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Sticks or no sticks?


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JohnMcM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Some, and with luck, some more.
#4
It makes sense to me what they are saying.

All I know is that without sticks/walking poles my Caminos would have been so much more tiring, perhaps more painful, and less successful.

In addition to the support my legs feel, I have benifitted from an upper-body workout by using my poles.

Each to their own I guess.

Buen (sticky or non-sticky) Camino
 
#5
@wayfarer

Thank you for posting this.

The opportunity to give my arms and upper body a bit of a workout is a plus, when using poles. Likewise the chance to take some of the effort from my aged knees.
But I’d only use them for distance walking, despite qualifying on the grounds of advancing age. For the Camino, for me, they’re indispensable. And they do help with balance on downhills.
 

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davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#7
It is an interesting paper, but it appears to have a few stumbling blocks :)
  • The references are sparse and dated. Some do not even apply to the manner in which trekking poles are used for hiking. Many of the references appear to be cherry picked in order to support a predetermined conclusion.
  • Some of the negative conclusions in the Statement are, well, absurd.
    • For example, the stated concern about the negative impacts of 'walking sticks' on the development and maintenance of healthy joints and structures is grasping at straws. What the paper describes as "Strong pressure and strain stimuli" is also referred to as joint loading and unloading. Wearing a pack with extra weight, and not just a 'heavy' backpack, creates stress on joints that goes beyond simple body weight stresses or a slight increase in load. As do long days of walking, and walking uphill and downhill. What trekking poles do in these situations is not eliminate additional "stressing" on the joint structures, they help the joints moderate the abnormal loads, yet still allow the joints to accept increased loading and unloading. Trekking poles have been shown to help keep the "strong pressure and strain stimuli" from becoming injurious by keeping them at healthier levels. Trekking poles help to create a buffer between the amount of force needed to build healthy structures vs those which can cause injury.
    • The same level of straw grasping exists with their stated concerns over losing one's sense of balance, and increasing heart rates.
  • Reviews of the literature over the last five years have supported the conclusion that trekking poles are beneficial to hikers in general. The most concerning negative is that of injuries which can occur due to trekking poles, during a fall.
Thank goodness that the Paper Statement does find that trekking poles are useful when I walk in a bog. :)
 

Mike55

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances in September (2017)
#8
I walked the CF in September 2017 and found my walking poles to be very helpful. When not needed they were carried 'closed' attached to my rucksack. They were particularly useful on a lot of the very steep descents where the track is dry, loose rocks and gravel, the poles gave extra balance and grip in such areas. They were also useful on the steeper ascents as well. Carrying 9 or 10 kgs affects the way you walk and I found that the poles helped me stay upright and spread the effort to the upper body/arms rather than the whole strain being taken by knees and legs. Just make sure that when closed they fit in your sack if checking your sack in on a flight.
 

Sailor

Donante Vitalicio
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Infinito
#9
I don't leave home without El Biscarrete (photo), used it heavily during my camino last year and I use it during ALL my local workouts. Bought a pair of these (one for my wife, one for me) at a small mercado in Biskarret. The two pairs of walking poles that I took to Spain (checked in box for the flight) were useless, one pole broke during the flight, one pole broke just after leaving Roncesvalles. Left the other two poles with the lady that sold me the wooden walking sticks (photo). Buena suerte, y no pares de caminar.
Biscarrete.jpg
 
#10
It is an interesting paper, but it appears to have a few stumbling blocks :)
  • The references are sparse and dated. Some do not even apply to the manner in which trekking poles are used for hiking. Many of the references appear to be cherry picked in order to support a predetermined conclusion.
  • Some of the negative conclusions in the Statement are, well, absurd.
    • For example, the stated concern about the negative impacts of 'walking sticks' on the development and maintenance of healthy joints and structures is grasping at straws. What the paper describes as "Strong pressure and strain stimuli" is also referred to as joint loading and unloading. Wearing a pack with extra weight, and not just a 'heavy' backpack, creates stress on joints that goes beyond simple body weight stresses or a slight increase in load. As do long days of walking, and walking uphill and downhill. What trekking poles do in these situations is not eliminate additional "stressing" on the joint structures, they help the joints moderate the abnormal loads, yet still allow the joints to accept increased loading and unloading. Trekking poles have been shown to help keep the "strong pressure and strain stimuli" from becoming injurious by keeping them at healthier levels. Trekking poles help to create a buffer between the amount of force needed to build healthy structures vs those which can cause injury.
    • The same level of straw grasping exists with their stated concerns over losing one's sense of balance, and increasing heart rates.
  • Reviews of the literature over the last five years have supported the conclusion that trekking poles are beneficial to hikers in general. The most concerning negative is that of injuries which can occur due to trekking poles, during a fall.
Thank goodness that the Paper Statement does find that trekking poles are useful when I walk in a bog. :)

Thank you, @davebugg, for once again demystifying/giving us a more balanced response to, ‘expert’ opinion on our Camino gear. :)

It’s good to know we have you to rely on for an informed and common sense approach!
 

