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How To Use Walking Poles

Woman in mountains ready to go on a walk

Fun-filled family walks, hour-long hikes or intense jungle exploring – whatever the occasion, walking poles can help your workout, your health and your adventure. After all, using walking poles correctly is the key to getting the most from your walk.

That’s why we’ve put together these tips on how to use walking poles, the benefits and how to choose the right ones for you.

What are the benefits of walking poles?


One of the most important ways to use walking poles is as a method of support. Hiking poles allow reduced weight on your back and hips – aches and pains often decrease as pressure is taken off those areas of the body. Your posture is also improved, with the hiking poles forcing you to keep your body upright.Walking poles can also be used as a full body workout. With the weight of your kit or rucksack shared over different muscle groups, every muscle in your body is working and you’re less likely to strain. Using trekking poles also significantly increases your pace. This in turn increases your heart rate and intake of oxygen, resulting in a better cardio workout.


Using walking poles allows increased stability on slippery, steep terrain. Even for safer walks, walking downhill can put strain on your knees and lower back. With your trekking poles, and following our guide on downhill walking, the pressure is taken off.You can also use your walking poles to judge depth of terrain you can’t see, such as snow, streams or boggy land. This helps you to avoid getting into difficulties and to re-plan your route if required.

The basics of using walking poles

Setting the length and the wrist strap

Before you can begin using walking poles, you need to learn how to adjust the poles to suit you. To set the length, extend the lower section and tighten firmly at the top. Extend the other sections and tighten them, holding the pole with tip pointing downwards until the top of the handle is just above your waistline. Suit this to your own personal preference – get a feel for what is comfortable for you.
To adjust the wrist strap, alter so the buckle is as central to the back of your hand as possible, with enough room for manoeuvre but a relatively tight fit. This should give a comfortable, firm hold when the thumb and forefinger is against the handle.

How to hold your walking pole

Aim to use only your thumb and forefinger to guide your trekking poles. Be careful not to grip too tightly on the pole handle – this is a common energy-waster and can result in losing heat in the winter. Keep your elbows tucked in and close to the body.

Walking uphill: For uphill walking, use your poles to push off but be careful not to rely on the poles to pull you up entirely. Try and keep your poles relatively close to your body to improve energy efficiency.

Walking downhill: For downhill walking, first, remove your hands from the straps. The shock systems feature would be ideal to engage here if you own anti-shock walking poles, as this decreases the impact of the decline. Reduce the impact on your knees by moving your poles slightly ahead of you.

Walking on even ground: For walking on even ground, there are various ways of using walking poles. You can use them simultaneously, moving both poles forward at the same time; you can alternate legs – each pole moves forwards as the opposite leg moves. This maximises balance; or you can use your walking pole in a parallel motion with your legs. It’s really a case of trying out the different combinations to find the method that suits you best.


Woman hiking in mountains using walking poles

When walking downhill, reduce the impact on your knees by moving your poles slightly ahead of you.

How do I choose the best trekking poles for me?

Age: If you’re a keen walker, then it’s best to start using walking poles from a young age – especially if you’re regularly carrying extra weight in a rucksack. Using hiking poles can prevent injuries as well as joint or muscle pain, ultimately increasing your enjoyment of walking for the foreseeable future.

Features: Choose your trekking poles based on your requirements and the location of your next walk.

Popular options include:

  • Anti-shock walking poles: Perfect for downhill walking to absorb the impact and protect your joints
  • Compact walking poles: Easily fold up to fit neatly away if you won’t always be using them
  • Lightweight walking poles: Less weight to reduce potential strain in the arms and shoulders

Quality: The quality of your hiking poles has to be of a high standard – cheap walking poles tend to buckle under the pressure of a large hike. Usually, higher quality walking poles can be more expensive, but are well worth the investment – the last thing you would want is for your poles to bend whilst on a steep hike. Look out for twin aluminium construction for dependable poles, alongside foam grip handles which won’t chafe your palms. Lever locks means adjusting the height is quick and simple – an important factor to consider when purchasing your poles. Buying from an established outdoor brand is a good place to start.

All Hawkshead walking poles are durable and designed to be reliable for all terrains. Buy yours online today and get out there on your next adventure.

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