Hiking pole chat

Discussion in 'Everything Else' started by gixer, Feb 21, 2015.

  1. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    The are quite a few studies on pole use and biomechanical efficiency; well in our library catalogue anyway.
    Who wants to do the definitive literature review :D?
  2. Fair Weather Camper

    Fair Weather Camper Thru Hiker

    I could do the pre-amble.


    Some other bugger can do the references :cautious:
  3. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    Sooo jealous, always wanted to do a handstand :bag:

    I realise i'm not going to change peoples minds, to be honest i don't want to
    The whole purpose for the tread was to try and get some hard measurable data

    For me, my use of hiking poles is pretty specific, no data either way is going to change my use
    So i really don't have a horse in this race on either opinion

    To sum up so far it seems that the main advantages offered so far

    1/ Reduce impact of leg joints

    The physiological aspects of what is needed to support a high proportion of your body weight on outstretched arms for hours on end interests me on this
    I don't see how it's possible for the average hiker to have the upper body strength to take any noticeable support for extended periods of time
    Be good to be convinced otherwise :thumbsup:

    2/ Stability
    As millions of people have been walking unpaved roads for 10's of thousands of years so far i think this is more a psychological crutch rather than a real one (pun intended)
    I'd also bring in the above about upper body strength being up to the task of supporting us
    I do accept that with stream crossing and the like they will offer some stability though

    3/ Propulsion

    Way i see it so far is, nothing is for free, if we are providing propulsion with out upper body, from my admittedly very basic test my heart rate was higher using 1 pole
    Be great to see some data or studies on this though

    4/ Injury

    As people are still getting injured using hiking poles, it's a certainty they don't stop injuries
    Seems some folks are convinced it prevents some injuries though
    As said, i think this is anecdotal as people do walk without hiking poles without falling over or getting injured
    Also worth considering the injuries that are caused by poles when they break, certainly this is few and far between, but there are cases where people have been injured by falling on a broken hiking pole
    Can't see it being possible to get any data either way on this, be happy to be proved wrong though
    Mark and Clare like this.
  4. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    It's a inanimate object i don't have a preference either way

    These studies hiking related or cross country skiing Ed?

    I'd be interested to read anything if it's available on-line :thumbsup:
    Clare and edh like this.
  5. Fair Weather Camper

    Fair Weather Camper Thru Hiker

    If you should fall over, after having increased your bone density either by using poles (perhaps)

    Or from doing handstands (definitely measurable - there is data somewhere)

    You are less likely to sustain a bone fracture.

    My poles help me sustain my physical balance.

    I have other 'crutches' to maintain the equilibrium of my psyche :angelic:
  6. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Pretty much hiking.

    You can find some if it via Scholar; but not read it all - some is pay walled if you are not part of a research institution.
    gixer likes this.
  7. WilliamC

    WilliamC Thru Hiker

    1/ For me, the impact is lessened on the leg joints on step downs because I can make the movement much smoother through taking some of the weight on the pole, so my foot lands with less impact. It was less necessary when I was younger :(
    4/ People are still getting killed in car crashes but I choose to wear a seat belt :cool:
  8. dovidola

    dovidola Section Hiker

    A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say. Poles don't make you go further or faster in themselves (I can't see them making Usain Bolt run the 100m quicker), they just spread the load in a way which can increase stability, reduce the stress on individual body parts and provide more of an all-round workout. I think I read somewhere that the typical load shifted from the lower to the upper body by using poles is between 5% and 10% (depending on terrain and gradient and technique). Not enormous, but the effect is most pronounced on steep downhill sections because the burden on the knees in particular is so great that a 5%-10% reduction makes a significant difference.

    @WilliamC is right about the age thing. Unfortunately, by allowing our knees to take a pounding in our youth (as I did) we simply accelerate their degeneration. So, paradoxically, by not using poles when we feel we don't need them, we end up needing them sooner than if we'd started using them earlier (as it were). Prevention is better than cure.