Anamya

Keeping it simple
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Portugues (2017)
Lebaniego (Planning)
#11
So, as a non-user of sticks, may I ask for advice?

I tried walking sticks in both my Caminos. It didn't work. I don't know if I lack coordination, or what is really the issue, bu even having it all adjusted for my height/gait/etc, I just kept tangling myself on them and felling like an octopus with eight left arms. So I ditched the poles (well, gave them to my husband) and walked two caminos pole-free.

That said, what would be suggestions to help reduce impact on joints for people that do not use sticks? I usually go for well cushioned shoes and do lots of strechthing before and during my walks, but anything else I could do? I usually fell fine doing long walks, hikes and climbs, but sometimes my right leg gets really tired after 20+km (the left one complains after 25km).
 
#12
@Anamya

When I started used poles, my husband used to plead with me to leave them behind, and then kept holding his breath as he waited for me to trip myself up with them ... again :rolleyes: ... after my first fall, which could have been a long way down over rocks, had I not ‘saved’ myself!

On the Camino, I just ‘felt’ my way into the right method(s) for me ... and very quickly ended up doing what I think is called Nordic walking. Methods, in the plural, because going uphill and downhill requires different ways of using them.
The walk over the Pyrenees was long enough to allow this to happen.

As for walking without poles, I prefer to use the old ways .... ie shorter steps in the same rhythm as on the flat, when walking uphill, and having knees which act like springs, on downhills ... ie flexible. I find walking downhill much easier if I remember how to feel ‘grounded’. Then I can trust my balance and find the right rhythm to get me down safely.
I have to say that this is less easy the more aged my knees become ;)
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#13
So, as a non-user of sticks, may I ask for advice?

I tried walking sticks in both my Caminos. It didn't work. I don't know if I lack coordination, or what is really the issue, bu even having it all adjusted for my height/gait/etc, I just kept tangling myself on them and felling like an octopus with eight left arms. So I ditched the poles (well, gave them to my husband) and walked two caminos pole-free.

That said, what would be suggestions to help reduce impact on joints for people that do not use sticks? I usually go for well cushioned shoes and do lots of strechthing before and during my walks, but anything else I could do? I usually fell fine doing long walks, hikes and climbs, but sometimes my right leg gets really tired after 20+km (the left one complains after 25km).
Anamya, you can try experiment with varying both your stride and pace, going a bit faster and a bit slower for a short period of time; and also slightly lengthening and shortening your normal stride. You don't need to do pace and stride changes at the same time. What this will do is take away the repetitive output on the same muscle group allowing those muscles, tendons and joints a bit of respite.

Don't overstretch while walking. Take short breaks between your longer rest breaks, and spend a few minutes gently stretching, and massage any areas which feel a bit 'tense' or 'congested'. Something as simple as rotating your ankle in circles, and flexing your foot up and down, can also help.

Also, keep track of your water intake and calorie intake (small frequent snacks), both of which can drastically impact premature muscle fatigue.

Not using trekking poles does not put you at some huge disadvantage. Obviously, you are fine without them.

A lot of folks do not use trekking poles; and from what I've observed on Camino, a lot of pilgrims seem to have them only because they believe it is the thing to do, sorta like having a scallop shell.... and from the way they used them they would have been better off without the poles altogether. Although, I am embarrassed to admit, it sometimes did provide for a bit of unintended humor watching their machinations of trekking pole deployment :) At least a dozen times on the last Camino, I had provided help to fellow pilgrims in getting poles properly adjusted and demonstrating their use.

So, don't feel alone in walking Camino or backpacking sans poles :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2018
#14
Davebug is so right. Technique is all important. If you're new to poles, checkout a few YouTube videos from pole manufacturers. They help you adjust them properly and show you proper walking technique.
While trekking in the Chilean Andes, I put mine away because I was climbing up boulders and didn't think I needed them. I took them out within minutes. They also saved me from a 10foot-plus fall down a granite face. So, I'm a believer. But, I spent time getting the technique right.
Poles a a great help when used correctly.
 

stgcph

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
#16
It’s just the story of humanity: Especially where matters are individual and subjective, one ’expert’ opinion contradicts another and the ‘truth’ may well be somewhere in between.

I tried hiking poles, didn’t work for me so now I walk with a single wooden stick and I love it both on level ground and uphill and especially downhill.

There has been a lot of talk in favor of trail runners so I tried them for a couple of hundred kilometers of training walk with backpack. Didn’t work for me, so now I walk in sturdy leather shoes and I feel much better.

I believe that expert advice should be used as inspiration and guidelines but in the end, you should use what works best for you regardless of expert opinion and majority. The thing is, we are all different and nobody knows what is best for you, except you.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#17
Over the years I've taught a few people how to use poles. The first thing is to hold the sticks correctly - hand up through the bottom of the wrist strap onto the grip, so that the wrist strap drapes across the back of the hand. Watch the YouTube videos or ask someone who knows what they are doing to ensure you have the proper grip and to ensure the wrist strap is at the right tension - so it can be felt but is loose.

