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Trekking poles - All in the Head?
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Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 16:54:08 MDT Print View

What Good Are Hiking Poles?



Double hiking poles, held like ski poles, are becoming a common sight on the trail. Do they really make hiking easier?
Or, with their added weight, will they help you intensify your workout and burn more calories?
Researchers at Oklahoma State University tested these poles, not with vigorous arm swinging on a flat surface (which another study found increased exertion), but as a prop in walking uphill.
Twenty men were fitted with 33-lb (15 kg) frame backpacks, and walked uphill at 1 ½ mph at a gradually increasing grade for 5 minutes, then continued for 10 more minutes at a peak grade of 25 percent.
Whether they used hiking poles or not had no significant effect on their heart rate, breathing, oxygen consumption, or calories burned.
It did, however, affect the hikers' perceived exertion (RPE), which was lower when using hiking poles, especially towards the end of the 15-minute hike.
The stabilizing effect of the poles may have made the hiking seem more comfortable and therefore, easier, even though physiologically, exertion was the same.
Source: International Journal of Sports Medicine, July 2000; 21, 5, 356-359

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 17:00:23 MDT Print View

Kind of a limited study. Where's the downhill testing?

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 17:04:33 MDT Print View

What about your knees? Does the study mention whether or not hiking poles take stress off your knees, especially going downhill? That was my thinking in getting trekking poles.

When I use my poles, I feel like I can go longer, because I can shift back and forth between how much I just rely on my legs and using my poles more to propel myself uphill. Of course, this is just a 'feeling', and could be all in my head.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 17:08:20 MDT Print View

This is the worst study I have ever seen. You are correct, no downhill testing which is where they come in handy for me. What about stream crossings or using them with glacier travel....I could go on.

Who pays for these studies?

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 17:12:26 MDT Print View

I concur with both of you. I think most of us use them to save knee stress downhill and for help with agility. I use mine some when I power up hills too but I think I'm pretty unique in that I speed up when I see a hill. I tend to get yelled at for it though.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 17:13:53 MDT Print View

One group burned more calories with their upper body than the other group.

Both groups burned the same amount of calories.

Seems like one group might be feeling better because they have legs which have performed less work.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
i agree with cameron on 06/09/2009 17:37:13 MDT Print View

i think it results in a more even distribution of work

a 200lb quadruped travels faster and easier than a 200lb biped - but the calories required to move a 200lb mass from point a to point b are the same

i sometimes use no pole, sometimes one staff, sometimes two poles & my experience seems to match up - the overall effort doesn't seem less, but my legs are definitely less impacted when i use the staff or the poles & the downhill jarring is significantly reduced

JAMES CALL
(Conductor) - MLife

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 18:04:07 MDT Print View

Good points all.
So let me get this straight, according to this study the poles that I use to-

Power up hills
Come down steep hills
Cross streams
Save my butt when I stumble
Support my shelter
Hold my bivy hood off of my face when there is no over-head tie offs
Dig cat holes

has no metabolic cost for their use---cool!

Also I don’t think they had sub 4oz poles in 2000.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 18:05:39 MDT Print View

There was an exhaustive thread here which is worth reading and digesting before drawing any conclsions based on one poorly designed study from almsot a decade ago...

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=2724&startat=20

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 19:19:23 MDT Print View

"Who pays for these studies?"

The College of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 19:21:19 MDT Print View

"One group burned more calories with their upper body than the other group.

Both groups burned the same amount of calories.

Seems like one group might be feeling better because they have legs which have performed less work."

Spot on!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Heh.... on 06/09/2009 20:14:00 MDT Print View

All I am saying is in the years of using trekking poles my falling down has gone down maybe 95%? So many times I have that extra second to grab myself instead of butt/face planting.

And my knees. I don't know where I'd be without them to take the stress off of them.

And crossing rivers, poles are priceless.

I could care less about burning more calories.....not having swollen ape hanger hands at the end of the day is yet another reason to use them!

Jonathan Boozer
(anywayoutside) - MLife

Locale: South East
Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 20:31:05 MDT Print View

"It did, however, affect the hikers' perceived exertion (RPE), which was lower when using hiking poles, especially towards the end of the 15-minute hike."

