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Nordic walking vs. Trekking Poles

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances TBD
Hi Everyone,

I have been planning to walk the Camino Frances this August, although at the moment I am waiting to see how things shake out with the virus. I have never used poles before but definitely want to use them on the Camino. I had been planning on buying trekking poles until I read a recommendation on a blog that Nordic walking poles were better suited for the Frances. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on which kind of poles would be better. Thank you!
 

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
Hi Everyone,

I have been planning to walk the Camino Frances this August, although at the moment I am waiting to see how things shake out with the virus. I have never used poles before but definitely want to use them on the Camino. I had been planning on buying trekking poles until I read a recommendation on a blog that Nordic walking poles were better suited for the Frances. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on which kind of poles would be better. Thank you!

Basic $20 poles will do the job and cause less anxiety about whether you can take them as carry-on, whether someone might purloin them or whether you might lose them.

If you have never used poles before, do what only a tiny minority do - find out how to use them first. It’s not as intuitive as you might think - you don’t grip them, they’re not like a walking stick and you do need rhythm.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013), Primitivo (2015), Muxia/Fisterra (2015), Haervejen (2017)
I don't think there would be much difference on the camino. To my knowledge, authentic Nordic poles aren't collapsible. Trekking poles are. So travelling with nordic poles might be cumbersome. There are a number of styles of poles. Trekking poles have different grips (plastic, cork and more). Pacer Poles are a particular type of poll favored by many because the angle of the grip is different.

Mostly I have seen people using trekking poles and that is what I used. If you can borrow some different poles from friends and take them out for a walk -- that's what I did.

Liz
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I had never used poles before my first Camino and being a basically lazy person I decided on Pacer Poles because they seemed to be the easiest to learn to use properly. The difference between Pacer Poles and other hiking or Nordic Walking poles is their ergonomic grip.
both-hands.jpg

 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2009), Camino Frances (2012), Via de la Plata (2013) and Camino del Norte planned for May, 2015
Oh dear, I never realized there was a difference. I like poles that don't collapse on me when I have to put my weight on them when I am crossing rough ground (or a stream)...that I do know. And I do like those that either fit into my pack or don't protrude too far beyond it (I check my bag in because hauling it around in airports does not thrill me). As long as those criteria are met, all is well. Having said that, how does one 'pole' efficiently? A Nordic(?) push from behind increases the horsepower, but I have seen the happy pole-ers with upright stance desperately trying to maintain a 'pole per stride' and that looks like waaaay too much work. I seem to have settled on a relaxed 'roll-the-hip-over-the-pole'....and I am ready to admit that it might look....strange.....
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
I like poles that don't collapse on me when I have to put my weight on them when I am crossing rough ground (or a stream
Collapsible poles don't do that! It is rare that you would put your entire weight on them. Mostly they help you balance and take some strain off your joints. Buy what you can afford. If you can afford them, Pacer Poles are a "better mousetrap." I have used trekking poles for over 20 years, and even use them on my daily walk.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013), Primitivo (2015), Muxia/Fisterra (2015), Haervejen (2017)
I have had a severe ankle injury and had a total ankle replacement in 2017. I use poles for any significant walk. The have simply become part of my walking rhythm. I can‘t imagine not having them. I tried Pacers and didn’t care for the grip :eek:! Could be I was too used to my traditional poles to change! As far as collapsing when you put weight on them, I haven’t had that experience. I walked the Frances with a pair of basic REI poles. More recently I’ve been using a pair of black diamonds I bought in Oviedo.