The height of the stick should be such, when you hold the sticks, your elbow is very slightly more than at a right angle (ie hand very slightly below the elbow).

Then the motion of walking with the sticks - I've found that the method that works best, for beginners, is for them to trail the sticks behind them, dragging on the ground at first, and then moving their arms gently in a natural rhythm - right arm moves with left foot, left arm with right foot. Keep trailing and dragging the poles. Do that for long enough and eventually you will pick up the rhythm and method and be lifting the sticks and planting them correctly beside the body. But do it on an easy flat surface until it feels right.

Going up and down steep hills - what works for me is to think of the sticks as if they are an extra pair of legs and I am a quadruped. I don't know if that is correct technique but it has kept me upright numerous times.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, SJPP to Finesterre April (2018)
#18
It is an interesting paper, but it appears to have a few stumbling blocks :)
  • The references are sparse and dated. Some do not even apply to the manner in which trekking poles are used for hiking. Many of the references appear to be cherry picked in order to support a predetermined conclusion.
  • Some of the negative conclusions in the Statement are, well, absurd.
    • For example, the stated concern about the negative impacts of 'walking sticks' on the development and maintenance of healthy joints and structures is grasping at straws. What the paper describes as "Strong pressure and strain stimuli" is also referred to as joint loading and unloading. Wearing a pack with extra weight, and not just a 'heavy' backpack, creates stress on joints that goes beyond simple body weight stresses or a slight increase in load. As do long days of walking, and walking uphill and downhill. What trekking poles do in these situations is not eliminate additional "stressing" on the joint structures, they help the joints moderate the abnormal loads, yet still allow the joints to accept increased loading and unloading. Trekking poles have been shown to help keep the "strong pressure and strain stimuli" from becoming injurious by keeping them at healthier levels. Trekking poles help to create a buffer between the amount of force needed to build healthy structures vs those which can cause injury.
    • The same level of straw grasping exists with their stated concerns over losing one's sense of balance, and increasing heart rates.
  • Reviews of the literature over the last five years have supported the conclusion that trekking poles are beneficial to hikers in general. The most concerning negative is that of injuries which can occur due to trekking poles, during a fall.
Thank goodness that the Paper Statement does find that trekking poles are useful when I walk in a bog. :)
I was thinking the same thing but you wrote it so well.
I’m 50 and good shape. I used to run 4-6 miles a day until I started to play 2 hours of racquetball five time a week. I’m also prior military and have carried a ruck more miles then I care to think about.
I just finished the CF last month and used poles ever step of the way, as did my wife. Prior to that I never used them before and now that l’m home I haven’t touched them. I will use them on my next long trek with a full ruck as they helped me tremendously finish with no issues whatsoever. I will also say that the poles saved me many a time on loose gravel coming downhill.
If you are like me and even thinking about using poles then you probably should give them a try.
 
#19
Walking pole/stick is a tool. (Knife is also a tool.) If a tool is deployed properly, it helps, if not, it kills!

The document was dated in 2008. The merits to walk with a walking pole in Camino have been discussed and verified or invalidated by many pilgrims throughout the years.
 

Herbito

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
#20
I walked the CF in September 2017 and found my walking poles to be very helpful. When not needed they were carried 'closed' attached to my rucksack. They were particularly useful on a lot of the very steep descents where the track is dry, loose rocks and gravel, the poles gave extra balance and grip in such areas. They were also useful on the steeper ascents as well. Carrying 9 or 10 kgs affects the way you walk and I found that the poles helped me stay upright and spread the effort to the upper body/arms rather than the whole strain being taken by knees and legs. Just make sure that when closed they fit in your sack if checking your sack in on a flight.

Couldn’t have said it any better. Very useful on the steep ascents and descents.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
#25
their stated concerns over losing one's sense of balance,
They didn't explain this very well. They might be referring to a situation where a walker becomes so accustomed to using poles all the time, they feel unbalanced when they are without poles. I know I feel a bit like this when I go out in the evenings on the Camino. I would not walk a Camino without them.

However, I choose NOT to use sticks for normal long walks at home when I am on good terrain without a load. I intuitively feel there is an element of truth in the "Use it or lose it" theory, that applies to balance. One day (not too distant, perhaps) my balance may be uncertain enough that I would be wise to always use poles or a cane. However, I don't want to bring that day forward if I can avoid it.
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Future (God-willing): Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo (2018)
#26
Well we couldn't have a pole discussion without.......drum roll please..............Pacerpoles, could we?

