Walking or trekking poles are little more than glorified sticks, but they can make a big difference in your hiking. Trekking poles relieve pressure on key joints, improve balance and contribute to mental focus on long walks. As with any tool, walking poles must be set up properly for you to receive full benefit. Follow these guidelines when adjusting your poles, and pay attention to your body for small changes while on the trail.
Flat Ground and General Walking
The default height setting for trekking poles places your elbows at right angles. Grip your poles at the tops (most poles have formed grip areas) and stand with the poles perpendicular to the ground. Keep your upper arm straight and parallel to your torso, and adjust the poles until your forearm is angled 90 degrees at the elbow. This setup is useful for many types of flat terrain and moderate slopes. Many hikers find they do not need to readjust their poles at all from this original setting.
Walking Up Slopes
Going up inclined section of the trail with trekking poles often puts your arm at acute angles and places extra stress on your elbows. To avoid this, shorten your poles slightly before starting uphill hikes. The correct setting will change depending on the slope, terrain and your preference. Try shortening the poles a few centimeters at a time until you feel comfortable.
Walking Down Slopes
Going downhill with poorly adjusted trekking poles places similar stress on your arms and upper body, and often results in lost balance and harsh joint impacts. As with uphill hiking, your poles should be adjusted before starting a downward trek. Lengthen your poles to make it easier to plant them on downward-sloping ground, again using small adjustments until you find good placement for the terrain and your hiking style.
Article Written By Greg Johnson
Greg Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from The Ohio University. He has been a professional writer since 2008, specializing in outdoors content and instruction. Johnson's poetry has appeared in such publications as "Sphere" and "17 1/2 Magazine."