By Gill Stewart at
Nordic Walking is all about PROPULSION so unlike typical trekking poles which are designed for STABILITY, Nordic walking poles are used at an angle and the walker pushes into either a specific STRAP or a CORE LEDGE in order to harness the power of the poles. As you can see in the image below the Nordic walker is using the full power of the shoulders and upper body and the poles are angled backwards.
This movement involves the WHOLE of the upper body and not just the arms which are all that are engaged when using poles in a more upright position where you also need to ‘grip’ them. The power in Nordic walking comes from a lighter grip and the ability to articulate correctly through the strap or the ledge (which is why it’s best to learn the technique with an Instructor as this is not easy to master)
As you will see from the handle of the strapless pole, it is impossible to over grip them as the handle widens at the base, it is also designed to immediately help the walker place the pole at the correct angle. This is why many Instructors will use them for teaching – in essence they eliminate many of the typical mistakes that affect Nordic Walking technique.
Nordic walking straps usually detach from the pole to make it easy to remove jackets or blow your nose etc. but when walking with them, you are literally strapped to the pole in order to gain good technique.
There are two ways that these straps attach to the poles and its a good idea to get the right ones for you. Leki a German make have a unique strap attachment called the Leki ‘shark’ – it uses a small kevlar loop that clicks into the strap with a downward movement. (You can see that in the picture above of the strapped pole)
A more typical way for the straps to attach to pole is known as the ‘trigger mechanism’ this is a small plastic clip which slots into the side of the pole handle-see picture below
Both types of attachment perform in a similar way so most people select those that are most comfortable for them to use. You may find these two videos helpful
As the poles are planted at an angle, another key feature of a Nordic walking pole will be a removable rubber ‘paw’ for use on hard surfaces which is also angled to accommodate this action – see here for Nordic Walking paws
As Nordic Walking poles effectively ‘extend the arms’ to enable the walker to use ‘all fours’ it is vitally important that they are the correct length. If a four legged animal had front legs that were too long or short it would affect their ability to move well and it’s the same for Nordic walkers too. Whilst fixed length poles are usually a cheaper option and much is written about how they vibrate less, we do not advise a beginner to choose them as most people need to adjust the poles after a few weeks of Nordic Walking. This is because their range of movement and posture improves. Fixed length poles also only come in increments of 5 cms and it is not uncommon to see how an adjustment of 1 – 2 cms can make a difference to a walkers comfort and performance. At NWUK we always advise adjustable poles unless you are CERTAIN that the length is correct for you.
ADJUSTABLE Nordic walking poles typically come in either two or three pieces. A 2 piece pole will usually have the adjustment in the centre of the pole shaft where the 2 sections are joined although it is possible to buy EXTENDABLE poles where the adjustment is closer to the handle section – this is because there will be less vibration if the lower section of the pole is in one solid section.
Typically poles that break down even smaller (known as TELESCOPIC POLES) in order to be transported easily will be liable to vibrate more as they are comprised of more sections. If you wish to use telescopic poles for daily walking, it would be advisable to invest in those with a higher carbon content in order to mitigate this. It is worth noting that most airlines do not allow poles in the hold so if you intend to take poles on holiday, they will need to break into three or be checked in as sports luggage.
There are two main types of pole size adjustment mechanisms. The most common way to adjust poles for size is the TWIST LOCK which involves twisting the two sections in opposite directions until you are able to alter the total length of the pole to the desired height. You then simply twist each section back until they grip at the selected height. This graphic shows the mechanism inside the poles
Another common mechanism is the CLIP LOCK adjuster which is similar to adjustments used on other sporting equipment. see below
One thing to be aware of is that these adjustments do require regular tightening of the small nut at the back of the clip ( as shown above) in order to maintain a tight grip and avoid losing the clip.
If you do lose the clip, don’t worry as they are replaceable
Good quality Nordic Walking poles will typically be priced from £30 upwards. Those priced below that are likely to be made from cheaper composites that will affect the performance, feel and potentially safety ( some composites and cheap carbons break easily and even shatter)
Top of the range poles which contain quality carbon sections and additional features such as the unique adjustment on these micro trail poles which remain joined when broken down
It is not essential to buy expensive carbon poles but having at least a carbon bottom section of the shaft will provide a comfortable and solid feel as the poles connect with the ground.
However there are cheap carbons that are actually not as robust or reliable as the cheaper alloys so as a rule of thumb, you are better off with a good pair of non carbon poles than a bargain pair of carbon ones.
The Nordic Walking UK website has a full range of Nordic walking poles – all of which come in pairs, with straps and paws. There is a team of experts on hand to advise you via telephone and affiliated Instructors around the UK can also help you get the right poles for you. Visit the store HERE
The Power of Poles Induction course will enable you to master the technique at the right level for you and try both strapless and strapped Nordic walking poles. Find your local group HERE