for newbies and the unconverted (heehee) the website is www.pacerpoles.com and there are some fabulous videos. I missed out on co-ordination genes and it took me two or three walks with my brain seriously engaged before it clicked. Thousands of kilometres later I am still in love.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances in September 2018 (Sarria to Santiago)
#27
Experimenting with poles but jury still out. Any thoughts on poles v longer wooden stick? In the film the Way the men appeared to just use one long wooden stick. Was that just the film or an option worth considering? Thanks
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#28
Experimenting with poles but jury still out. Any thoughts on poles v longer wooden stick? In the film the Way the men appeared to just use one long wooden stick. Was that just the film or an option worth considering? Thanks
It depends on what you want the trekking poles or the walking stick to do. :)
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Future (God-willing): Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo (2018)
#29
Experimenting with poles but jury still out. Any thoughts on poles v longer wooden stick? In the film the Way the men appeared to just use one long wooden stick. Was that just the film or an option worth considering? Thanks
I have a strong bias, but I acknowledge there are people who like their Leki poles, people who like their cheapy poles, others who like their single pole or wooden stick, and still others who do just fine with nothing. We have tried all of those and our whole family from 87-year-old Grandpa to 7-year-old child make Pacerpoles our first choice, but we have varying opinions on what is second-best.
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino francés sept 1, 2015
#30
@wayfarer

Thank you for posting this.

The opportunity to give my arms and upper body a bit of a workout is a plus, when using poles. Likewise the chance to take some of the effort from my aged knees.
But I’d only use them for distance walking, despite qualifying on the grounds of advancing age. For the Camino, for me, they’re indispensable. And they do help with balance on downhills.
I loved my pokes for the first half but then lost them to a crazy hospitelero in cirnuna.. he locked up before I got back from helping a lady to a bus. But I was free and much more confident then so I loved not having poles for the second half. They are very comforting the first half
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#31
An interesting report by The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation on the pros and cons of using walking/hiking poles.
Soon I should be starting a short (about 140km) walk down along a canal and river bank in Ireland. I will be taking my poles, even though the walk is flat. Why? With my backpack, they should help my knees to make it to the end. I might find out if one knee lasts longer than the other before complaining! I will practise using advice to match left foot with right hand. I have been using a two step swing so far. My coordination is not the best though, as my current non pole mantra (Dave, left: Bugg, right) easily gets out of step!
 
#32
Soon I should be starting a short (about 140km) walk down along a canal and river bank in Ireland. I will be taking my poles, even though the walk is flat. Why? With my backpack, they should help my knees to make it to the end. I might find out if one knee lasts longer than the other before complaining! I will practise using advice to match left foot with right hand. I have been using a two step swing so far. My coordination is not the best though, as my current non pole mantra (Dave, left: Bugg, right) easily gets out of step!
:D:D:D

Love your mantra!!!
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
#33
It is an interesting paper, but it appears to have a few stumbling blocks :)
  • The references are sparse and dated. Some do not even apply to the manner in which trekking poles are used for hiking. Many of the references appear to be cherry picked in order to support a predetermined conclusion.
  • Some of the negative conclusions in the Statement are, well, absurd.
    • For example, the stated concern about the negative impacts of 'walking sticks' on the development and maintenance of healthy joints and structures is grasping at straws. What the paper describes as "Strong pressure and strain stimuli" is also referred to as joint loading and unloading. Wearing a pack with extra weight, and not just a 'heavy' backpack, creates stress on joints that goes beyond simple body weight stresses or a slight increase in load. As do long days of walking, and walking uphill and downhill. What trekking poles do in these situations is not eliminate additional "stressing" on the joint structures, they help the joints moderate the abnormal loads, yet still allow the joints to accept increased loading and unloading. Trekking poles have been shown to help keep the "strong pressure and strain stimuli" from becoming injurious by keeping them at healthier levels. Trekking poles help to create a buffer between the amount of force needed to build healthy structures vs those which can cause injury.
    • The same level of straw grasping exists with their stated concerns over losing one's sense of balance, and increasing heart rates.
  • Reviews of the literature over the last five years have supported the conclusion that trekking poles are beneficial to hikers in general. The most concerning negative is that of injuries which can occur due to trekking poles, during a fall.
Thank goodness that the Paper Statement does find that trekking poles are useful when I walk in a bog. :)
I am a 30year+ userof two hiking poles!

I went to the sources referenced in the study.
Here are a few concerns or limitations regarding the studies.

Many of these studies were done on treadmills...which can not replicate the impact of pavement or uneven trails.

The numbers of subjects in these studies were minimal and the subjects were younger.

Were injuries from falls likely caused by the loops being put through the wrists!? The Studies, I do not believe, mentioned technique used for using poles?
 
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davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#35
Tks. Currently finding main benefit is going down, especially steeper inclines, as helps my (aged) knees, still trying to get best technique and to decide if need 2 or 1 sufficient.
Cheers
Trekking poles provide the support with each step to help unload some of the weight off of the joints. That does not happen with the same technique with a walking stick.
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP - Finisterre (2005) ; LePuy - Muxia (2007) ; Porto - SC. (2009) planning Lourdes- SC (2018)
#36
I've always used poles on the Camino - and happily live under the illusion that the extra pair of legs takes less of my energy, and that they help me enormously with keeping a certain pace and rhythm. I never even thought of researching how to use them, so I may very well be one of those people you may make fun of? - I don't know. All I know, I have never had any problem with their use and they have helped me to balance myself on tricky ground - especially downhill. I can't say the article made me any wiser - so I have decided not to invent a problem where there hasn't one been so far.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#38
Over the years I've taught a few people how to use poles. The first thing is to hold the sticks correctly - hand up through the bottom of the wrist strap onto the grip, so that the wrist strap drapes across the back of the hand. Watch the YouTube videos or ask someone who knows what they are doing to ensure you have the proper grip and to ensure the wrist strap is at the right tension - so it can be felt but is loose.

