Its all about the strap!

We often get asked if you can Nordic Walk with ordinary trekking or walking poles and the answer is simple…NO! However, you can use Nordic Walking poles for trekking so we would advise anybody who is looking to use poles when out walking to try Nordic Walking first!

So, what is the difference? It’s mainly due to the strap and handle. As you can see from the picture, this Nordic Walking pole has a glove/strap that actually attaches to the handle and is fixed to the pole whilst in use. As Nordic Walking originally came from Cross country skiing, the pole is planted at an angle rather than in front of the walker and this requires a push through the STRAP

The strap allows the hand to articulate and push through the movement

as you move forward (imagine a skier gliding along) This lovely fluid movement, provides propulsion and allows the walker to increase stride and harness the power of the upper body. You can see from the image that the walker is not gripping the handle of the pole and that it is angled behind him as he gently powers forward.

Trekking poles often do have a strap but it is usually simply to loop around the wrist in order to ensure the pole is not lost in the event of a stumble.


Trekking poles have a variety of handles types, many of which are designed for comfort ( see pictures) because the walker will use these to transfer body weight into the pole which helps to share the load and provide stability. The aim is to take some weight off the lower body joints (especially on hilly terrain) and to cope with tough conditions under foot. In general the trekker is not seeking to gain such forward propulsion or increase stride in the way Nordic Walkers do and they plant the poles in front of them at a much more upright angle. It is also quite common to use only one pole but we would never advocate that as it can cause inbalance and back discomfort.


Those who have learned Nordic Walking technique correctly find they can use elements of the technique when trekking and that their straps feel equally as comfortable if they plant the poles further forward and more upright.

If you are considering the purchase of a pair of poles and are still unsure which type to buy, you could do worse than choosing the GABEL FUSION which comes complete with both types of straps and the correct paws for both trekking and nordic walking……inspired!

One further difference between the poles is the little rubber paws for use on harder ground – a Nordic Walking pole will always come with paws that are specially designed in order to facilitate the angle the pole is planted at and this will stop it slipping. Trekking poles generally come with a straighter rubber paw like the one shown here






13 thoughts on “Its all about the strap!

  1. Age and rickety joints have caught up with me. My knees are an especial problem – ascending stairs/steps in particular: I like to have the bannister near to hand. (Descending not usually a problem.) I walk a fair bit – I am fine if upright and distances as such do not trouble me.

    I enjoy photography and often have a back-pack with my equipment – SLRs and lenses – heavy!

    I am thinking of using the poles to aid in my walking and, as much as anything, as a support over sloping (rather than uneven) terrain – diagonal traverse as well as straight up/down. I live in a city, so am discomforted with metal tips on pavements and similar.

    Have been looking at the Leki Traveller Smart. A good idea?

  2. Very good article. i have walked with a single Treking pole
    and have just started to use Nordic Poles ( Gabel Stretch).
    the difference is amazing.

  3. I am still confused about the strap. I have completed a Nordic Walking course but have also been a cross country skiier for many years. Ski poles have a loop for the wrist!

    • Hi Sally – you are right many do but in order to replicate the propulsion gained via the same action but without the benefit of SNOW – Nordic Walking can not be achieved with a looped strap.

  4. I have just ordered and received ( great service thanks) a pair of Gabel Fusion poles from you and am just so pleased as I have been searching very hard for something like this.
    I am a keen Nordic walker and whilst I love my Leki poles they are not suitable to use for support walking in the mountains due to the shape of the top of the pole and also they don’t collapse to a small enough size to carry on my back pack for terrain that is not suitable to Nordic walk in. Thanks so much for your article, I am now even more excited about my forthcomming hols in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as will be able to both trek and Nordic walk 🙂

    • Hi Jackie

      Thanks for your comment – your holiday sounds lovely and we are sure the Fusions will be the perfect poles for the job! let us know how it goes – NWUK

  5. Hi Gill, my good friend Deb ( walking with me for a number of years now) is beginning to develop arthritis in her wrists. I have tweaked the length of her ” Instructors ” on one or two occasions however after about 1/2 hr out and about the power stroke through the straps is paining her. She has tried a Gabel and a ” Verso “- no change in symptom picture. Any thoughts on what to try next?

    • Hi Louis

      I would recommend the Exerstrider poles – they are strapless but have a specially designed handle that enables propulsion to be gained via the ‘heel’ of the hand.

      The technique is slightly different but we are using them in a lot in our falls prevention, wellbeing & exercise referral sessions.

      I will send you a picture of the handle but you can view the poles here



  6. I read somewhere that retractable poles are not suitable for Nordic Walking on the basis that they are inherently weaker and might break when under load. Is this true?

    • Hi Mike

      Absolutely untrue and a myth that was circulated by pole manufacturers who did not have and adjustable version. We recommend both leki and Gabel poles and they both have adjustable and even telescopic 3 piece poles which are totally safe for Nordic walking.
      We have over 2,500 Instructors across the UK most of whom deliver weekly classes with adjustable poles and have not had a single cause for concern in over 7 years.

      Hope that helps