    @gixer's 'Badge of Honour' point has a certain resonance though. I don't care for the way poles make me look like a hiker (it's an image thing and I shouldn't really be bothered). Perverse I know. I prefer to think I'm using my tent supports as walking aids.
    Toby, JKM and cathyjc like this.
  9. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Trail Blazer

    I use my hiking staff for stability when needed, which is only now and then. Unlike the ancients, I don't do much hiking on roads, unpaved or otherwise. I suspect the ancients did little mountain climbing, too. In any case, I am convinced that the chief danger in outdoor activities like hiking is, for a person my age, is falling. On the other hand, I have only had falls resulting in injury while I was at home. So I think I'd rather take my chances out there armed only with my trusty hand-hewn stick of unknown wood, among the stickers and briers, the poison oak, the creeks and the muddy trails where the deer, the foxes and the beaver live. It's safer out there.
  10. Jon jons

    Jon jons Ultralighter

    I just see them as poles that some people use and others don't. Guess it's just down to choice. I only find them useful at pitch up time but I'm an individual, we all are. :)
    Chiseller likes this.
  11. WilliamC

    WilliamC Thru Hiker

    Clare, FOX160, Jon jons and 1 other person like this.
  12. FOX160

    FOX160 Thru Hiker

    Posture/support/improve momentum
  13. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Trail Blazer

    After thinking about this for some time, I am beginning to think that I am actually less likely to suffer a fall when I am hiking--or walking down the sidewalk--than I am inside the house. The reason seems to be that my movements inside the house are sporadic and generally begin from a sitting position or even a reclining position. When I get up to go somewhere, I am a little stiff and consequently unsteady on my feet. Or it sure seems that way. But out on the trail--or the sidewalk--I'm warmed up and feeling more limber. So maybe there is something to warming up as you start out doing some physical activity, although I am not suggesting stretching, just warming up your muscles.

    At this point in the year (early spring), I am unsure as to what difference the temperature makes to how your muscles react and how that affects keeping your balance. I never thought about it like this before. But it's all about balance, very much like riding a bike is. I mentioned in a previous post that although I general always carry a walking stick, I don't always use it for it's primary purpose (for balance), but sooner or later I do on most walks in the woods.
  14. Michael_x

    Michael_x Backpacker

    I grew up back in the BP era (before poles). Just my opinion but I think they look silly and am embarrassed being seen using them.

    Despite that I've started using them routinely. Going downhill there is a lot of force through the knee joints. After a day wandering up my favourite local hill and meandering about I've found that if I've used my poles I can descend fairly comfortably.

    Which is a lot less fuss than having to walk down backwards due to knee pain. Probably patellofemoral arthritis. Purely anecdotal of course but on balance I suspect poles don't look as silly as walking downhill backwards.
    WilliamC likes this.
  15. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Trail Blazer

    I have not actually ever used a commercial hiking pole, which I guess are sold in pairs. Personally, I like to have a free hand and, anyway, an ordinary stick seems good enough. The ones I use I cut myself in the woods behind the house, peeled them, smoothed all the rough spots and shaped the top to suit myself. The bottoms vary and I even have a crutch tip on one. The others mostly are inverted Y's where the sapling branched. They all eventually get varnished, too.
  16. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    I use poles on virtually all my walks and treks. I've started incorporating them into trail running recently.
    I'm happy with my technique and if my pack is fully loaded out, I can feel the burden on my legs if I've stopped using them for a short distance.
    I am learning to use different techniques for ascents which can be short swings, short stabs or gutso double poling.
    On 20k+ days, I can feel the effect on my upper body and I'm aware I should employ some strength training to reduce this.
    I have fallen into the category of people that use them as a mental crutch, but do enjoy them and the benifits I belive they bring.
    My lekis have long grips on them and I'm getting better at using them in 'cuts' on the moors and sections of steep contouring.
    Ive had a knee issue that comes and goes and a discomfort from a rotor cuff injury that I've learned to 'live with' . I trust my poles and my ability to use them when placing nearly all my bodyweight on them as I lower off big steps /rocks etc and the same when ascending steep sections that I find they can help with.
    JKM and WilliamC like this.
  17. Rmr

    Rmr Summit Camper

    Totally agree with you Chiseller, I too have a come and goes knee problem and find that around 5 miles walking the poles have to be deployed. When used correctly they are a great asset, I see many people using them around town centres waving them about and looking like stick insects, we've all seen them.
    Chiseller likes this.
  18. ZenTrekker

    ZenTrekker Ultralighter

    I started using poles some years ago because my knees were trashed when descending steep slopes. I now also use them on the flat if I'm backpacking and on rough ground. A few months back I was walking a stony track and I tripped and face-planted. The result was not pretty. Poles would have caught my fall. I suppose its a case of old age catching up!
    Chiseller likes this.
  19. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Trail Blazer

    I hesitate to criticize hiking poles, other than the cost, having never used them. I would also hesitate to say I had any technique whatsoever when walking. As regards one pole versus two poles, some people were still using one pole when skiing in 1900, if that makes any difference. But they at least used two skis.
  20. Patrick

    Patrick Backpacker

    I don't have any of the hard data you're asking for, but that's never stopped me voicing an opinion :). As a fairly recent convert to poles I have been thinking a bit about the apparent advantages they seem to provide.