The height of the stick should be such, when you hold the sticks, your elbow is very slightly more than at a right angle (ie hand very slightly below the elbow).

Then the motion of walking with the sticks - I've found that the method that works best, for beginners, is for them to trail the sticks behind them, dragging on the ground at first, and then moving their arms gently in a natural rhythm - right arm moves with left foot, left arm with right foot. Keep trailing and dragging the poles. Do that for long enough and eventually you will pick up the rhythm and method and be lifting the sticks and planting them correctly beside the body. But do it on an easy flat surface until it feels right.

Going up and down steep hills - what works for me is to think of the sticks as if they are an extra pair of legs and I am a quadruped. I don't know if that is correct technique but it has kept me upright numerous times.
I like your method of teaching newbies how to use poles. I will try the trailing sticks approach. Last summer I tried teaching a gentleman how to use his sticks. He kept moving the same side arm and leg together, even though that is not a natural walking motion. He finally put his poles away.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#39
Interesting link, thanks.

The sticks must be height-adjustable and have handles that are constructed in a way that the user’s hands, when pressing down, firm support is provided (or gained)
If it's a hiking staff, it needs to be long enough to let you do this on downhill slopes.

Long-term use of sticks may reduce balance and coordinative ability of the subject.
This is not true, but there is a phase in the learning process that needs to be passed, which is that after learning to rely on your stick/staff, you need to go beyond and learn to not rely on it overmuch.

In general it is easier - for motion-physiological reasons (proprio-receptor system) - for healthy hikers to learn and maintain an elastic, safe and joint-relieving walking technique without the aid of sticks, as opposed to regular stick use.
Whilst there's a certain truth to this in weekend or other short distance hiking (less than a week) generally, and also to some extent in mountain hiking particularly, it's certainly not true of long-distance hiking over periods of weeks or months.

Also, I'd say that it's important to try (as health permits) "to learn and maintain an elastic, safe and joint-relieving walking technique" with or without use of a stick, as the case may be -- if your hiking gait with a stick isn't like this, then you're using it wrong.

One should only use a stick as a crutch when pain or weak joints might require you to, and then one's first immediate goal should typically be to get to somewhere for a rest (some exceptions for sufferers of chronic pain wanting to make a go of it regardless).

Hiking sticks are not necessary for other hiking situation
This is a false statement.
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#40
So, as a non-user of sticks, may I ask for advice?

I tried walking sticks in both my Caminos. It didn't work. I don't know if I lack coordination, or what is really the issue, bu even having it all adjusted for my height/gait/etc, I just kept tangling myself on them and felling like an octopus with eight left arms.
Well, you always need to learn how to use them, but it's also true that if you're younger and healthier and especially if you have a light frame and low body weight (in absolute terms I mean, not relative to your height), then it's quite possible that you just don't need them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#41
Since my first Camino I’ve developed a torn lateral meniscus in my left knee. I got a cortisone shot last September and so far I’ve had no need for surgery. In training for my upcoming Camino, I began walking a five-mile route on blacktop trails, at first without poles, since I did not have rubber tips for the poles. I started noticing increased strain and instability in that left knee, so I got some rubber tips for my poles. What a difference it made using the poles. Even on relatively flat ground, trekking poles offload the knees.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#42
Re : losing balance :

They didn't explain this very well. They might be referring to a situation where a walker becomes so accustomed to using poles all the time, they feel unbalanced when they are without poles. I know I feel a bit like this when I go out in the evenings on the Camino. I would not walk a Camino without them.
Well actually, in mountain hiking particularly, using a stick with insufficient experience of them can lead to situations of loss of balance.

But if "a walker becomes so accustomed to using poles [or a stick] all the time, they feel unbalanced when they are without poles", then he simply hasn't finished learning how to use them or it.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#43
Experimenting with poles but jury still out. Any thoughts on poles v longer wooden stick? In the film the Way the men appeared to just use one long wooden stick. Was that just the film or an option worth considering? Thanks
It was just an aesthetic for the film. A significantly larger number of pilgrims use poles not staves.

Personally, I'd say that the hiking staff is marginally superior BUT it's also significantly more difficult to learn properly, so that despite this, poles are typically going to be better for those doing shorter or medium length Caminos less than 1000 K. I know it took me somewhere between 1000 and 1500 K to learn how to use my own staff, which is basically the process of becoming so familiar with it, it's like an extra part of your body.

The biggest technical hurdle of a single staff is working out how to balance the weight support through both shoulders, not just that of your staff arm.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#45
Trekking poles provide the support with each step to help unload some of the weight off of the joints. That does not happen with the same technique with a walking stick.
Of course it does, unless you've not fully learned how to use the staff.

