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Choosing the right trail running and Nordic walking poles

Carbon, aluminium, adjustable or fixed, no matter the type of pole, this piece of equipment has become, in less than a decade, an essential accessory for endurance athletes, just like trail running vests or shoes. Beyond performance, it plays an important role in promoting good posture, improving stability and reducing the risks of falling during mountain activities. Both for trail running and Nordic walking, choosing a pole is influenced by its features and your usage. Let's review together the elements that’ll help you choose the right pair of poles quickly! You'll then be able to pick your best adventure companion among the leading brands in the field available at Glisshop!

trail running poles

The various types of poles

Telescopic poles, hiking, trekking and trail running versatility?

Telescopic poles are the most versatile poles on the market. Made of 2 or 3 sections that collapse into each other. The length of the pole is easy to adjust. In addition, thanks to a system of plastic clips, the locking mechanism is very intuitive and easy to use. When collapsed, they are very easy to store in your backpack. These poles offer good vibration dampening and are durable. These characteristics make them a good option of trail runners who aren’t focused on performance and are looking for a pole they can take on all their summer and winter adventures, even snowshoeing and ski touring.

Foldable poles

Foldable poles are THE benchmark for trail runners. Made of 3 sections, they’re often very lightweight and will satisfy runners who enjoy covering long distance in the mountains and are looking for a pole with the best size/weight/performance ratio possible. Keep in mind that while they are praised by athletes looking for top-of-the-range equipment, they aren’t as strong as single-piece or collapsible poles. They are also a bit pricey.

Single-piece poles

Simple and efficient are the best words to describe 1-piece poles. Their single piece shaft makes them sturdy and durable. They're perfect for Nordic walking enthusiasts who spend most of their time on flat or fast rolling terrain, as this activity doesn’t involve putting your poles on your backpack. However, while this trait is an advantage for Nordic walking, not being able to adjust the length is truly detrimental on a long distance trail run. These poles are better suited to shorter outings but won’t work on longer sessions.

The criteria to choose a trail running or Nordic walking pole

Weight

Weight is sure to be an element to consider when choosing your poles. For Nordic walking, the quest for performance will guide your choice toward ultra-lightweight poles. For trail running, in some cases, this criterion can come second. Trail runners who don’t focus on performance and finishing times can prefer a robust and reliable pole that won’t give or break under shocks during a run.

Materials: carbon or aluminium

Generally, 100% carbon poles are the choice of athletes, while heavier but more robust 100% aluminium poles, will satisfy the more contemplative types. The choice of material depends on your priorities. An ultra-trail runner could choose safety and opt for foldable aluminium poles, even if they’re heavier. Today, thanks to the progress made on 7005 aluminium, you can find aluminium poles that combine lightness and durability. Keep in mind that carbon offers better vibration dampening. Aluminium has better cold resistance. A better option in mountain and snowy environments.

Price

Finnaly, be aware that carbon poles are generally more expensive. Price is often one of the first things customers look at. Don't buy a carbon pole at all costs, price doesn’t necessarily mean strength. You could be disappointed if you thought you were investing in a strong and durable pole!

The various types of wrist straps

Both for trail running and Nordic walking, wrist straps prevent you from dropping your poles when your hand slips on the grip or on an impact. You'll find two types of straps, each with its pros and cons. They improve walking comfort and your performance.

Standard straps

On your poles, standard straps wrap around your wrists. Loose and often adjustable, they offer good freedom of movement to your hands on the grips, by adapting to the various terrain changes you can encounter when trail running. However, they are more prone to provoking chaffing.

Gauntlets

Gauntlets appeared on the market more recently, they are interchangeable and attach thanks to a magnetic system. This type of wrist straps provides perfect support and helps push efficiently on the poles. Wrist straps designed for the performance of demanding athletes.

Gauntlets are better suited to people already accustomed to running or walking with poles. Beginners will feel more comfortable with standard wrist straps to learn and identify the right hand grip.

trail running poles on hydration vest

Choosing the right type of poles

For trail running: what type of runs?

Short trail run, long trail run, ultra-trail or Vertical Kilometre, while trail running simply means running in nature, it is possible to identify various types of runs. They all require dedicated equipment. This rules also applies to poles. Depending on your personal way of trail running, your pair of poles will have specific features.

A skyrunning enthusiast will look for pure performance, with 1-piece carbon poles. An ultra-trail runner needs foldable poles to store them easily on a hydration pack. Finally, those who run short distances can be happy with a heavier aluminium pole, that is stronger, if they don’t worry too much about their time.

What size Nordic walking or trail running poles do you need?

There’s a simple calculation to make it easier to find the right pole for Nordic walking and get the best performance. Simply multiply your height in cm by 0.68 to get the optimal length for your Nordic walking poles. For instance, if you are 1.80m: 180 x 0.68 = 122.4. A pole from 120 to 125 cm is recommended. If you’re new to Nordic walking, a shorter pole is best, it facilitates the learning process.

For trail running, a good way to know if the length is right is to plant the pole vertically in the ground. If your upper arm and forearm are at a 90° angle, look no further, this is the right pole for you!

Men and women: the best pole brands are available at Glisshop

Leki walking poles

Leki is a renowned brand on the trail running and Nordic walking markets that offers poles made in Europe. Enthusiasms, innovation, quality, collaboration, superior performance and responsibility are 6 values the brand has been emphasising on for several decades. The brand designed high-performance poles of superior quality and works with renowned athletes to promote its products and beliefs in the world of endurance sports.

Swix poles

The adventure of Swix started 80 years ago. At the time and during decades, the brand was praised by the best skiers in the world for its ski waxes. Today, the manufacturer still enjoys first-class reputation among mountain sports athletes, by offering high-performance technical products. Swix 1-piece Nordic walking poles guarantee performance and durability to help you give your best!

TSL poles

Made of aluminium or carbon, TSL trail running poles can be divided into 4 sections yet remain robust. Very lightweight, they will fit perfectly on your backpack and will be of great help on steep gradient. Regarding Nordic walking, the C50, C70 and C100 models are reliable, lightweight and very strong adventure companions thanks to their 1-piece design. Innovation and performance are the driving forces behind this French brand that is a pioneer in the world of mountain sports. Glisshop is proud to stock TSL products, praised for their quality and made in France.

Black Diamond poles

The Distance FLZ Pewter foldable trail running poles from American brand Black Diamond are sturdy and easy to deploy. They'll be your ally on the most challenging ultra-trail runs thanks to all their features. Thanks to its fixed length design, the Distance C is ideal for trailers looking to be fast in the mountains and perform on Vertical Kilometre races.

trail running in the mountains with poles