Have you just gotten into trail running and hiking and are wondering how to best use your trekking poles? We’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll discuss how to use those fancy poles.
We’ll cover how to adjust the height and straps, when to use them, and various techniques. By the end, you’ll be a pro at using trekking poles and ready to hit the trail.
What are Trekking Poles?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a trekking pole?
Also known as hiking poles, hiking sticks, or walking poles, trekking poles are like a ski pole that has a handle. They are commonly used for hiking to help walkers with stability and rhythm as they hike.
Advantages of Trekking Poles for Hiking
Hikers get lots of benefits from trekking poles. They allow your arms to help propel you forward, meaning that you’ll be able to go a little bit faster. Similarly, it will help you stay at a consistent rhythm and pace, which may also increase your speed.
In addition, when you deal with the unexpectedness of nature like thorny bushes or slick terrain, you’ll be able to push them aside or improve traction and balance on treacherous surfaces.
If you’re not sure how deep a puddle is, you can use your trekking pole as a probe to gather more information. Plus, they can also be used to defend yourself if attacked by an animal. Also, don’t forget that you can also use them as tent poles or as a medical splint if needed.
Finally, trekking poles make it easier to stop and rest if you have a pack on because you can lean on the poles. Additionally, trekking poles help to prevent injuries by reducing the force on your knees by up to 25 percent, making it much more comfortable on your body’s joints, especially when you’re going downhill.
Advantages of Trekking Poles for Running
You’ll get a lot of the same benefits of using trekking poles for running as you do for hiking, but there are also some advantages that are unique to running. For example, when you’re dealing with tough uphill terrain, trekking poles will help you get up faster because you have four points of contact.
Plus, they will support you if you’re tired as you near the end of a long run. This can be extremely helpful for your posture so that you don’t experience as much back pain and can run from a more upright position.
Using the Wrist Straps
They might not seem particularly useful, but the wrist strips serve an essential purpose—to make the trekking poles easier for you to use. Don’t cut them off! If you do, you’ll have to grip the pole with your hand, which is wasted energy when you could use the straps.
In order to use the strap properly, you need to put your hand in from the bottom and then put it over the top of the pole. You shouldn’t have a death grip on the pole, but instead just enough of a grip on the pole to keep it in place. The strap should be on your wrist.
You may need to adjust the strap tension to make sure that it is supporting your hand without you having to have a death grip on the trekking pole.
Some people add an extra elastic strap the same size as their wrist to the wrist strap so that the wrist strap always fits on their wrist with no adjustment needed. They argue that doing this allows them to concentrate on actually running and hikes as opposed to the poles themselves.
How to Adjust Trekking Poles to Right Height
While many trekking poles are adjustable, some are not. Make sure that you get poles that are suitable for your height if you purchase non-adjustable poles.
If they are adjustable, however, make sure that you set the correct height of the trekking poles. Ensure that your arms are at a 90-degree angle with the top of the handle at waist/hip level.
You also may also want to adjust the height when you are going uphill or downhill by 5-10 centimeters. You shorten for uphill and lengthen for downhill. Make sure that your poles aren’t completely extended when you buy them so that you have additional length if needed.
When to Use Trekking Poles
Trekking poles are most useful when you have a good amount of vertical change on the course. You should use the poles for stability when you’re going downhill and as a way of coping with the quickened pace when you run downhill.
Going uphill, you can use the poles for both stability and propulsion. Make sure that your pole strike and foot strike are aligned so that the upper body is helping you do the work. You should be matched up step for step.
When to Put Away Trekking Poles
You don’t really need trekking poles when you’re on flat terrain or easy downhills, so take this time to enjoy nature and not bother with the gear. When your poles are not in use, you can carry them in your hands for short periods or you can attach them to your pack or backpack to be hands-free.
Trekking Pole Techniques
Like much of running and hiking, it all comes down to personal preference, and there are a variety of different techniques that you can use. Depending on the pace you want to maintain and how much effort you want to exert, pick the technique that’s best for you.
This means using the left pole when stepping or running forward with the right foot and vice versa. If you’re walking, this is likely what you’ll typically do.
Double pole means using both poles at the same time. This is useful when you are on very steep terrain and need two extra points of contact.
Skip Double Pole
Like its name suggests, skip double pole means using the double pole technique every 2-3 strides.
Trekking Pole Tips
While trekking poles are great and will help you with balance, you do need to be careful with how you handle them. Be careful when you’re on rocky ground, especially on downhills, to avoid snapping your poles between the rocks.
Make sure that you push down on the straps, and not the pole grip, for efficiency and to reduce hand fatigue. This is why the straps are on there in the first place—to make it easier on your hands and to allow you to expend less energy there.
Finally, if you’re going to use trekking poles for a trail race, do yourself a favor and double-check that they are allowed. The last thing you want is to have trained with trekking poles for an ultra or trail race and not be able to use them.
In the end, trekking poles are a great addition to your toolkit as a trail runner or hiker. You can make your jaunts in nature more enjoyable by having an extra leg to lean on (literally!).
Hopefully, you’ve found this guide helpful and now have a better idea of how to best use trekking poles for trail running and hiking.