I think the most important thing is to try out some different poles to see what you like for grip and style.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I have walked the Camino with expensive trekking poles, cheap trekking poles and without any trekking poles at all. Every time I reached Santiago alive and healthy and in better shape than I started. From what I have observed quite a few pilgrims carry trekking poles and really do not use them at all in any fashion that is useful.
I like trekking poles more for the way they allow me to have an efficient stride more than anything. Arm swinging with the legs, poles barely touching the ground. That's pretty much all they do for me on a regular basis, and on occasion help me stay balanced on downhills, rocky areas, but that is not everyday on the Camino. That and a bit of a sense of protection against the very rare, overly protective dog.
Two wooden broomsticks cut to the correct length would actually be suitable and helpful to walk with. It is how the trekking poles are utilized that is more important than the pole itself. If used inefficiently a 200 euro set of trekking poles is actually more harmful than good as you are carrying extra weight for nothing.
Do not get caught up in the hype of trekking poles as a necessity for everyone walking the Camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2009), Camino Frances (2012), Via de la Plata (2013) and Camino del Norte planned for May, 2015
I had never used poles before my first Camino and being a basically lazy person I decided on Pacer Poles because they seemed to be the easiest to learn to use properly. The difference between Pacer Poles and other hiking or Nordic Walking poles is their ergonomic grip.
View attachment 70581

Interesting....but as I look at this, I realize that I would not be happy with the 'fixed grip'. I have a light connection with the pole and will always walk with a pole that has a 'shaft' so that I can alter my hand position. I would not choose these.
Collapsible poles don't do that! It is rare that you would put your entire weight on them. Mostly they help you balance and take some strain off your joints. Buy what you can afford. If you can afford them, Pacer Poles are a "better mousetrap." I have used trekking poles for over 20 years, and even use them on my daily walk.
I haven't bought cheap poles...and 'rare', I don't think so but then, I do tend to walk more "off the beaten track" paths. You seem to be responding to two different posts.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I continue to be amazed how few people I see in daily life walking with poles and yet people seem to find them essential on the camino

I rarely see people walking around carrying a hiking backpack in daily life, but I do find it essential on the Camino. 😉
I was on the fence about poles before my first Camino, but to me they have many advantages:
They help my posture while walking with a backpack​
They have kept me from falling more than once​
They help take the stress off my knees on downhills​
They help propel me on uphills​
They keep my hands from swelling​
They help keep my arms toned​
Interesting....but as I look at this, I realize that I would not be happy with the 'fixed grip'. I have a light connection with the pole and will always walk with a pole
With the Pacer Poles handle you don't really "grip" it, it's more like you just rest your hands on them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2009), Camino Frances (2012), Via de la Plata (2013) and Camino del Norte planned for May, 2015
I rarely see people walking around carrying a hiking backpack in daily life, but I do find it essential on the Camino. 😉
I was on the fence about poles before my first Camino, but to me they have many advantages:
They help my posture while walking with a backpack​
They have kept me from falling more than once​
They help take the stress off my knees on downhills​
They help propel me on uphills​
They keep my hands from swelling​
They help keep my arms toned​

With the Pacer Poles handle you don't really "grip" it, it's more like you just rest your hands on them.
Why do I feel I am in the middle of an infomercial...
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I had been planning on buying trekking poles until I read a recommendation on a blog that Nordic walking poles were better suited for the Frances.
After reading your question, I did some very quick research on the difference. To be honest, I can't see any significant difference, for the purpose of the camino, that would lead to this recommendation. What did the blogger say was more suitable about Nordic walking poles?

I like my folding hiking poles for their light weight and convenience, but think I would be happy with any similar poles while walking.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
I have been planning to walk the Camino Frances this August, although at the moment I am waiting to see how things shake out with the virus. I have never used poles before but definitely want to use them on the Camino. I had been planning on buying trekking poles until I read a recommendation on a blog that Nordic walking poles were better suited for the Frances. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on which kind of poles would be better. Thank you!
Let me start with the observation that if you are not currently Nordic walking for exercise, you won't be Nordic walking on your camino. Even those who are currently doing some form of Nordic walking for exercise are unlikely to walk across Spain that way. So why buy equipment for an activity you don't currently participate in, and won't use on the camino? That doesn't make much sense to me.

