Question, Is there a correct length for using walking poles?
Both my husband and I have bad backs. I use my poles quite long with arms bent;
he uses his so that his arms are fully extended, elbows locked. Which method is best for relieving strain on the back and knees?
Walking poles are a very effective way of reducing the load on the legs and back. Each pole, when planted, reduces the load by around 9-l3lbs/4-6kg. Applying downward pressure can increase this to 15-251bs/7-llkg per step. If you are sceptical about the practical benefits of this (as I was), try hiking with a heavy rucksack for half an hour with poles and then carry on without them. You'll very quickly notice the difference! Using walking poles increases speed (uphill, on the level and downhill), improves balance and stability, reduces fatigue and the accumulated stress on the feet, knees, legs and back by up to 9,000kg per km/ 31,500lbs per mile. One pole is a benefit, but two is a bigger benefit. Unless you need a hand free or find using two poles difficult,
I recommend twin poles.
To get the maximum benefit from your poles you need to adjust them correctly.
Some manufacturers suggest adjusting the length to suit the specific terrain, but this isn't really necessary to get the best out of your poles. The simplestway to adjust them is as follows:
- 'Unlock' both the upper and lower sections of both poles.
- Extend the lower section of both poles to just below the maximum limit and 'lock' the lower sections.
- Stand up straight with shoulders relaxed.
- Place one pole under an arm and adjust the length so that the top of the pole is 2-3ins/5—8cm below the armpit.
- 'Lock' the upper section of that pole in place.
- Use the fully locked pole as a 'ruler' to adjust the length of your second pole.
This simple procedure should result in a pole length that is a good compromise for most types of terrain.
Finally, don't forget the wrist straps; these are critical if you want to get the most out of your poles. The important thing is to let the strap take the weight, which means it should be snug and allow a loose, comfortable grip from the fingers, which are just there to guide the pole, not to take a load. Hence it should not be necessary to grip the pole tightly with your hand in order to apply downward pressure. The grips can be used as necessary, but for 90 per cent of the time, the poles should be loaded using the wrist straps. If you are unsure about how to fit the strap, seek advice from the manufacturers.
Enjoy your walking!