduce fatigue by aiding you as you move through the trail.
Thanks to your arm strength, you’ll get extra support, which will take a bit of strain off your legs, especially as you’re climbing uphill.
Using running poles also helps you to keep your balance on uneven ground, acting like two extra legs!
This added support can also help you maintain a healthy posture as you begin to fatigue, reducing your chance of injury.
When Should You Use Your Poles When Trail Running?
You should use your trail running poles on steep uphills or uneven ground when you need a bit of help staying balanced.
You don’t need to use your running poles from start to finish when you’re on the trail. You also don’t need to use them every time you go for a trail run.
But they are a great addition to hiking or running up steep hills. The extra arm power will reduce strain on your legs and help you to get up those hills faster.
Tips for Using Hiking Poles Trail Running
To get the most effective use out of your running poles, you should choose the lightest ones you can get. This will reduce strain on your arms when using them and make them easier to maneuver.
Choosing collapsible running poles that can be stowed in a vest or belt will allow you to go hands-free when necessary.
If you want to carry them instead of sticking them in your vest, keep yourself—and others—safe by carrying them both in one hand, tips facing forward.
This will prevent you from accidentally poking people behind you, or catching your own feet on the poles as you walk.
When using them on the trail, take care where you place them. You will need to watch the ground ahead of you to choose a solid and safe-looking spot. Try to avoid getting the tip wedged between rocks or roots, as you could end up breaking your pole!
Last Updated 7/6/22