Friday, July 15, 2005


What Poles Should I Buy ?

Like any sport or recreational activity you need the proper equipment for the job and as you would expect you tend to get what you pay for. Avoid the temptation to buy cheap poles. For a decent quality pair of Nordic Walking poles expect to pay anything from about US$80 up to about US$200. If you want your poles to be a once only purchase then invest your money carefully.

Look for genuine ‘Nordic Walking’ poles with the proper ‘Nordic Walking’ wrist straps. Avoid cheap imitations that you may sometimes see eg in a catalogue or newspaper. These are usually ‘hiking poles’ without the proper Nordic Walking wrist straps. They are being sold as Nordic Walking poles and sometimes for less than £20 (US$36) a pair.

Pole Types:

One Piece Poles

One-piece poles are manufactured either in carbon or aluminium. Carbon poles have the advantage in that they are lighter in weight, a factor that you may want to consider particularly if you are planning long walks.

Carbon poles tend to absorb the vibration generated when pushing off better than aluminium poles. Vibration is a factor to consider because it is felt most in the joints of the hand and wrist. Over time this could lead to 'repetitive strain' injury (RSI).

With carbon poles the price generally reflects the quality of carbon and lightness in weight. The better quality the carbon, the lighter the weight, the higher the price.

Cosmetically the finish of a higher priced pole may be more pleasing to the eye versus a cheaper pole. Cheaper poles may eg have ‘stick on’ logos whereas a quality pole is more likely to have a smooth laser type finish.

Some people prefer a one-piece pole because there are no moving parts. One-piece poles tend to have the edge over adjustable poles with regards to ‘fine balance’ and ‘swing’.

One-piece poles come in a variety of lengths. Here's the formula you will need to work out the correct length for you:Take your height in centimetres x 0.68 and then go to the nearest 5 cms.

Have you checked your bare foot height recently? Please do so before buying fixed length poles - It really is important!

It may be better for a beginner to round down rather than up. However, it should also be noted that if you do round down, you might find you would want to purchase longer poles when you are more experienced.

Note: Until a year or two ago the industry was using a figure of x 0.70 x height in centimetres but things have moved on and 0.68 is now the universally accepted bench mark.

Adjustable Poles

Adjustable poles are manufactured either in aluminium, carbon or part carbon and part aluminium.

Adjustable poles are useful if more than one person wants to share usage and each person is a different height. If as a beginner you buy a set of adjustable poles, when you become more experience you will not have to buy another set of poles if you decide you require more length.

When walking on hilly terrain with long inclines and declines, it can sometimes be useful to shorten the poles when going uphill and lengthen the poles when walking downhill.

There are 3 types of adjustable pole:

Semi-Adjustable Poles:

These poles have a small range of adjustment at the handle end of the shaft, typically over a 10-centimetre range. Semi-adjustable poles tends to have a better ‘swing’ and ‘balance’ versus 2 or 3 piece adjustable poles, although generally not quite as good as quality one piece poles. Semi adjustable poles are useful for pole sharing with people of a similar height. They are also useful when walking in hilly terrain.

Note: Be careful when buying semi adjustable poles for the purpose of pole sharing. Consideration must be given to which length poles best suit the height range of the intended users.

2 Piece Adjustable Poles:

These poles have a large range of adjustment and in addition to the benefits already listed, when reduced to their shortest length they can be easily stored and carried.

There is a suggestion that adjustable poles may be prone to collapsing when you bear down on them. From my own experience I have not had an adjustable pole collapse on me yet, even when I have applied my full body weight (182 lbs.) eg when doing standing press ups against the pole handles or when hanging my full body weight from the handles. However, do make sure the locking mechanism is properly tightened before each use.

3) 3 Piece Adjustable Poles:

In addition to the benefits already mentioned for adjustable poles, 3-piece poles will reduce down in length small enough to fit in a medium size suitcase or large bag.

Note: When you adjust a 3 piece pole – start with the distal shaft before you adjust the mid-shaft.

Note: To adjust adjustable poles to the correct length:
Lifetime Shaft Guarantee

Something well worth looking for is the 'lifetime shaft guarantee' that some manufacturers offer. Be aware that the guarantee may not apply to their full range of poles, so remember to ask before you buy.

Replacement Parts

Make sure you can easily buy replacements for the parts that will naturally wear over time eg wrist straps, spike tips and asphalt paws.

Wrist Straps

The specially designed wrist straps on Nordic Walking poles are 'key' to the Nordic Walking technique. If you don't have proper Nordic Walking wrist straps, you will never be able to master the full technique and achieve the full benefits and enjoyment. I have heard suggestion that wrist straps can be uncomfortable in hot weather but I have to say that I have not found this to be the case myself.

Cork & Synthetic Handles

If you are new to Nordic Walking I do not think that you need to worry about this. I have tried both and I am happy with either.

Try Before You Buy

Depending where in the world you live this is not always possible. Here in the UK there are currently only a few stores in the whole country that stock Nordic Walking poles. If you do find a store then question the sales assistant using the information I have given you here. It is usually a lot easier for most people to buy ‘online’.

Where to Buy Poles Online

A great place to buy poles online is at the following website:

Here you will find a fantastic range of quality poles from different manufacturers.

Note: If you contact ‘Nordic Walking Online’ please mention that David Downer has referred you. If you place an order please write ‘Re: David Downer’ in the ‘special instructions’ box, that way the guys at Nordic Walking Online can track the source of their enquiries.

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