Technique Tip – Poles bouncing or “reverberating on contact”

Walkers often complain that the tips of their poles are bouncing or “reverberating” on contact with the ground. Remember that you’re learning a new activity and it takes time and a few miles of walking to settle into the rhythm and flow of the poles. In the meantime there are several reasons why this might be happening to you.

First check the height of your poles. Too long or too short and you will miss your sweet spot where the tips land and engage with the ground. How do you set your height? This LEKI Quick Start will help. The walker stands tall, elbow bent at the waist, neutral wrist with the hand on the grip. With the pole unlocked shorten the pole until the hand is below the elbow at about a 100 degree angle. Lock in the length.

Next check your grip. Your hands should be cupped around the handle of the pole and the pole tip should “land like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. If you have a tight grip the tip will “plant” or stab the ground instead of landing and engaging. Remember the “catch and release” – catch the grip as the tip lands and immediately release or relax your hand as you finish the back stroke of the arm swing. This allows the tip to stay on that sweet spot for maximum pressure. The strap is designed to bring the grip back into your hand as your arm swings forward.

Check your arm swing. Does it swing forward to belly button height allowing the pole tip to land ahead of your toe and behind your heel? or do you bend your elbow at the end of the arm swing bringing the pole more vertical? Again the landing effect, if you’re bending your elbow at the end of the arm swing and bringing the pole more vertical it will “plant” not land. If it’s landing ahead of your front foot you’ve broken your triangle of power. (the long angles from shoulder to grip to tip and back up)

Is the pole only bouncing on one side? We all have a dominant side, one arm may be swinging more freely, moving from belly button height to just past your hip. Your pole height is set to accommodate this range of motion. The other arm may not be swinging with the same amount of energy, thus the tip does not find the sweet spot where it can engage and begin the pressure down and back.

How is your posture? If you’re leaning forward, ahead of your hips, it can cause the bouncing of the tips as they land. Chin up, shoulders down and back, engage your core to set yourself in an upright walking position before your first step.

Suggestions for 1. Unclip from your poles and hold the poles mid shaft – hands cupped gently. Walk and swing your arms with an eye on the poles being level to the ground swinging for and aft. Check to see if they are swinging equal distance for and aft.

2. Go back to the walk, swing, drag to reset your arm swing and range of motion. Relax and get into your rhythm and flow to find your sweet spot where the pole engages.

3. Walk without gripping the pole at all, hands cupped around the handle but not hanging on, use the strap only for the pressure.

4. Check to see that you see your hands coming into your lower peripheral vision, both at the same range of motion. 

5. Shorten your poles about an inch to make it easier for the pole to land and engage.

I’m happy to do a movement analysis of your technique. Just have someone do a short video on your phone and send it to me either by text or email. It will help me figure out just what you’re doing that’s causing the problem.

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