If you think that your legs are sufficient while hiking, think again!

Once you’ve experienced the various benefits of trekking poles, your day hikes throughout the Swiss Alps will be much easier. But, it is very important to learn how to use them correctly. Otherwise, trekking poles will cause more damage than help.

What Are the Benefits of Using Trekking Poles?

Considering various benefits of using trekking poles, it’s no wonder that vast majority of hikers use them. They are an essential piece of hiking equipment which we all willingly use! It will take little time to adapt to your new extra pair of legs, but shortly you’ll learn how to catch and maintain a proper and consistent rhythm and your walk be much easier and more efficient.

Less Pain in Joints

Trekking poles are highly recommended to anyone who suffers from frequent knee injuries. If you have ever felt the pain in your knees when hiking downhill, then you know how unpleasant and disturbing it can be.

The poles help to transfer the weight to another group of muscles, reducing the stress on your knees. This is especially important when going downhill. The poles will protect your knees, ankles, feet, and hips on the descent.

Photographed at Montbovon to Cape au Moine. Credit: Nuno Santos

Improved Stability and Better Balance

Using trekking poles whilst hiking will improve your posture, keeping your body in proper position, and will make your steps more firm and secure. Trekking poles provide propulsion on the ascent and aid in balance and stability. They will increase your average speed as well.

Trekking sticks also prevent a chance of falling down. If you suddenly slip, a trekking pole will be your first contact point with the ground.

If you’re carrying a heavy load on your back, poles will be your best friends, believe us!

Providing Support on All Types of Terrain

When walking across the rough, uneven and rocky terrain, trekking poles will help you to maintain firm and steady steps. You’ll move a lot quicker with less chance of falling on uneven terrain. Not mentioning walking across mud, snow, puddles, loose terrain, and even fording streams and river – trekking poles will help you in navigating through various obstacles on your trail. It could be even used to clear your way of tall grass, thorny plants or spider webs!

Health Benefits

When maintaining a correct body posture whilst hiking, the entire body benefits. You will engage other groups of muscles such as your arm muscles, and the workload will be spread to other muscles in your body, not just your legs.

Using trekking poles also increases the number of burnt calories, because you’re using your arms more than usual. This way, a hiking becomes a total body workout.

Bannalpsee jochpass
WeHikers at the lake of Bannalpsee.  Credit: Arnaud Devilliers

How to Correctly Use Trekking Poles

One thing great about trekking poles is that when you learn how to use them correctly, you’ll feel like you have four legs! You will be walking more naturally without even thinking about it.

But if you use them incorrectly, that could be very dangerous and can cause a pain in your arms, spine, neck, legs or shoulders. Here’s what you should do to get the best out of your trekking poles.

Wrist Straps

If you’re holding a pole incorrectly, you won’t take an advantage of this extremely helpful item. Using and adjusting wrist straps correctly is very important part of using the poles properly.

Pass your hand comfortably, but not too loose, up through the bottom of the strap and grip the handle, pulling the strap down without leaving your thumbs on the top. This way both sides of the strap will be in your palm. Your hands will be more relaxed but you will have a control over the poles. If stumbling or falling is inevitable, you will be able to easily throw your poles away to avoid falling on them and get injured.

Adjust the Length

Adjustability is one the most important features of good trekking poles. Not all poles have the ability of adjustment, but those who have are the most convenient. When using adjustable poles, here’s the most simple rule to follow: when going uphill, shorten your poles and when going downhill lengthen them.

Europaweg Matterhorn
Photographed by Jean-Christophe Garnier at Europaweg and Matterhorn WeHike

The Position of Elbows

When holding the poles, your elbows should form an angle of 90 degrees. The elbow angle slightly changes depending on whether you’re going uphill or downhill. This is how you know how to adjust the correct length of the pole – when you place its tip on the ground, your arm should make a right angle.

Walking Rhythm

You can use trekking poles in two ways. The first one is called ‘alternate’ – right foot, left pole, left foot, right pole, etc. Or, you can plant both poles on the ground at the same time and make two steps. This is called a ‘double planting’. No matter which option you choose, it’s important to find the consistent rhythm and walk naturally.

Climbing Up Rocks

Although they are quite a helpful item, trekking poles aren’t suitable for all situations. For example, when climbing up rocks, it’s recommended to collapse them and store them in the backpack. You will have to use your hands to climb the rocks and poles in your hand would only limit hand functions.

thoiry reculet
Photograph taken at the Thoiry to le Reculet WeHike.

Does Using Trekking Poles Have Drawbacks?

Unfortunately, using of trekking poles have its own minor drawbacks. Those drawbacks and occasional inconveniences include the increased rate of burned calories (more burned calories, more food you need), reduced hand function, ecological impact on environment and trails,  difficulties with a storage etc.

So, to use trekking poles or not? The final decision is up to you.  If you think that various benefits of using trekking poles outweigh the minor drawbacks, you should give it a try!

Do you use trekking poles? Share your experiences with us in the comment section!


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