Ok, so I'm young. There are a lot of people who are older than I am who experience soreness and pain. I am invested in making good decisions now so that I'm less sore when I'm 40, 50, 60 years old.
I bought trekking poles, and I use them most of the time, but the ONLY reason I do so is fear of wearing out my knees later in life. One of my mentors, David Eve, had to have an extensive knee surgery last year because of all the backpacking he did when he was my age. I am completely 100% pain-free even after long miles (well, my joints anyways.) Muscles get tired and a vein tumor in my foot hurts sometimes, but my knees, ankles, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders don't have an ounce of pain. I spend most of my day in Vibram Five Fingers, and my hikes in regular hiking shoes.
I've never gotten an ankle injury, although I do roll my ankles from time to time hiking. I've never dislocated anything. I've also never torn any ligaments or tendons and my flexibility is fine.
I can sleep on hard ground with no pad and still get a good night's rest, although I use a cut-down torso Zlite for a bit of comfort. I don't use a pillow most of the time. This isn't just for camping- I've taken to using the Z-lite on a regular basis. I just lay it down and go to sleep in my own house. It's no different in terms of sleep quality from a mattress and it's a helluva lot less finicky, and I read that floor sleeping is good for posture.
A BPL member here once, who I believe was a doctor, told me that if I haven't felt any pain yet, I likely won't just develop it out of the blue. Maybe I've got good genes?
So... I'll use the poles if the much wiser people here tell me I should use the poles. But at 23 years old with almost two years of running and backpacking, and a decade of cycling, I would love to stop worrying about future pain and listen to my body in the moment.
So... do I need the poles?
Interested in feedback,
P.S. I have a bad vein malformation in my foot. From age 15 to 21, I didn't run or hike or walk long distances from the pain. I did bike all the time, so I never got out of shape. Three surgeries later, I can now run and hike and walk, and it's getting better. Next surgery, I'm hoping to recover and step up from frequent 3-day hikes up to week or month-long backpacking. I can do 20 miles in a day, I just can't do it more than a couple days in a row without a lot of pain.
I only mention this part because I'm not sure if years of relative inactivity is relevant.