And if you don't need the extra weight support, the staff is also very effective as an aid towards increased hiking speed and endurance, with a technique similar to the nordic poles one.

There's even a technique where you can use it very similarly to an old skiing pole, alternating placing it to the right or the left following the slope of the trail you're on (you can see a little bit of the basic technique on the uphill skiing here :
), or even for very fast speed-hiking on the flat. This might require using it two-handed (or alternating one-handed and two-handed), and it certainly requires being on your best form (so for me nowadays it's just a memory from the past ... :cool: ).
 
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davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#46
Of course it does, unless you've not fully learned how to use the staff.

And if you don't need the extra weight support, the staff is also very effective as an aid towards increased hiking speed and endurance, with a technique similar to the nordic poles one.

There's even a technique where you can use it very similarly to an old skiing pole, alternating placing it to the right or the left following the slope of the trail you're on (you can see a little bit of the basic technique on the uphill skiing here :
), or even for very fast speed-hiking on the flat. This might require using it two-handed (or alternating one-handed and two-handed), and it certainly requires being on your best form (so for me nowadays it's just a memory from the past ... :cool: ).
:) Yeah, I remember the hiking staff phase, and it wasn't bad at all; I blame Colin Fletcher's influence :)

I don't disagree with the potential outcome as being similar with effective assistance on weight unloading and momentum. That was why I kept the focus of my statement about the technique, which cannot be the same. Trekking poles, with a stick in each hand, provides assistance with each step with an opposite arm plant of the pole on each step. A walking staff requires that each arm must share, or that each staff plant requires two steps when one arm is holding the staff, which the video does a good job of demonstrating. Or am I missing something else? :):oops:
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#47
One thought to add to the conversation ... when going through towns, put away the poles out of courtesy for the residents, no one wants to hear our endless tic, tic , tic,
I agree; heck, it bothers me to distraction to hear the Obliviot Trekking Pole Theme music ... "Click, click, clack, clickity-clackity-click." Rubber caps on the tips are quite good at stopping that theme music, as is as not using the poles as you suggested. Besides the annoying theme music, bare metal tips can cause a sudden slip and loss of balance due to the lack of grip which happens with the bare metal on a hardened surface.

I keep a set of covers in my pocket (hip belt or shorts). When I reach a hard surface, whether it be rock or pavement, I quickly grab them and put them on the poles. Or, if it is just a short stretch, I simply carry them in one hand.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#48
I agree; heck, it bothers me to distraction to hear the Obliviot Trekking Pole Theme music ... "Click, click, clack, clickity-clackity-click." Rubber caps on the tips are quite good at stopping that theme music, as is as not using the poles as you suggested. Besides the annoying theme music, bare metal tips can cause a sudden slip and loss of balance due to the lack of grip which happens with the bare metal on a hardened surface.

I keep a set of covers in my pocket (hip belt or shorts). When I reach a hard surface, whether it be rock or pavement, I quickly grab them and put them on the poles. Or, if it is just a short stretch, I simply carry them in one hand.
I do the same. I just ordered several sets of rubber tips since I go through a set a month. I’ll bring two sets with me when I walk next year.
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#49
I do the same. I just ordered several sets of rubber tips since I go through a set a month. I’ll bring two sets with me when I walk next year.
:) I started using this brand just last year, and find them to be incredibly durable; much more so than others that I have used.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF Spring 2016
CF Autumn 2017
VDLP Autumn 2019
#50
After reading and studying the Camino Forum, I bought Pacer Poles for my first Camino Frances. I watched the Pacer Poles videos, and thought I knew what I was doing. On day 1 on the route Napoleon, at the Vierge d'Orison statue, I met a couple from Paris who were walking from Le Puy-en-Velay. They politely showed me how to adjust and use my poles properly. What a difference! It takes some time for the use of the poles to become natural. They reminded me and encouraged me the next day as we walked from Roncesvalles to Zubiri. By then I was getting it, and walking with the poles really, really helped me, my knees, and my hips. I knew I had been using the poles effectively when my upper-body was tired at the end of the day. They serve to balance the load over more of my body.

I used rubber tips all the time, and wore out two pair by the time I got to Finisterre. On my second Camino Frances, I again used the poles, and the walk over the Pyrenees was a little easier with good hiking-pole technique. Now I would not walk on the Camino without them.

Buen Camino,
--jim--

P.S. I am still friends with that couple from Paris - wonderful people!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - central from Oporto (2018 - planned)
#51
Experimenting with poles but jury still out. Any thoughts on poles v longer wooden stick? In the film the Way the men appeared to just use one long wooden stick. Was that just the film or an option worth considering? Thanks
I really held off on using poles. A single long stick, like I could imagine medieval pilgrims walking with, sure. But not those poles. They didn't fit my image of what a pilgrim was and seemed more appropriate for a techie trekker. (Never mind the modern backpack and technical clothing I was wearing.)

