Can You Nordic Walk Using Trekking Poles?

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

The simple answer is, NO! While both types of poles definitely have their place, they are designed for different purposes, and although you can hike or hill walk using certain makes of Nordic Walking poles, you can’t Nordic walk using trekking poles. Here’s an overview of the main differences:

Nordic Walking vs trekking poles

Theresa May photographed walking in the Swiss Alps in August 2016 (although this Daily Mail article claims she is Nordic Walking, she is not!)


Trekking poles: for support and balance on rocky and/or hilly terrain

Nordic Walking poles: for enhanced and/or accelerated walking on all terrains to improve fitness and health

Pole Features

Trekking poles:

  • Always adjustable

  • Loop strap: mostly to prevent loss of poles in case of a trip or fall

  • Chunky handle

  • Relatively heavy

  • Metal or carbide blunt tip with rounded rubber tip protector

  • Substantial basket between shaft and tip

Nordic Walking poles:

  • Fixed length or adjustable: consisting of one, two or three parts (traveller poles, as pictured left)

  • Glove-like strap: enables proper Nordic Walking technique, i.e. propelling the body forward by planting the poles at an angle and pushing through the strap

  • Ergonomically designed handle without finger grooves or 'ledge' to rest the hand on: allows for ‘squeezing and releasing’ the handle or ‘catching and throwing’ the poles while carrying out the arm swing

  • Very light (when made of carbon) or reasonably light (when made of aluminium): to achieve the ideal ‘swing weight’

  • Tungsten carbide tip (blunt or spiky) with angled rubber paw: to achieve traction on soft ground and sufficient grip on hard surfaces

  • Very small or no basket, depending on make of poles and preferred terrain


Trekking poles:

  • Planted at c. 90 degrees in front of the body: to push the body upward

  • Pole plant comes from the shoulders and elbows

Nordic Walking poles:

  • Planted at c. 45 degrees next to/behind the body: to push the body forward

  • Arm swing and pole plant come from the shoulders only

I recently did a 1,5h Nordic walk using trekking poles, because I swapped poles with one of our regular walkers who had brought trekking poles, and while it was just about possible to mimic the correct arm swing, the constant friction of the loop strap on the skin between my thumb and index finger left a small blister on each hand. Moreover, my arms and upper body started feeling tired about half an hour into the walk because of the added weight of the poles (and I don’t mean the good kind of tired that indicates you’re working your muscles in a beneficial way). Also, rather annoyingly, the baskets at the bottom of the poles kept catching on tufts of long grass and other materials lying on the ground.

The bottom line is, once you’ve tried to Nordic walk using trekking poles, you’ll know for sure that providing different kinds of poles is much, much more than just a marketing ploy thought up by profit hungry pole manufacturers!

#NordicWalking #NordicWalkingTechniqueReview #NordicWalkingGearEquipment

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