The 9 Best Walking Poles of 2020

Pick up a set of these poles for Nordic walking or hiking

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: SWIX of Norway Nordic Walking Poles at Amazon

"Specially-designed using the Swix glove system."

Best Budget: Pacemaker Stix Aerostride Poles at Amazon

"Have cork grips for comfort."

Best Budget Runner-Up: Leki Spin Nordic Walking Poles at Amazon

"You can release the straps from the poles with a button."

Best with Palm Strap: KeenFit Poles at Amazon

"Have a palm strap rather than a demi-glove."

Best for Nordic Walking: Nordic Walker Exel at Amazon

"Have a paw for walking on sidewalks and a spiketip for trails."

Best Folding: York Nordic Ultralight Folding Walking Poles at Amazon

"They weigh only 8.6 ounces each."

Best for Travel: Leki Traveller Nordic Walking Poles at Amazon

"Features adjustable length."

Best Grips: Exerstrider OS2 Poles at Amazon

"They don't have a strap or glove."

Best Wooden: Brazos FitnessWalker Poles at Amazon

"These are only suited for the exerstriding or trekking techniques."

A single walking stick, pole, or staff can give you stability, especially on loose terrain or when crossing streams. It also can relieve stress on the joints. Walking with two poles can provide even more stability and other workout benefits.

Here are the best walking poles on the market.

Our Top Picks

1

Best Overall: SWIX of Norway Nordic Walking Poles

Swix Poles

Amazon

Ski Walking has a specially-designed fitness walking pole using the excellent Swix glove system. These are fixed-length poles and they are of high quality. The have a carbide tip and a removable rubber fitness tip to use on pavement.

2

Best Budget: Pacemaker Stix Aerostride Poles

These aluminum nordic walking poles have cork grips for comfort and the glove-like strap needed for the Nordic walking technique. They telescope from 26 inches to 54 inches with a flip-lock mechanism. They come with both a cane tip and a knobbly tip, plus baskets for sand or snow. You may find the flip lock is easier to use to make adjustments on the go, as compared with a twist lock that is seen on many adjustable poles.

3

Best Budget Runner-Up: Leki Spin Nordic Walking Poles

Leki Spin Nordic Walking Poles
Leki Spin Nordic Walking Poles. Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Spin is Leki's value-priced Nordic walking pole. They are adjustable in length from 100 centimeters to 130 centimeters. They have the Trigger Shark strap that you can release from the poles with a button. That makes it easy to disengage when you want to make a stop, rather than taking off the glove. Then you can click back into the poles when you're ready to go again. The poles are made of aluminum. They come with rubber fitness tips for use on pavement, or you can use them without it on softer trails.

4

Best with Palm Strap: KeenFit Poles

Keenfit Fitness Walking Poles
Keenfit Fitness Walking Poles. Courtesy of Amazon.com

These poles have a palm strap rather than a demi-glove and they come with instructions in their own pole walking exercise technique. They are adjustable in length. They come with road feet, trail feet, and snow/sand baskets.

5

Best for Nordic Walking: Nordic Walker Exel

Exel

 Amazon

Exel Nordic Walker poles are designed for the Nordic walking technique, and this company was at the forefront of popularizing the sport in Europe. The technique requires the poles to have a half-glove strap so you can release the pole on the backstroke and it snaps back into your hand as you move your arm forward. These lightweight carbon fiber one-piece poles have a paw for walking on streets and sidewalks and a spiketip for trails. You must order them in the correct size for your height and they are not adjustable.

6

Best Folding: York Nordic Ultralight Folding Walking Poles

Leki Speed Pacer Vario Poles
Leki Speed Pacer Vario Poles. Courtesy of Amazon.com

These Nordic walking poles include the glove with an easy click release so you don't have to take the glove completely off when you make a stop. The grip is thicker than many of the traditional Nordic walking poles. They fold for travel rather than telescoping. They weigh only 8.6 ounces each and fold to a length of 15.5 inches. You get rubber feet, snow baskets, and a travel storage bag as well. The height is adjustable from 43 to 53 inches, and the manufacturer also has a customized version for shorter people which you can get upon request. The price is excellent.

7

Best for Travel: Leki Traveller Nordic Walking Poles

Leki Traveller Carbon Nordic Walking Poles
Leki Traveller Carbon Nordic Walking Poles. Courtesy of Amazon.com

These three-section nordic walking poles are built to fit into your luggage. They compact down to 52 centimeters for packing. They come in a lighter-weight carbon fiber model (13.9 ounces per pair) or an aluminum model (16.8 ounces per pair). The adjustable length is from 62 centimeters to 130 centimeters for both models.

