So you’re ready to purchase your own Nordic Walking Poles, here’s what you need to know.
The most important thing is to make sure you invest in Nordic Walking poles and not Trekking, Hiking, Snowshoe, or Ski poles. There really is a difference. If you want to go mountain biking you wouldn’t buy a road bike, or a badminton racket for tennis, or cross-country skis for downhill skiing. If you want to Nordic walk it’s in your best interest to invest in a pair of quality Nordic Walking poles.
Your Nordic Walking poles are an investment in your health and wellbeing. Poles are equipment, designed to be safe and effective for a specific activity. A quality pair will serve you well for many years and miles of walking.
Does it really matter?
A common question in class is “Can you use trekking poles for Nordic Walking?”
In a word? Yes, if it’s your only option. But your Nordic walking experience will be different. With some practice, you can adapt the technique and learn to make the grip and strap work for you. You will likely find that trekking poles won’t have a “swing weight” that allows them to move with your arm stroke, and they will make it more difficult to match the Nordic walking technique you see on videos and classes. Trekking poles used with Nordic walking technique are also likely to be louder on the trail.
I like this visual for Nordic Walking vs Hiking technique. Notice the difference in the arm and the position of the poles. The Hiker could be using 2 poles as well as one but the position of the poles would not change.
There are a lot of considerations in the design of Nordic Walking poles, and, a lot of expectations in their performance.
Nordic walking poles are designed to facilitate effective Nordic Walking technique. The pole straps ergonomically place the pole at the correct angle and make it easy for the poles to move in and out of your hand (note that Exerstriders have a specially designed grip that allows for the same action). This position allows the walker to apply pressure down and back to activate the muscles in the upper body. Nordic Walking poles used correctly increase the cardio, and, energy workout of your walk, along with many other benefits.
Quality Nordic walking poles will be made of materials capable of absorbing the impact and pressure of repetitive action against the ground. These materials may include aluminum as well as a mixture of other metals or carbon that will make the poles lighter. The rubber boot or tip allows maximum surface area to grip on hard surfaces ( the metal tip is for soft surfaces). Lock outs on adjustable poles need to be safe, effective and reliable relative to the amount of pressure you will put directly on the tip. Typically poles come with a warranty and replaceable parts.
As walkers we haven’t always invested in equipment for sports before so it can be daunting to consider spending $100 dollars on a pair of poles. But remember that this is a one-time purchase, you’re buying equipment for your health and fitness, and it will be a long term relationship. There are aluminum poles available for a modest price. For example the LEKI SPIN Shark SL is $99.95. Exerstrider, Urban Poling, OS2 is $89.95. (and comes in 4 different colors!) Both options come with warranty, replaceable parts and will provide many years of Nordic Walking pleasure. You can certainly spend more, but there is no performance level built into the poles. You may find them on sale, just be sure that you are ordering Nordic Walking poles with all the specific features.
My recommendation would be to do your best to understand the investment you’re making, and, then make the best choice for you, your budget, and, your overall interest in Nordic Walking. You won’t be sorry that you purchased equipment to make Nordic walking more enjoyable and effective in your quest for health and fitness.