Nordic poles have hand grips, wrist straps and pole tips highly optimised for the Nordic walking technique, which is different to trekking and other pole techniques. They can be used for trekking, and if one already had Nordic poles, they would be fine on the Camino. I wouldn't recommend buying a set of trekking poles in that case. But that isn't your circumstance.

Whether you buy cheap or more costly poles is an interesting discussion. If all you do is fairy tap your poles when walking, then anything will probably do. You are not going to put much stress on the pole, and not wear out the rubber pole tip or any of the other issues that might arise if you put more pressure on them at each step. But if you think that you will use them to take some pressure off your hips, knees and ankles, I would recommend you get a sprung pole from a reputable maker. I have used poles from a number of different manufacturers. Quecha and Fizan are the mid-range here, but should last long enough in my experience. Black Diamond, Komperdell and Leki poles cost more, but I have found these three to be the best value for money brands in terms of longevity.

If you are not currently using poles, seriously consider getting Pacer poles. I know that I have been disparaging about the many claims made about these, but they have one genuine advantage over other pole types, and that is that they are (almost) impossible for a beginner to use incorrectly. I would contend that it doesn't take much to learn to properly use other poles, but at the start of the camino, you will have many other things to think about, and not having to think about how to use your poles properly will be one less distraction.
 
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dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
Why do I feel I am in the middle of an infomercial...
Pacer pole aficionados can be like that😉.

And having said that, everything @trecile said is correct, and many of us have similar views about the many good reasons to use poles.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2009), Camino Frances (2012), Via de la Plata (2013) and Camino del Norte planned for May, 2015
Pacer pole aficionados can be like that😉.

And having said that, everything @trecile said is correct, and many of us have similar views about the many good reasons to use poles.
I would not walk without them...just not necessarily the product promoted:). If I walk uphill, I like to shorten the pole (hand down the shaft). If I walk downhill,I will lengthen the pole (hand on the top of the pole). I buy the product that suits my needs. OK, I have to add...I have walked MANY kilometres in Spain, on many Ways...I feel that a particular product is being promoted. Pacer poles are not a fit for me.
 
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Meara

It's only rock n' roll but I like it
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Ingles May 2020
I love my hiking poles. I've been using them for years and use them on every hike or walk I go on. I have the black diamond pro shock poles which have been great for my arthritic knees. I would encourage new hiking pole users to learn to use them properly. Your local outdoor retailer or YouTube will help with this.

Good luck with your decision. Your knees will thank you 🙂
 

Jay Es

Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017 the del Norte, home via the Portuguse to Vigo, Planning a Via de la Plata for October 2018.
On the VdlP last month the most popular pole was the €4.95 from Decathlon. As you can buy it when you arrive.
Second most popular seemed to be Black Diamond.
 

ScooterB

Member
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2016 (Frances), June-July 2017 (Le Puy)
Maybe I’m in the minority but I really do use my trekking poles to maintain upper body fitness. I push myself forward with every stride, engaging my biceps, but mostly my triceps and deltoids. I also lean heavily on them going up and down hills. If I didn’t, I fear my upper body musculature would atrophy over the weeks of hiking. I believe I also walk faster with them pushing me forward.
Check out how-to videos on YouTube for the correct way to use them, and then go out and do practice hikes. It’s not hard, I promise!
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Maybe I’m in the minority but I really do use my trekking poles to maintain upper body fitness. I push myself forward with every stride, engaging my biceps, but mostly my triceps and deltoids. I also lean heavily on them going up and down hills. If I didn’t, I fear my upper body musculature would atrophy over the weeks of hiking. I believe I also walk faster with them pushing me forward.
Check out how-to videos on YouTube for the correct way to use them, and then go out and do practice hikes. It’s not hard, I promise!
That's how I use my poles too! I don't want my legs to have all the fun. 😀
 

