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Nordic Walking vs. Trekking

Poles & Technique Comparisons

At first glance these poles look very similar but a closer look distinguishes significant differences in their designs which make them ideal for their intended purpose.

Nordic Walking

  • Poles are available in fixed length or adjustable 2 or 3 section poles. Two piece adjustable poles are the most common.
  • Generally lighter in weight than trekking poles.
  • The hands are connected to the poles with specialized glove-like wrist straps. LEKI poles provide a quick release mechanism so the glove can quickly and easily be separated from the pole without removing them each time one wants to use their hands for other purposes.
  • Poles are not gripped tightly but are held in a relaxed hand with the wrist in a neutral position, palms facing each other. A well-fitted wrist strap allows the pole to be supported close to the hand without the necessity of gripping. The full arm, shoulder, and torso are all a part of the motion. Because the pole is not gripped the walker has the capacity for a complete follow-though, maximizing the arm swing and use of the upper body.
  • An ergonomic angled rubber tip connects with the ground as directed by the user’s hands and arms.
  • The rubber tip can be removed (on most brands) to allow use of the carbide tip when walking on softer or irregular surfaces (dirt, rocks, ice, etc).
  • Poles are not used in front of the person to provide support but are designed to push off from the walking surface to the sides and behind the body. The Nordic Walking poles act as an extension of the hands and arms engaging with the walking surface during the push off. The poles also allow for a full backswing of the person’s arm while walking. In this manner, the upper body becomes fully engaged in the walking motion. (4-wheel drive)
  • Nordic Walking is a continuous rhythmical whole body aerobic activity.


  • Generally heavier than Nordic Walking poles.
  • Poles are adjustable with 3 sections per pole. (Some use a single nonadjustable pole also known as a walking staff.)
  • The user holds the handle of a trekking pole via an adjustable loop type strap.
  • The hands can move freely in the straps and are not attached to the poles.
  • Carbide tips are used while hiking to grip softer trails, slippery rocks and ice.
  • Rounded rubber tips are sometimes provided for use on pavement or indoors. However, they are not advised for use on rock or ice.
  • Poles are used in front of the body in order to absorb stress to joints and to provide stability and support while hiking.
  • Poles are "planted" in front of the hiker. The arm and shoulder experience this impact of the pole plant, the intensity of which depends on how firmly the pole was planted. In this way the poles provide stability and support which helps to lessen stress to the knees on steep slopes.

Revised and used with permission from:

Barbara Gleason LTI and Dan Gleason LTI, and Ellary Mori, LEKI Community Walk Leader

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