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What's the Difference Between Trekking and Nordic Walking Poles?

At first glance, Nordic walking poles and trekking poles don’t seem all that different. The differences are there, however, and they are not insignificant. Here, you will learn just what they are and what to consider when picking out walking poles for yourself.

What's the Difference Between Trekking and Nordic Walking Poles?
What's the Difference Between Trekking and Nordic Walking Poles?

Quick Redirection

1. Grip Type

Nordic walking – The grip is long and thin, similar to skiing poles. This means one size will fit multiple users.

Trekking – Trekking pole grips are ergonomically shaped (with finger grooves) to fit the user’s hand as well as possible. For this reason, it is best to try the poles out before purchase, unless you are already familiar with them.

2. Grip Material

There are several grip materials used, varying in quality and therefore influencing the final price of the product. Plastic is the cheapest and easiest to maintain, rubber and neoprene have great anti-slip qualities and then there is synthetic or genuine cork. The highest quality walking poles have comfortable genuine cork grips, which is reflected in their price.

3. Strap

Nordic walking – The strap on the Nordic pole is shaped more like a part of a glove and does not look like a standard trekking or skiing pole strap. It’s because you release the grip on the Nordic pole when you move it backwards, whereas trekking poles are always in your grip. If there is no glove-like strap, the should at least be a thumb hole.

Trekking – There is a simple strap to serve as a basic support. Trekking poles are constantly held in your hands and the strap is designed accordingly.

4. Pole

Nordic walking – Nordic walking poles are usually one-piece, meaning they cannot be folded. However, there are also two-piece or three-piece telescopic poles that are easier to store and transport. Every seller has at least a few pieces of foldable Nordic walking poles in stock. However, Nordic walking is a very dynamic activity and telescopic poles might not be always reliable under these circumstances. On the other hand, this way, the poles may be used by multiple people of varying heights.

Trekking – Almost all trekking poles are telescopic. The adjustable length is necessary for walking through varying terrain (shorter poles for going uphill, longer for going downhill, etc.).

Pole length – Optimal pole length can be easily calculated, by multiplying your height by 0.68. So, every 180-cm-tall person should use at least 122 cm long walking poles. When putting them to the ground, your elbow should be bent at right angles.

5. Pole Material

There are several materials to choose from – aluminium, fibreglass, carbon or a combination or thereof. Aluminium is the heaviest and also the cheapest. Aluminium poles are the most suitable for a casual trekker, who uses them mostly as a support.

Fibreglass poles are lighter, but suitable mainly for soft ground. These are meant to be used mainly by recreational trekkers as well. The more demanding trekkers should look at carbon poles. The carbon percentage varies in these poles and so do their attributes. Generally speaking, the higher the carbon percentage, the lighter, harder and more shock absorbent the walking pole is. Also, the heavier the user is, the higher the carbon percentage should be.

6. Pole Tip

Nordic walking – Besides the glove-like straps, another distinguishing feature of Nordic poles are their tips. The tips of Nordic poles end in so-called paws that are shaped to provide the most comfortable propulsion. The paws also minimize the unpleasant metal clicking noise that usually follows trekking poles.

Trekking – Trekking poles end in metal tips that sink into the ground for better propulsion. We can also find paws on trekking poles, but they are round with an even surface.

7. Shock Absorbers

Nordic walking – There is no need for shock absorbers, since Nordic walking is a quick and dynamic activity and shock absorbers would only decrease the energy required. That’s why NO Nordic poles have shock absorbers or can be locked.

Trekking – Most trekking poles have shock absorbers to compensate for changing and often hard terrain. You can decide whether you want poles with shock absorbers or not. Poles with shock absorbers can be often identified by having “AS” in their name, which stands for Anti-Shock.

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