Have you ever thought about needing walking poles but unsure about what you need to look out for? At Millets, we have put together a simple buying guide to choosing the right Walking Poles for you.
Grips & Hand Loops
For entry-level to midrange poles, rubber is the most common hand grip material. Rubber is tough, offers good grip, and is slightly soft for improved comfort. Some very cheap poles come with hard plastic handles. These offer little in the way of grip or comfort and are probably best avoided by most.
Next up on the price scale is high-density EVA foam. The improvements over rubber are lightweight and improved moisture management.
Finally there’s cork. As well as the nice look, cork provides the best moisture management of all the materials. With comparable weight and durability to EVA foam overall cork just has the edge on performance.
Regarding hand loops, the general rule is the more padding and comfort the better. In simple terms, if you do any significant amount of walking, be sure to go for a pole that offers some extra padding over the basic nylon strap.
For the most part, shafts are made from aluminium. It’s pretty much the perfect material for the job as it’s light and resistant to bending. Even the more ‘hardcore’ walkers tend to opt for this material, albeit for more expensive models with higher grades of aluminium.
The other big player is carbon fibre. The material is unsurpassed for its blend of strength and weight saving. Carbon fibre poles are generally for when you're carrying heavy loads and over rough terrain requiring extra shaft strength.
Incorporated into the shafts of many poles are anti-shock systems. Those who benefit most from these systems are those with upper limb issues and/or those walking significant distances on hard surfaces (generally roads). Deciding to go without such a system has the benefits of weight saving, and reduced length when the poles are packed down.
For years the standard twist-lock mechanism has proved to be very reliable. In fact, the benefits of the new clip-lock systems are only evident during packing and adjusting, rather than when walking. The two groups who’ll really appreciate the clip-lock system are those who struggle with grip, and those who need to regularly adjust pole length.
Lack of finger strength and wearing gloves can make traditional twist-lock poles hard to tighten and undo. For those who regularly experience these issues, clip-lock is certainly worth considering. In terms of the frequency of pole length adjustment, this need is dictated by changes in terrain steepness, and by how often you alternate from ascent to descent. In short, the more rugged and hilly your route, the more you will adjust your poles, and the more you will benefit from a clip-lock system.
Finally, despite being one of the smallest components, your pole’s tip is arguably one of the most important. Steel tips are common on entry-level poles and for light use will do the job nicely. The downside with steel, however, is a lack of durability when used on hard surfaces like rocks and roads. For leisure walkers, who more often spend time walking on roads, steel’s life can be extended if rubber bungs are used to protect the tips. If, however, your walks often take in rocky terrain, or you’d rather not use rubber bungs on longer road sections, you really need a tungsten tip. Identifying whether a pole’s tip is tungsten or steel is quite straight forward. Steel tips are usually silver or gold and shiny in appearance, whereas tungsten tips are very dark grey and matte in appearance. Tungsten offers significantly more durability and is found on most mid and upper range poles.
Now you have all the facts… search our website for the best poles for you.