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Walking Poles

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by hkpod, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. hkpod

    hkpod Active Member

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    Hi All,
    This is a bit of a vague post but I have been trying to find some info regarding the effect on feet/knees using walking poles while hiking. The only info I can find is in the technique of using the poles but nothing about their effect on the lower limb & the differences with using 1 or 2 poles.
    I don't really have a direct question but basically being winter here in HK, we are in the middle of the hiking season with some of the longer trail walks being held (50-100km). I can have an educated guess at the differences in using 1 or 2 poles & the need for them (eg, maybe symptomatic knee = 1 pole ??, maybe using arms decreases impact to the lower body ??) but thought some of you out there in Podiatry world may be able to direct me to some studies or at least have some experience with trail hikers themselves.
    I really appreciate any help/advice you can give me so I don't look like too much of a moron in front of my patients!
  2. efuller

    efuller MVP

    Found this on pub med

    The above sums it up pretty well. To take the stress off one structure you are going to put more stress on another structure.

    I can see using poles while skiing. You are making turns on a slippery surface and a quick pole plant can save you from a fall. Walking, I'm having a hard time seeing how they are worth the added weight. If your knees are so bad that you need a stick to take some weight off, I'd recommend either a different form of exercise (non weight bearing) and a cane with a horizontal surface on its handle; Much like a traditional cane.

    Another alleged benefit of walking sticks is improved stability. Most of us are able to alter the planned landing location of our foot if we feel that we are about to fall over. The sticks might help you if you are willing to carry them to the short stretch of trail where the trail is 6 inches wide and there is a place for your pole to push off the trail to help you balance.

    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  3. man0os

    man0os Welcome New Poster

    I thought the benefits of NW were due to the raised arms which should better your fitness faster than without the poles?
    Reliefing knees and ancles sounds like a commercial gimmick, I bet walking with Crutches would be a better option for that purpose.
  4. tracyd123

    tracyd123 Member

    In distance events such as Oxfam Trailwalker (100km in 48 hours) there is a benefit of using walking poles to help redistribute the weight after fatigue has set in on tired muscles.

    However for everyday general hiking I too agree there is not that much need for them.
  5. Ian Harvey

    Ian Harvey Active Member

    Can't add any scientific info to this thread, but I have some clients who use poles for confidence and stability. These are unstable older people who are subject to falling.

    I believe that they encourage a more vertical posture than walking sticks, and allow the unstable person to stride out more than when using normal walking sticks. Anecdotally, they appear to benefit from the increased mobility, reporting that they feel "easier" in their stiff legs and ankles. They also feel that they gain beneficial exercise by using their arms.

    Sorry that this doesn't answer the original question. However, falling is a very serious risk for many of our older patients, and I think that walking poles might protect some of our wobblier clients from injurious falls.

  6. Walking poles can be very beneficial in climbing and descending hills in that they can reduce the demands on the knee extensors (i.e. quads) which helps with patients with knee DJD or patello-femoral syndrome. They are also great on slippery hilly trails. I have used them before and when used in the right conditions, can be quite handy.
  7. hkpod

    hkpod Active Member

    Thanks Kevin - just a quick question. If, for example, there was unilateral patello-femoral syndrome - would the patient require 1 or 2 poles? And if the answer was 1, would they use it on the symptomatic or asymptomatic side?
  8. Typically, hiking poles (also called trekking poles and walking sticks) are used in both hands. In the times I have used them, I have found them helpful more for the downhill portion of a climb, using them to help decelerate the mass of my body down a steep step, for example, so that my quadriceps and knees don't take as much strain. My wife and I have also used them on the slippery mud trails of Hawaii on vacation to try to prevent falls on the slick surface of these trails.

    I probably never would have used them in my 20's and 30's, but now in my mid 50's, I have found them useful on the more strenous hilly hikes which seem to take the strain off my aging knees. However, they certainly don't need to be used by everyone. For some people with certain ailments of their lower extremities, they can definitely extend their ability to walk, hike and climb with more comfort and with less chance of injury. Here is a video that shows some of their other potential uses.

