- They provide better balance and footing.
- On downhill hikes especially, they decrease the amount of stress on your legs and joints.
- On uphill climbs, poles transfer some of your weight to your shoulders, arms and back, which can reduce leg fatigue and add thrust to your ascents.
- They make crossing streams, loose rocks and slippery surfaces such as ice and snow patches easier and safer.
- They help you establish a walking rhythm.
- They can push back overhanging vegetation from the trail and probe soggy terrain for holes and boggy spots.
Trekking poles are most helpful to those with weak or damaged knees or ankles, particularly when going downhill, because the poles absorb some of the impact that your body would normally sustain. According to a 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine, trekking poles can reduce 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.
It should be noted that using trekking poles will not decrease your overall energy expenditure since you’ll be using your arms more than you would when walking without poles. They do, however, help distribute your energy usage in a way that can help your hiking endurance.
Do you use trekking poles? Why? Whose? When? How?