Trekking poles are quite popular among European hikers. In the late 1990s, trekking poles started to gain popularity in the American outdoor scene as well. While poles help hikers maintain balance and have ancillary purposes (like supporting single-wall tents and tarp-tents), they serve an orthopedic function as well.
There has been several studies in regard to the benefits of trekking poles. According to a 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine, trekking poles can reduce the compressive force on the knees by up to 25%. This translates into literally tons of weight that your body will not have to support during the course of a regular hike. In another study by Northumbria University released in 2010 tested hikers in the true outdoors. According to Dr Glyn Howatson, “The results present strong evidence that trekking poles reduce, almost to the point of complete disappearance, the extent of muscle damage during a day’s mountain trek. Preventing muscle damage and soreness is likely to improve motivation and so keep people enjoying the benefits of exercise for longer. Perhaps even more advantageously, the combined benefits of using trekking poles in reducing the load to the lower limbs, increasing stability and reducing muscle damage could also help avoid injury on subsequent days trekking. It is often the reduced reaction time and position sense, associated with damaged muscles that cause the falls and trips that can lead to further injury in mountainous or uneven terrain.”
It should be noted that using trekking poles does not reduce overall energy usage. Actually, some studies suggest it increases calorie burning by activating more muscle groups. Trekking poles allow the user to use their arms to take some of the stress off the lower appendages and therefore, increase their hiking endurance.
Using trekking poles improves your posture while hiking through the woods. Some backpackers take on a hunched gait while walking due to a heavy pack. With correctly fitted poles, you’ll be able to stand straighter and taller. With the weight off your back and shoulders, you can carry yourself in a better position throughout the day—resulting in less fatigue, fewer injuries and greater pleasure. There are other advantages to using trekking poles. A short list of these below:
- Poles help provide better balance and footing by giving the user more points of contact with the ground.
- On downhill hikes they take off some of the stress off the legs and joints. Transferring this stress onto the arms and shoulders.
- Going uphill poles can help transfer some of the weight to your arms, shoulders, and back. This can reduce leg fatigue and add some thrust while ascending.
- Trekking poles can help the user cross difficult sections easier. As mentioned above the stability of having more points of contact with the ground increases confidence and balance.
- Poles can help you establish a walking rhythm.
- Trekking poles can be used for a variety of other helpful activities, including but not limited to pushing back vegetation, probing soggy or snowy terrain for holes, as support for shelters, or warding off wildlife.