Thursday, November 17, 2005


Pole Length Re-Visited - More Food For Thought!

For fixed length poles the general pole length formula = Your height in cms x 0.68 - Then go to the nearest 5 cms (fixed length poles come in 5 cm increments).

Many instructors use this formula and generally speaking it offers a pretty good general guideline. However, other factors can and do come in to play both with newcomers and with the more experienced Nordic Walker. These factors, if known may have a bearing on the best pole length for you as an individual.

Note: Ideally you want to be able to try your poles for size before you buy them. However, in most countries that is not yet possible, due to the very limited number of retailers who actually stock Nordic Walking poles.

Perhaps a better way of assessing correct pole size is to stand tall holding eg your right pole in your right hand with the tip of the pole on the ground, just in front and to the right of your right small toe. Now tuck your right elbow into the side. You are ideally looking for a 90 degree (right angle) at the right elbow. Therefore adjust your pole accordingly. Once you have adjusted the first pole then put the other pole alongside and then adjust it to match.

Note: When checking for a right angle at the elbow, either ask someone to 'be your eyes' or check yourself out in a mirror.

As already stated, there are other factors that you may want to consider before deciding the best pole length and also the best type of poles (eg one-piece or adjustables) for you. These factors are:

1) Removing the 'asphalt paw' for use on surfaces such as grass, forest trails or dirt reduces the pole length. On a softer surface such as sand the pole will sink deeper which in effect reduces the pole length further. Therefore if you are doing most of your walking on a softer surface you may prefer to have a longer pole.

2) If you have a short natural stride you will not have the time to perform the same length arm swing as someone with a longer stride. Therefore a shorter length pole may be an option worth considering. Vice versa if you have a long natural stride.

3) If you have short legs, a shorter length pole may be better; vice versa for long legs.

4) If you have reduced joint range of motion (ROM) eg as a result of injury, operation or an age related conditions, a shorter length pole may be better.

5) If you are not able to achieve the full Nordic Walking technique, eg a less fit client may only be comfortable 'pushing to hip', a shorter pole may be better. Whilst a fitter client may prefer a longer pole.

6) If you intend to do a lot of hill walking you may want poles that best suite the varying terrain that you will be walking on, over, up or down - Adjustable poles may be your better option?

As I have said before: When deciding whether you should buy fixed length or adjustable poles consider your specific needs and intended uses. I hope this posting may give you a few more things to think about.

Whilst a 'purist' may want to buy a good quality one-piece carbon pole or even the very best lightest weight one-piece carbon pole on the market, that may not be the best option for everyone. Many people find that a good quality adjustable pole is far more adaptable and better suits their specific needs. 'It's horses for course'.

Remember, it's well worth giving full consideration to your specific needs and requirements before you spend your money.

If you find that a little way down the road you need longer poles you will then have to decide what to do:

1) Stay with the shorter pole
2) Buy a longer one piece pole
3) Buy a good quality adjustable pole.

Note: The word 'may' is used throughout this posting eg as in 'may give', 'may find', 'may prefer' etc. Issues such as pole length and whether a one piece or adjustable poles are better for you is not a precise art. What 'may' best suit you 'may' not best suit the next person. There is a degree of 'suck it and see'

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