Duane

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Camino Frances
They help my posture while walking with a backpack.
They have kept me from falling more than once.
They help take the stress off my knees on downhills.
They help propel me on uphills.
They keep my hands from swelling.
They help keep my arms toned.
A pilgrim who had his poles confiscated by the airline told me that after walking the camino without poles he and his wife decided poles are not worth the trouble. Fair enough but..... they didn't actually walk with poles so how would they know if they would have benefitted from poles? I have always had to go down hill slowly to keep from pounding my knees. With poles I can go quickly. To each his own but I am a fan of trekking poles.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
Maybe I’m in the minority but I really do use my trekking poles to maintain upper body fitness. I push myself forward with every stride, engaging my biceps, but mostly my triceps and deltoids. I also lean heavily on them going up and down hills. If I didn’t, I fear my upper body musculature would atrophy over the weeks of hiking. I believe I also walk faster with them pushing me forward.
Check out how-to videos on YouTube for the correct way to use them, and then go out and do practice hikes. It’s not hard, I promise!
Yes, I like that too about using trekking poles. The upper body workout. You really do feel it in your forearms, shoulders and upper back and there is a bit of a curve the first few days on my Camino when I feel the soreness in those muscles as I am getting fitter, and as I get fitter it dissipates.
The physical aspect of the Camino is just as important to me as the spiritual. I guess in a lot of ways they go hand in hand.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances TBD
I so greatly appreciate everyone's thoughtful responses. I will skip the Nordic poles (thanks DougF) and definitely try poles out beforehand and learn to use them correctly. I want to take as much stress off my knees and hips as possible.
Regular trekking poles will be easy to find and try out but the Pacer poles not so much I think so I'll try to figure that out. Part of the fun of the Camino prep is learning about so many different topics that two months ago I had no idea even existed!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017
I have Black Diamond trekking poles with ergocork grips. Used them for years backpacking different places in the world. On the CF in 2017, they remained in my pack for all but 8-10 occasions. For me, they were of most help (the times I used them) going downhill.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
I don’t know what it would be like to walk without poles. The brand is not important to me. Learning how to use them is something that vastly improved my walking experience. I do not think the accent on Pacer poles was intended as an infomercial. It just happens that the name and the style of handle are one and the same, so other brands differ in style of handles. As for Nordic poles, I bought a set and used them once, but soon after had a lot of trouble with one of my knees... but I do plan to pick up on using them again for exercise on flat terrain. Even if it kills me, as I paid money for them!
 
Camino(s) past & future
French route in yearly stages
I don't use any poles on short hikes but I do use them on anything over 10 kms or if the ground is quite lumpy. On a long road section I fold up one pole and just extend the other and use it like a staff. On steep sections I find using the upper body strength gives me a great boost but also having something to brace with on descending is very helpful if it's been a long day. I don't understand people tap tapping along on easy stretches with both poles going but each to their own. The spring tip poles are supposed to take some of the jarring effect away but I hear the tungsten tips are what has them banned from cabin baggage.
Either way, try using them a few times to suit your individual needs.
Buen Camino.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
Another reason I like the inexpensive trekking poles is because they are just that, inexpensive. For some that is an advantage because they are walking the Camino on a very tight budget. A pair of 10-20 euros cost trekking poles is literally all they can afford.
Let's face it, 100+ euros is a lot of money to spend on what is basically a hollow length of aluminium or graphite assembled in a third world sweat shoppe.
Let us not forget as well that trekking poles get stolen (and on rare occasion mistaken identity) from the albergue trekking poles depository. I a few pilgrims who's trekking poles were pinched, and while I do not want any pair of trekking poles pinched from me, the 20 euro pair would be much easier to accept the loss of.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I continue to be amazed how few people I see in daily life walking with poles and yet people seem to find them essential on the camino
Probably because in daily life I'm generally not walking 20 or so kilometers a day with a loaded backpack, often up and down steep hills. If I'm walking 20 km at home, believe me, I'm taking my poles.

