A common misconception is that walking poles are just for old folks. In reality, anyone can make use of them, regardless of age or physical capacity.
Whether you’re a walking newbie, experienced hiker or aging adventurer, you’ll definitely benefit from a set of walking poles. They’re designed to take the weight and impact off your knees, while giving you uphill and downhill stability. By taking stress away from your joints, you're far less likely to pick up an injury.
If you’re a complete novice, walking poles are a great way to ease yourself in and safely discover your capabilities.
Walking poles can be a surprisingly technical subject, so we’ll guide you through all you need to know before you buy.
Grips & Hand Loops
Standard walking poles will normally come with rubber hand grips. Rubber is an ideal material for hand grips as it is non-slip, durable and relatively soft. Cheaper poles tend to have hard plastic handles; these offer little in the way of grip or comfort, and are best avoided.
Further up the price scale, high-density EVA foam grips become more common. This material is lighter than rubber and offers improved moisture management.
Finally, if you're shopping for high-end walking poles you are likely to come across cork hand grips. Although comparable to EVA foam in terms of weight and durability, cork has the best moisture management of all grip types, making it the most comfortable for those who enjoy long walks.
Hand loops go around your wrists to help you keep your grip on your poles. As a general rule, the best loops are those with extra padding. Basic nylon straps can irritate your skin after a while, so choose poles with padded hand loops if possible.
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. Aluminium poles are even popular among seasoned walkers, albeit more expensive models with higher grades of aluminium.
The other main player is carbon fibre. It’s lightweight and extremely durable, the perfect combination for heavy-duty walking poles. Carbon fibre poles are especially useful if you're carrying heavy loads over tough terrain.
If you suffer from upper limb problems or predominantly walk on hard surfaces, it may be worth investing in shock-absorbing walking poles. Incorporated within the shaft section, anti-shock systems cushion any impact your poles make when making contact with solid terrain. This takes even more pressure off of your joints for ultimate comfort.
The standard twist-lock mechanism has certainly served walkers well throughout the years. In fact, the benefits of the new clip-lock systems are actually only evident during packing and adjusting, rather than when walking.
Most people will get by just fine with traditional twist-lock poles. However, if you struggle with grip and regularly need to adjust pole length, the clip-lock system is especially useful. The frequency of terrain changes and gradient shifts will determine how often you need to adjust pole length – that’s why we recommend clip-lock poles for hillside hikes.
Despite being one of the smallest components, your pole’s tip is arguably one of the most important.
Most entry-level poles use steel tips, which are adequate for most uses. However, steel isn’t particularly durable when it comes up against rocky paths or road surfaces. The life of a steel tip can be extended by attaching protective rubber bungs, but if you want to avoid the faff, tungsten tips are what you need. They’re extremely durable, making them suited to all surfaces – rough, smooth, hard or soft. Tungsten tips are almost exclusively found on mid and upper-range poles, so you'll have to pay a bit more to get hold of some.
It’s easy to spot the difference between tungsten and steel tips; steel ones are silver or gold and shiny in appearance, whereas tungsten tips have a dark grey, matte finish.
Take the weight off those aching joints with some stabilising walking poles. Shop the full range at Millets and find the right ones for you.