When my knees started going after Puente la Reina or Estella, I got one of those long wooden sticks. In Viana, I managed to find a store with the poles. They saved my Camino. I left my long wooden stick behind without a second glance.

Others, without knee problems, may find a long wooden stick (or nothing at all) fine. But I firmly believe that if I had started with the poles I never would have developed the knee problem, would not have ended up taking those 600 mg ibuprofen tablets daily to deal with the residual pain and inflammation (even with the poles), and would never have developed chronic urticaria.
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to Santiago
Sep/Oct 2015
#52
It takes some time for the use of the poles to become natural.
This is certainly true. The same way hiking and exercising helps your strengthens your leg muscles before you start the Camino, practicing with poles strengthens your upper body muscles and coordinates your nerves so that walking with poles doesn't feel like waltzing with two partners at once.

I worked with mine for several weeks before I wasn't tripping myself and had found a comfortable rhythm. SJPdP is not the time or place to try and see if you like walking poles.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
#53
When my knees started going after Puente la Reina or Estella, I got one of those long wooden sticks. In Viana, I managed to find a store with the poles. They saved my Camino. I left my long wooden stick behind without a second glance.
Another difficulty with staves that nearly everyone is unaware of is that it's actually a learning experience simply choosing one -- I was very lucky indeed (or maybe blessed) with my first, though I had already used a far less successful shorter stick in '94.

Trying to hike with a "wrong" staff -- whether it's wrong wood, wrong weight, wrong shape, wrong thickness -- is typically a big mistake, even though that same staff could bizarrely be perfectly ideal for someone else of near identical frame, height, and weight.

Hiking poles are FAR less choosy about who they make friends with ... :p
 

zrexer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15 & 16 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo (Sept.)
#56
And the debate between the pro and anti trekking pole camps rages on. I am firmly in the 'pro' camp, but everyone should do what works best for them individually.
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#57
If you use sticks, please carry rubber tips so you are not clicking and clacking through city streets
Yeah... someone already posted that and it was answered :) It's always good to read a thread and look at the dates to make sure the thread is current and that the information hasn't already been posted :)
 

Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#58
I still have my original Leki rubber tips after my third Camino. I change from tips to gravel ready on the fly, put my tips in my back pocket, and rejoice at the bite that the metal tips have on rocks and gravel.

In case of mud on metal or rubber tips, brush ends in nearby grass tufts....

Up till now I haven´t inadvertently killed or maimed anybody by this procedure..
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018
#59
Over the years I've taught a few people how to use poles. The first thing is to hold the sticks correctly - hand up through the bottom of the wrist strap onto the grip, so that the wrist strap drapes across the back of the hand. Watch the YouTube videos or ask someone who knows what they are doing to ensure you have the proper grip and to ensure the wrist strap is at the right tension - so it can be felt but is loose.

The height of the stick should be such, when you hold the sticks, your elbow is very slightly more than at a right angle (ie hand very slightly below the elbow).

Then the motion of walking with the sticks - I've found that the method that works best, for beginners, is for them to trail the sticks behind them, dragging on the ground at first, and then moving their arms gently in a natural rhythm - right arm moves with left foot, left arm with right foot. Keep trailing and dragging the poles. Do that for long enough and eventually you will pick up the rhythm and method and be lifting the sticks and planting them correctly beside the body. But do it on an easy flat surface until it feels right.

Going up and down steep hills - what works for me is to think of the sticks as if they are an extra pair of legs and I am a quadruped. I don't know if that is correct technique but it has kept me upright numerous times.
Kanga,

I agree with basically all you said, but I have found slight variations on your theme work well for me.

First, re straps - you’re right on. Don’t know how many people I’ve seen who just put the hand through the loop, which then requires them to have a firm grip on the pole all the time. Using your technique and with the straps adjusted so the hand meets the pole grip just below the top means you can use the poles with only slight finger pressure on the grip. The load the poles transfer to the hands is spread across the entire width of the hand.

Second, for me the best pole length is with the poles forearm parallel to the ground or even with the hands slightly below the elbow. I find I can push harder (when walking up hill or on the level) if my hands are slightly below my elbows at the moment of pole plant. Also, I usually plant the pole slightly behind behind the heel of opposite foot and usually a fraction of a second before footfall. (I know this sounds a bit “techie”, but I with to CF treks under my belt I’ve had almost 2 million times to practice the moves).

Lastly, when the trail gets steep either up or down I often shift my grip so my palms are on top of the poles. Gives me something to push against going up and allows the whole arm to absorb the shock going down.

All said, everyone must develop their own technique. There’s no better place to compemplate the physics and physiology involved and to perfect the best personal technique than walking a Camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Depart Los Angeles on September 19, 2016
#60
An interesting report by The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation on the pros and cons of using walking/hiking poles.
Whether you take trekking poles or not is really a personal decision, there is no right or wrong. For myself, I typically hike with trekking poles in my home country. However, for the Camino, I was concerned about "weight" and freedom of my hands so I decided not to take them. In retrospect, I would make that same decision again however, there were any number of places I wish I had them. Bottomline, if you are a strong hiker and have no physical issues, I would say pass and enjoy the added freedom of movement. Have a wonderful journey.
 