  9. timharmey

    timharmey Active Member

    I have been reading a paper "Effect of rhythmic Arm movement on reflexes in the legs:Modulation of soleus H-reflexes and somatosensory conditioning" that I found on a website of an interesting guy called E.paul Zehr who is a kinesologist and a neuroscientest that people might find interesting .The paper is about how arm movement can affect reflexes in the leg.I was introduced to this chaps work by a physiotherapist and it is very interesting
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2012
  10. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Nordic walking practice might improve plantar pressure distribution.
    Pérez-Soriano P, Llana-Belloch S, Martínez-Nova A, Morey-Klapsing G, Encarnación-Martínez A.
    Res Q Exerc Sport. 2011 Dec;82(4):593-9.
  11. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Effect of using poles on foot–ground kinetics during stance phase in trail running
    Yannick Daviaux, Frédérique Hintzy, Pierre Samozino & Nicolas Horvais
    European Journal of Sport Science (in press)
  12. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Health Benefits of Nordic Walking: A Systematic Review
    Marcus Tschentscher
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine; Volume 44, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 76–84
  13. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Lisa, I am an experienced ultra marathoner specializing in 100 mile mountain runs. There is one particular run that I have done several times that includes 33,000 feet of climb and 33,000 feet of descent over the 100 mile course. In that race, some people use trekking poles, most don't. As mentioned by others, there is a trade-off between needing to carry the things and the benefit they might provide. Those who use the poles seem to already have issues with their knees, hips or back and prefer to carry the poles to help take some of the stress off while ascending and or descending steep terrain.

    In the end, I think is a matter of personal preference. You'll need to try them and let experience tell you whether you think they are worth the burden of carrying along for the trip.

  14. Jo BB

    Jo BB Active Member

    Thank you for the posts- I have been considering this for my DM t2 patients as an exercise alternative due to the increased health benefits and stability.Deep water running is a favourite of mine and living on the beautiful Gold Coast [where the city council has the program as part of their better living program] I am always surprised at the number of people who do not like swimming/water.
  15. drhunt1

    drhunt1 Well-Known Member

    My experience with hiking poles is confined to backpacking. Remember, that while in remote areas for extended periods of time, the weight of backpacks can exceed 80 lbs, and generally ranges from 40-60 lbs. The value in using hiking poles, (I use ski poles), is three-fold. First, when climbing up trails, one can also use their arm strength to assist in pulling up, thereby lessening the force required by leg strength alone. Second, when hiking down trails, the poles assist in the demands of the thigh muscles to decellerate the hiker. This is important...remember the additional weight of the backpack. Third, the poles offer an additional two points of contact, thereby stabilizing the hiker as they negotiate irregular terrain...very important. Three points is always better than one. Poles allow the hiker to cover the same terrain in less time, more efficiently and with less "wear and tear". In snow skiing, contrary to the comments by Eric Fuller above, ski poles are used by novices for stability, but are used for timing of the turns in advanced skiers. In competitive skiing racers, they are used as battering rams, (slalom), to knock the gate pole out of the way, and again, for timing in downhil, super-GS, and GS courses...oh, and at the start. In the last three disciplines, the poles really never touch the snow.
  16. efuller

    efuller MVP

    Matt, I really don't understand why you think my statement is any different than yours. (contrary?) Different ways of saying the same thing. Also, could you explain how poles aid in timing of a turn?

  17. drhunt1

    drhunt1 Well-Known Member

    Novice skiers use poles for balance...advanced skiers use the pole plant to "time" their turn. If you can plant a pole, you can make a turn. Further, the action of planting a pole, drops the skier down, thus aiding in unweighting besides helping to keep their bodies facing downhill. Beginner skiers, (snowplow and stem-christie skiers), use the pole plants heavily. More advanced skiers really do not...with the possible exception of world class bump specialists.
  18. efuller

    efuller MVP

    You didn't explain what poles have to do with timing of the turn. How does planting the pole drop the skier down. Doesn't bending the knees drop the skier down?

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