Alright, alright....I know for many of you reading this you are thinking, “Those poles are so dorky,” well at least that’s what I used to think whenever I encountered them on the trail.
Well, then came the season I started getting knee pain with hiking...in fact I still remember well the first incident. I had a great (but grueling) hike up near Double Top in Logan canyon, spent a great night, then the next morning packed up and headed down. I had about 1000’ feet of elevation to descend in less than ½ mile...needless to say it was steep, rugged, and by the time I got to the canyon floor I was in EXCRUCIATING pain. The last 3.5 miles of what is normally an enjoyable stroll turned into a hobble-fest.
This was the summer right before I was off to PT school, so I was starting to learn a thing or two about seeking quality research. And so began my search for better hiking...and part of the answer had been right in front of me all along.
Below are 5 reasons I have discovered how Trekking Poles can really improve your hiking experience.
25% is the magic number. For me the biggest advantage is validated by solid biomechanical research. Studies show that using Trekking poles can reduce the compressive loading forces on the knee up to 25%!!!! Those numbers speak for themselves. I can also give my own personal testimonial that as I have started using trekking poles my knee pain has reduced significantly.
SPEED, Trekking poles have been shown to be able to increase your average hiking speed, especially when going uphill. I often hear folks say “well I may have more speed, but using my arms more speeds up fatigue…” Well, again this is where scientific research comes in handy. Studies show that there is no significant increase in metabolic output with the use of poles...BOOM. On a personal note, my average moving rate with poles is 3.1 mph vs 2.8 mph without.
TRACTION, how many times have you been going along enjoying the trail when you come to a water crossing (either fording it or precariously balancing on a log over the river), the rain comes out and slicks up the rocks, or the dreaded scree field. Well, with trekking poles, feet stay dry on river crossing, rear-ends remain un-bruised on slick rocks, and ankles don’t get sprained in the scree.
BALANCE, I have particularly noticed the advantage of using Trekking Poles while carrying a pack (and the past 3 years 90% of my hikes I am packing a 20-30 lb little sweetheart). This improved balance is the function of having increased “points of contact.” To explain this briefly, every step you take while walking/hiking you spend at least some time in “single leg stance.” It is usually during the single leg stance that you will have a loss of balance. With poles you add 1 or 2 additional points of contact.
RHYTHM, this is perhaps one of the things about trekking poles I love the most. One of my favorite parts about hiking is getting into a rhythm and just chewing up mileage, there is something very exhilarating when you get into your aerobic zone, the endorphins are coursing, muscles feeling strong, and getting lost in your thoughts and the nature around you…(just an FYI that last line just took me about twenty minutes to write as I was transported to a thousand different memories)...anywho, back to the trekking poles. The previous 4 points discussed help you hike more efficiently and strong, but the poles themselves allow your legs and arms to work more synergistically one with another.
So there you have it, 5 important reasons why you should get into a pair of trekking poles this year. One caution, it does take a hike or two to get used to using them, so don’t give up if you feel awkward when you start out.
There are many other uses for trekking poles while out on the trail too!!
For those that think “well I would but they are sooo expensive…” The truth is you can get into a pair for around $30 dollars. I picked my Kelty’s up on sale for $20, they aren’t super fancy, but boy are they functional…(a lot like me ha ha).
If...WHEN you get your trekking poles, come on in and we will help show you how to adjust them to the right height for different hiking conditions and how you can become efficient in using them!!
Specialist Physical Therapy Clinic serving Logan and the Cache Valley Area