8

Best Grips: Exerstrider OS2 Poles

Exerstrider SE Walking Poles - Full
Exerstrider SE Walking Poles. Exerstrider

Exerstrider poles have patented, ergonomic "reflex" grips to fit the hand. They don't have a strap or glove, so they can't be used with the Nordic walking technique. Instead, you receive a manual and DVD to teach you the exerstrider walking technique. Tom Rutlin developed this technique before the Nordic walking technique was popularized in Europe. These poles are adjustable in length and work well on pavement or trail. You can use them as trekking poles for stability if you don't want to use them for fitness.

9

Best Wooden: Brazos FitnessWalker Poles

Brazos Fitness Walking Sticks
Brazos Fitness Walking Sticks. Brazos

Some people simply prefer wood. Brazos Walking Sticks has a FitnessWalker design in ash. The curved handles can work for the push off, and they have a cord strap to help retain the poles. However, without a half glove, these are only suited for the exerstriding or trekking techniques rather than the nordic walking technique. They come in only three lengths and are non-adjustable, but they can make custom lengths to your request. For the natural feel of wood, these will be the right fit for many people.

Tips for Choosing the Best Walking or Trekking Poles

By Wendy Bumgardner 

Sometimes two legs are not enough for stability on the trail. A hiking or walking stick is the traditional way to give yourself a little more stability. Walking with two poles can provide even more stability and other workout benefits. Fitness walking poles, Nordic walking poles, and Exerstrider poles are designed for exercise on streets, sidewalks, and paths. Trekking poles, on the other hand, are designed for use on trails and uneven terrain.

Walking With One Pole or Hiking Staff

A single walking stick, pole, or staff can give you stability, especially on loose terrain or when crossing streams. It also can relieve stress on the joints. A staff can also give you a measure of security as attackers may be more likely to go annoy somebody who doesn't have a stick.

You can find a variety of designs for single walking sticks, including those made of natural wood, as well as lightweight aluminum sticks that telescope or fold for ease of packing when you aren't using them. You can buy single walking sticks at an outdoor store or online. You can also be crafty and make your own walking stick.

Hiking Poles and Trekking Poles

Two sticks are better than one on the trail. Using a pair of hiking poles or trekking poles gives you balance and takes more stress off the lower body joints. The grips and straps are designed so you can push down on them to assist yourself on the trail, but also for quick release if the pole gets stuck between rocks or roots.

Fitness Walking and Nordic Walking Poles

A pair of fitness walking poles allow you to burn more calories while feeling no greater exertion when walking on streets, sidewalks, and paths. These poles come with instruction manuals and often with videos for the proper technique. Nordic walking grips are designed for that technique, with a half-glove to allow the proper release of the pole on the backswing. They come with a removable rubber tip for switching between hard and soft surfaces.

How to Walk With Poles

Poles come with illustrated booklets, videos, or links for online instructions. Use them! It can take practice until you are using poles to the fullest advantage. With Nordic walking and exercising techniques, you add more vigorous motion to your walking (which burns extra calories), while with the hiking technique you add stability.

What to Look For

Take note of certain features of walking poles to get a pair that works for you.

The Grip

The best walking pole grip is one with a positive angle, which relieves stress and overuse of the wrist joint. Grip designs differ for fitness walking and for trekking—select the pole to match your activity. Retention straps also differ, with a half-glove used for fitness walking and a simpler strap for trekking. A quick-release mechanism for the strap or glove is very useful.

Telescoping and Adjustable Height vs. Single-Length Poles

One-piece poles are lighter, quieter and will be the best choice for Nordic walking. For trekkers, adjusting the length as you go uphill and downhill allows you to keep the correct angle. For travelers and hikers, poles that compact to store or carry in your luggage or in your pack on the trail are very handy. You may also want a padded travel bag for air travel with one-piece poles.

Air Travel With Poles

Walking poles may not be allowed in carry-on luggage for air travel. While airlines may say they accept them officially, in practice it's the security personnel on the ground who determine whether or not they can fly.

Pole Tips, Paws, and Baskets

Poles made for fitness walking often have a rubber "paw" made for walking on asphalt, set at the proper angle to hit the pavement. Others use a rubber tip similar to a cane tip, which wears unevenly. These are removable and there is a carbide tip underneath for gripping natural trails. For walking in sand, snow, or soft trails, trekking baskets keep your poles from sinking into the soft surface. Many also come with snow baskets, which allow you to use them for snowshoeing.

Anti-Shock Systems

Cork inside the poles can act to reduce shock. Some poles use springs to act as shock absorbers. These systems generally add more ounces to the poles but can increase your comfort in using the poles.

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