The sight of a hiker using trekking poles often comes with a similar question from onlookers.
"Why spend money on those poles when you can just find some sticks on the side of the trail?"
It's a justified question, as some people believe there are wiser ways to spend money. But once you invest in a pair of hiking poles and experience the benefits, you may never ask the question again. Grabbing a couple nearby sticks is certainly better than having nothing at all, but poles can drastically improve the hiking experience.
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Crossing a stream and unstable terrain are injury-inducing aspects of hiking. With better stability, shock absorption and weight distribution, trekking poles improve the overall safety of your hike.
In one study, 37 active men and women were sent hiking. One group had poles, while the other group did not. Less muscle soreness and a reduced loss of strength were exhibited in the group using poles.
"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," says Dr. Glyn Howatson, who conducted the study.
- Better weight distribution: Hiking can be hard on your knees. As you climb over rocks or walk down steep declines, most of the load falls on these joints. Use trekking poles to distribute the stress evenly throughout your arms, back and shoulders.
- Shock absorbing springs: Trekking poles with shock absorbing springs further reduce the stress on your body.
- Improved stability: With nothing to stabilize you, rocky terrain can be a recipe for disaster. With hiking poles, you remain steady as you traverse these parts of the trail.
- Straps: This small feature provides big benefits. With your wrists wrapped in straps, you have a better hold on the poles. This allows you to effectively reduce injury instead of inadvertently encouraging it without handles and straps.