    The times I've noticed a difference here has been on steep downhills - my knees used to ache by the bottom, with poles they don't seem to. I agree it would seem surprising if a shift of only a few percent from knees to arms would be enough to achieve this, so instead I've found myself wondering if the key is in more substantially reducing the peak loads the knees are subjected to. In other words, its perhaps the occasional really jarring bigger steps down that do the damage to your knees, and because these are occasional and brief you're able to momentarily take a much greater proportion of your body weight on the poles and limit this jarring. Thus the poles don't need to be giving "noticeable support for extended periods of time", just enough to prevent occasional damaging peaks.

    I don't think anyone would suggest the propulsion is for free. You need a certain amount of calories to lift a body from sea level to 3000', and no pole can change that. However, its not actually running out of calories that stops us, is it? Otherwise at the end of a day you could always just eat another chocolate bar and carry on. A significant part of what makes us physically "tired" is aching in the muscles we've been using. Redistributing the work from leg muscles to arm muscles will mean that the leg muscles reach their point of exhaustion after a greater distance, or feel less exhausted after the same distance, simply because the arms have been doing some of the work.
    Gadget, Chiseller and gixer like this.
  21. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Trail Blazer

    I don't think I've ever walked to the point of exhaustion. As has been mentioned, though, I do sometimes notice joint pain but pain isn't quite the right word. Tender might be closer to the right meaning but it's strain on the joint that's the problem. Knees and ankles, anyway. Haven't noticed hip pain (yet). And to top it off, later the same day or the following day my feet sometimes hurt. Not my ankles, my feet. But that could have more to do with my footwear than anything else. That's on trails, though.

    On nice, level surfaces without too much up and down, which eliminates just about all the trails I ever use, walking isn't particularly difficult at all. One can cruise along all day with what seems like hardly any effort at all. That is not to say that actually getting on your feet is easy. With a heavy pack, that can be the hard part. And then, if the trail doesn't cooperate, all bets are off. The trick might be to do the uphill part in the morning so you can coast going downhill.
  22. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Trail Blazer

    I happened to view several short videos on YouTube of shepherds and other people in Nepal. In one, there were several women carry huge pack baskets using only tumplines, which I bet nobody here uses. Some were using walking poles but they were just sticks about four feet long and not very heavy, either. In some of the videos, it was clearly an effort to get the pack basket in place on their backs and was equally awkward to set it down, too. Couldn't possibly say what the weights were. Also, I noticed that all of them wore either sneakers (trainers) or sandals on their feet, usually with socks, and a few times, barefoot in all kinds of weather. None were wearing boots except for few, oddly enough, who had rubber boots. Then in one video, along comes a western tourist with a tiny backpack or day sack, sporting two commercial hiking poles. There must be something in there for us westerners to learn.
    gixer likes this.
  23. Shewie

    Shewie Administrator Staff Member

    Komperdell Camera Staff

    detachable camera cork grip with camera mount system
    extra padded strap
    Aluminum 7075-T6, 3-sections, Ø 18/16/14 mm
    Powerlock 3.0 mechanism
    vario Trekking basket
    tungsten/carbide flex tip

    £55 at alpinetrek

    150cm pole with a nice round top, only downside is the grip doesn't look too comfy for all day hiking, a decent shelter support though for those who don't use poles perhaps?


    My experience of using monopods with a heavy SLR back in college wasn't great from memory, neat trick though ..


    It caught my eye more as a multi-use 150cm shelter support/hiking staff than a camera aid, not for me as I use two poles but thought I'd share anyway ..
  24. lakeshore

    lakeshore Trail Blazer

    I have used two poles for several hiking thousand miles and after research I reckon I had a decent posture and grip with them, many I see don't. I now use PacerPoles with the different handgrip and I am a fan, as the grip fits the hand it is not really possible to grip them wrongly. Some good info on pole use on PacerPole site. I use poles for my shelter and PacerPoles can still be used for that.
  25. Blah blah blah

    Blah blah blah Trail Blazer

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