As someone who has run a Nordic walking business for nearly ten years I am understandably asked lots of questions about Nordic walking poles.
Whilst there are many Nordic walking pole manufacturers Europe-wide, in the UK the choice is still fairly limited. Leki and Exel are the biggest selling brands followed by Gabel and Fizan, the latter two offering slightly cheaper options.
Hopefully our choices will expand as Nordic walking continues to increase in popularity. Certainly manufacturers have become more innovative with their Nordic walking pole design and in the last few years we’ve seen the introduction of:
- The Exel Curve Pro – a sporty looking curved pole which is now one of the most popular poles in our club;
- Extendable poles – a hybrid between fixed and adjustable poles and a great choice for beginners wanting a high quality pole;
- Foldable travel poles – the hottest selling poles on the market;
- Advanced locking systems for adjustable and travel poles which are easier to use and more reliable.
The following are the top five most frequent Nordic walking pole questions I'm asked. My answers are based on my own experience of what's available today and the feedback of fellow walkers.
1. I’m new to Nordic walking and would like to buy some poles – what would you recommend?
It all depends… do they need to be portable (for travelling or on public transport/cycling) or can you keep them in your car/walk from home?
If you need portable poles I would recommend you buy travel poles (see below). Otherwise I’d recommend the Leki Speed Pacer Vario. It is nice and solid, like a fixed length pole, but there’s a 10cm adjustment window so you can vary the height. This is really helpful when you’re a beginner as it’s easier to learn the technique on shorter poles, increasing the pole length as you improve and get fitter. The Leki Speed Pacer Vario is a top of the range 100% carbon pole which grips well on any surface (thanks to the speed spike) and is very light. If you want a cheaper option, the Leki Spin Superlock is apparently the most popular entry level Nordic walking pole on the market.
Fixed length poles are a great choice if you are sure of your pole height but, because of the current problems with my favourite poles (Exel), I’m not currently recommending buying fixed length poles.
2. Lots of your walkers love their straight and curved Exel Nordic walking poles but I’ve heard there are currently problems with the new design. What’s going on?
Yes my favourite Nordic walking pole is probably the Exel Curve Pro. However, last year Exel changed the design of the handle and strap system and there have been lots of problems. The straps are ill-fitting; the tab doesn’t clip/unclip from the handle easily; and the quick release button frequently pings off completely. Exel are aware of these faults and are addressing them. Hopefully the revised handle and strap system will be available later this year but I would wait until these problems are resolved before buying.
3. Which travel pole would you recommend?
The Leki Micro Trail Vario. It’s very portable and light, with a 15cm adjustment window. Leki’s fixed length micro trail poles are also excellent but I’ve found that they come up about 5cm short. So if your pole length is 110cm you’d need to buy 115cm. It’s best to try before you buy if you can.
4. Can I use travel poles all year round?
Yes but it’s a compromise. The foldable poles tend to plug in wet ground and then ‘bounce’ as the internal elastic stretches. For this reason I don’t use my foldable poles during the winter (although I know plenty of walkers who do).
Probably the best all year round travel pole is the Leki Traveller Carbon. It’s more robust than the foldable poles but isn’t as small and light.
5. I’ve got large/small/arthritic hands – are there different strap options?
Yes. You can buy different sized straps and sometimes the supplier will change these for free so it's worth asking when you're buying your poles. Many people with arthritic hands like the integrated strap/glove as it spreads the load over the whole hand. Again, ask the supplier.
As with any piece of equipment, different people like different things. It's why there's so much choice! Whilst I have not tried out the whole range of poles available to buy today, if you want more information, you might find my blog Which Nordic Walking pole? helpful. Alternatively you can contact the main UK suppliers direct. For Exel contact Karen Ingram at Barefoot Studio, for Leki contact Lillian Sullivan of Ardblair Sports Importers.
My one final piece of advice is: buy the best you can afford as it will make a big difference to your overall Nordic walking experience.