The 10 Best Hiking Poles
10. Cascade Mountain Tech
9. Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber
8. Pacemaker Stix Expedition
7. Leki Corklite
6. American Nordic Walking System
5. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock
4. Hardwood Hiking
3. Black Diamond Trail Back
2. Leki Micro Vario Ti Cortec
1. Black Diamond Distance Z
Health Benefits Of Hiking Poles
Hiking itself is an extremely beneficial exercise method in which many people around the world engage. Walking on an uneven surface for a long period of time while hiking helps to strengthen muscles in the feet and legs that are not engaged when walking on flat ground. The hilly, uneven terrain is also a great core workout, as keeping the body stable during the climb takes more core strength than many people realize. Hiking is also a great cardiovascular exercise, and it helps to boost the metabolism and improve the blood pressure. It is also considered a safe way to build bone density.
The proper use of hiking poles takes the benefits of hiking to new levels. Many people have decided to steer clear of hiking and backpacking because of the stress it puts on the joints of the body, especially the knees. Research from the Journal of Sports Sciences has actually shown that hikers who use hiking poles show less signs of stress and deterioration to the knees, particularly when walking downhill. This is especially important for backpackers or trekkers who carry large loads over long periods of time. The researchers found that those using hiking poles had less joint movement upon impact and were also experiencing less impact force from the ground. This translates to more time spent on the trails, burning more calories and taking in more of the sites.
Hiking poles also engage the upper body in an exercise that is usually limited to the lower body and core muscle groups. Hiking has been known to strengthen the legs and core, but when using poles on the trail as well, the arms, shoulders, pectorals, and even obliques all get a workout.
Using poles during a hike may also be a great way to reduce lower back pain. Researchers found that people who engaged in uphill walking experienced less pressure and twisting in their lower backs when using hiking poles, and suggested that people with back pain use them on the trails.
The Pros And Cons Of Using Hiking Poles
There are many good things about using hiking poles, yet there are also some times when the poles can actually be more of a hindrance than a help. Understanding the differences can help you understand exactly when and how best to use them.
Hiking poles are famously used to help reduce the impact on the joints and legs. Yet this is only a small portion of their benefits. Research from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that people who use hiking poles can actually walk faster and still experience less force to the knees and legs than people who do not use them. This also suggests that the poles can help to increase your average speed. They do so by spreading out the energy expenditure during the hike to other areas of the body rather than just the legs. This makes for a more even workout, and less soreness in the legs, which is another benefit. Some hikers say that the added movement in the upper body keeps them from feeling stiff or swollen after a long hike, as well.
Balance is another important factor for some people, backpackers especially. Hiking for miles on uneven trails takes its toll on the body, and the equilibrium has a hard time keeping up. Add a heavy pack to the mix, and this can mean falls, scrapes, and bruises. Poles give the body two additional points of reference for keeping balance, and also give added stability and security.
The cons of using hiking poles are oddly tied to their benefits. Using the poles actually increases the body's total energy expenditure. This is great for people looking to burn more calories during a workout. If the legs are tired, poles can help reduce the load on the legs, but if the entire body is tired, using hiking poles may just make matters worse.
The other con here is that they take up space. Walking with poles takes up more space on the trail, and keeps the hands occupied when they could be doing other things. Tying them to a backpack may see them getting caught on tree branches or rocks. It is best to know if the demand for the poles is there before equipping them.
Things To Consider Before Buying A Hiking Pole
The history of walking sticks is a long one. They replaced the sword as the must-have attire for the average gentleman in the 17th and 18th centuries, and have evolved many times since then. One such evolution was the creation of the modern hiking pole. Not all poles are made equal, however. It is important to keep a few things in mind before buying any hiking pole.
First, it is important to consider the material of the pole. If the pole is too heavy, it will feel cumbersome, and may even make the hiker more tired than walking without them. Too flimsy a pole can result in breaks and bends if too much weight is put on them. Most modern poles are made of strong aluminum or carbon fiber, and the difference between the materials is minute at this point. Carbon fiber is lighter and technically stronger, but aluminum is more durable to wear and tear. It may be a simple matter of preference.
Another thing to consider is the grips. For light-use poles, this may not make a difference. The grip material will matter after hours on a trail, however. Many brands choose to use breathable cork or mesh material for their grips. The ability to absorb or wick away sweat from the palms is very important on long trails.
The last consideration is height adjustment. On some areas of trails, you'll need more support than on others, and being able to adjust your pole height as needed is a big benefit. From testing the depth of a river to packing snugly in a backpack, the height adjustment needs of the hiker will have to be considered before making a purchase.