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
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