I didn't think they would be essential on my 2016 camino. I didn't take them with me and strongly resisted buying them when I got there. My knees paid the price for that. I couldn't have completed the Camino without them. (I know. I tried. I had the knee brace and, after that, a stout staff. It still wasn't enough. It wasn't until I got the poles in Viana that my knee issues started to level off and the pain remained at a sustainable level.) I continued to need the knee brace, the poles and the ibuprofen through the rest of the Camino. (Later on, I tried going without them, too. I tended to know better by the first rest stop of the day.) Yet I go though my daily life now without knee braces and ibuprofen.

Surprisingly, the amount and type of walking that most of us do in our daily life off the camino is not the same as we do on the camino. Who'da thunk it?
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Re: the difference between two wheel drive and four wheel drive.

But which is which, and why?

Your body will love you for which? or either?

I think the idea is that without poles it is two wheel drive (the two legs). With poles it is four wheel drive (the two legs + the two arms = four). And he is a supporter of the latter, hence the body will love you for spreading the work. At least that's how I read it. But I am partial to poles.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I imagine the concept of using a staff, pole, crook, cane etc is as old as modern humans walking long treks. It is almost a natural thing to do, to find a hiking/walking staff. Many, many years ago when I backpacked with friends, way before it became chic and hip to use trekking poles, one of the first things we would do is find a suitable walking stick in the woods. Find one of the proper length, strength and diametre and shave off any little branches on it. Clean it off. Then off we would go. At the end of the trip simply pitch it back into the woods. Decompose and go full circle.
Trekking poles are simply a modern twist on a natural inclination.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Gosh! I don't think it is at all chic and hip to use trekking pole, except maybe in the affluent grey-haired set. I am in the latter group, but the only hip I feel is the one that hurts!
I agree. I don't use poles around town. I'd feel like a doofus!
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
Hi Everyone,

I have been planning to walk the Camino Frances this August, although at the moment I am waiting to see how things shake out with the virus. I have never used poles before but definitely want to use them on the Camino. I had been planning on buying trekking poles until I read a recommendation on a blog that Nordic walking poles were better suited for the Frances. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on which kind of poles would be better. Thank you!

I love Nordic walking (as a ‘keep fit’ activity) but it is quite different... There may be a course in your area, I would give it a go, you have time before August.
I wouldn’t advise it at all on the Camino - I can only manage Nordic walking for about an hour at a time - but try it for yourself. It may work for you.

edit: sorry @dougfitz , only read your response after posting. Oops. Agree all heartedly.
 
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Debbiecb

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May (2019)
Hi Everyone,

I have been planning to walk the Camino Frances this August, although at the moment I am waiting to see how things shake out with the virus. I have never used poles before but definitely want to use them on the Camino. I had been planning on buying trekking poles until I read a recommendation on a blog that Nordic walking poles were better suited for the Frances. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on which kind of poles would be better. Thank you!
I did use my Poles everyday when when I walked my first Camino in May 2019. They really helped me with rhythm and pace, strengthened my core and enforced good posture. I really needed them for going up and down hills. When I was finished and wasnt using my poles I found I missed them. I went to Italy after the Camino and went on a hike using different poles and was grateful for them, but I found I missed my Pacer Poles. I learned to use PP before I started the Camino. They are my first poles so that probably has something to do with why I prefer them over other trekking poles
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013)
San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
Further to my post above: I have got a fair return on my investment in Nordic Poles. During the initial lockdown they were used many times a day by two of us, marching up and down an enclosed lane way. They helped with posture and therefore with ability to see the sky rather than the concrete... since then my companion has been using them to help her walk to and from work, because they do somewhat correct her posture due to her degenerating back. It is true that not many people walk around the neighbourhood with poles... but this is not a fashion item. Maybe it could be inserted into the “I will wear purple” poem: “I will wield my walking poles with delight”.
 

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