My LT4's provide vivid hallucinations of increased stability. I don't hit a trail without them. Anyway isn't perception 9/10ths of reality?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Trekking poles - All in the Head? on 06/09/2009 20:41:32 MDT Print View

"Anyway isn't perception 9/10ths of reality?" Maybe, but the other 1/10th, gravity, is the one that really counts. ;)

Paul Wozniak
(PaulW)

Locale: Midwest
Trekking pole..falling down on 06/10/2009 06:30:03 MDT Print View

"All I am saying is in the years of using trekking poles my falling down has gone down maybe 95%?"

Sarah, great point. On a 6-day wet and rugged trip someone in our group slipped, caught himself and spontaneously yelled out "pole save". That was repeated a number of times that trip. It's in our lexicon now.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Trekking pole..falling down on 06/10/2009 08:21:28 MDT Print View

It was my husband who got me to go to 2 poles way back when. It was our first hike together, going back even before dating. He watched me do the two footed whoopty-whoop slide on a slick mossy bridge in pouring rain. I landed on my back/butt. This was pretty normal for me - and in as well, it seemed for many people I hiked with at the time. No one used poles.

He gave me his to try.

I was hooked.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Trekking poles on 06/11/2009 18:15:28 MDT Print View

FWIW, Wikipedia:
“Compared to regular walking, Nordic walking involves applying force to the poles with each stride. Nordic walkers use more of their entire body (with greater intensity) and receive fitness building stimulation not as present in normal walking for the chest, lats, triceps, biceps, shoulder, abdominals, spinal and other core muscles. This extra muscle involvement leads to enhancements over ordinary walking at equal paces such as:
• increased overall strength and endurance in the core muscles and the entire upper body
• significant increases in heart rate at a given pace [4]
• greater ease in climbing hills
• burning more calories than in plain walking
• improved balance and stability with use of the poles
• significant unweighting of hip, knee and ankle joints
• provides density-preserving stress to bones
Nordic walking can be done year round in any climate and anywhere a person of any age or ability might otherwise walk without poles. It combines simplicity and accessibility of walking with simultaneous core and upper body conditioning similar to Nordic skiing. The result is a full-body walking workout that can burn significantly more calories without a change in perceived exertion or having to walk faster, due to the incorporation of many large core and other upper-body muscles which comprise more than 90% of the body's total muscle mass and do work against resistance with each stride. "Normal walking" utilizes only 70% of muscle mass with full impact on the joints of the legs and feet. Nordic walking produces up to a 46% increase in energy consumption compared to walking without poles.[2] It can also increase upper body muscle endurance by 38% in just twelve weeks.”

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Trekking poles on 06/11/2009 18:31:19 MDT Print View

I question whether there is much impact on the joints themselves. Joints are designed to move smoothly and efficiently -but are they designed to take the full impact of walking/moving?
Im highly skeptical. It seems like a bad idea to expect the little bit of cartilage to adsorb all that impact, I would think that cartilage is there to separate the bones and create low friction not to absorb impact. Ive never had pain in my knees from walking/hiking but Ive beat the hell out of the leg muscles until they twitched involuntarily. It seems to me that the muscles take the brunt of the impact with the bones only indirectly.
and man people sure fall down a lot!

Huzefa Siamwala
(huzefa) - M
Re: Re: Trekking poles on 06/11/2009 19:55:18 MDT Print View

>Joints are designed to move smoothly and efficiently -but are they designed to take the full impact of walking/moving? Im highly skeptical. It seems like a bad idea to expect the little bit of cartilage to adsorb all that impact, I would think that cartilage is there to separate the bones and create low friction not to absorb impact.

You are right, Brian.

>I question whether there is much impact on the joints themselves.

There is - when you walk with heel strike which results in locked knees taking the impact. it is your arches that are evolved to take the impact not your knees.

Walking barefoot, most of us naturally adopt a very different step: the knees are bent, rather than locked; the outside ball of the foot touches the ground to test it first, before applying any weight; then, if it’s safe, we roll the rest of the ball in and flatten the heel; only then does the weight come down.

For reference see this thread:
Discussion on Pack theory, poles, and shoes

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Trekking poles on 06/11/2009 21:58:42 MDT Print View

Thanks for the links Huzefa,
I may try out those Huarache Running Sandals.
I like that you can buy the kit and fit them custom.
Also the price is right, most barefoot inspired shoes are out of my price range this is a good alternative.