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017
#61
I used my walking poles every day on our camino. Probably would have not made it quite so well in some spots without them. Upper arm strength was increased considerably and inches on arms were lost. Only slight inconvenience was putting on and off the rubber tips. But we were probably more considerate than most in that regard.
 

Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#63
Another vital reason for the recommended use of straps ( enter hand up through loops before gripping poles) is that if or when you fall and try to brace the fall with your hands, you will very easily break your wrists if you don´t.
- as many Norwegians have told us Danish flatlanders when we go to their impressive heights and onto the mercy of skis..!
 
Camino(s) past & future
St Jean to Burgos 2017
St Jean to Fisterra 2018
St Jean to Fisterra 2020 or Chemin Piemont
#69
I find trekking poles to help with some minor middle back aches I get when hiking long distances. I have done SJPdP to Roncesvalles twice, one with and once without trekking poles and the difference was night and day. Would not consider doing it again without.

I also find my poles useful for not falling the hell off of mountains when I am gawking about and not paying attention to the trail like I should. They let me feel the ground ahead. Several times I avoided trip hazards that I would have eaten because I was looking down valleys or whatever.
 

Dandabika

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Completed GR65 (2016)
#71
I've used the foldable Leki pole for the entire Compostelle and Camino Del Norte and Primitivo. Many gites and albergues do not allow you to take the long poles in with you, but if they fold in your pack, you're sure not to have them disappear overnight. The Mayo Clinic is considered one of the best medical institutions in the world. Here's what they have to say about trekking poles: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/walking-poles/faq-20057943
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances (2013)
Camino portugues (2017)
Camino primitivo, del norte, coastal (future)
#72
Very interesting.

I used sticks on both Camino (frances and portugues), even if the second Camino was a bit flatter. I find that they prevented my hands from swelling, another advantage to the sticks!
 

jagoca

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked Via de la Plata (Seville to Santiago) in spring 2017
#73
Definitely hiking poles. I walked via de la plata (1007km) last year and they were a lifesaver for my knees and back, also twice as a deterrent when I had to think fast, I shortened them and yanked the rubber ferrules off the ends to display the sharp spikes when I had 2 situations with men trying to attack me when I was hiking alone in remote areas.

I would recommend though, as the carrying poles in rucksack rules as hand luggage on planes in inconsistent, to start in a big city where you can buy them cheap at a Decathlon or a large sports store as mine I bought with me from home (Switzerland) and they are 200€ worth, I'd have paid to check in my rucksack at Santiago if they would have refused to permit them as hand luggage because of how expensive they were. You can get a decent set for about 30€ in Spain which will suffice
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#74
I have walked many kilometres using Leki poles. This week I visualised what I had read on the forum about how to use poles. Finally, the penny dropped. I am now a proper walking pole user. I learned something else as well this week, and just add it in for good measure. The reason I have always got blisters is because I have been thumping down front part of feet first. So yesterday I began to go: heel, toe, heel toe... and no more hot spots, no more blisters. Better late than never...
 

twh

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPdP May/June, 2018
#75
Before my trip I thought hiking poles were a silly idea, gear marketing hype, more weight, more stuff to manage and lose and get in the way and trip over, and how could they possible be of any assistance to a fairly fit 61 year old guy? I was planning to bring a single hiking pole (I bought years ago for a motorcycle trip) that had a camera mount on it to use as a mono pod that I would deploy only for photography. I ordered an additional pole just before leaving on this trip to test out the "pole" theory on my camino. The poles were very helpful with hills (stability for the up and down, and weight transfer on the ups) and especially on the flats to take a little bit of weight off of my joints with each stride when needed. I tried the alternate natural arm swing polling first and found it comfortable but I didn't feel like I was getting much out of it. So I tried double polling and I found this technique (both poles out in front on each step with my right foot) worked best for me. I was able to get the most "lift" (a momentary partial unweighting by pushing down on the poles) and "push" by pushing off from the poles propelling me forward with the double pole technique. I had to learn the technique and timing while doing my hike. It wasn't hard but took some practice to perfect it. It is two distinct efforts or movements closely connected to look like one movement. If the timing or the pole plant was off by a fraction, then the "lift" could not be executed but I could salvage the "push". When executed properly both the lift and push effort were very effective at transferring a very small but cumulatively significant effort and weight from my legs and joints to my arms and shoulders. You have to figure out the timing for yourself but in general, you plant the poles ahead and just before your body and hands get to the position where you would have the best leverage and balance to push your body up into the air you exert however much pressure you choose to use at this time using your arm and shoulder muscles. This unloads your upper body weight and pack by the amount or number of pounds/kilos you are pushing down on your poles. This momentary "lift" effort by pushing down on the poles is followed a fraction of second later by a "push" effort that propels you forward. If you wait too long for the push your poles will slide out so you must execute this push effort where it feels like you are using half the effort to push up and half the effort to push forward. Reducing the physical burden with each step on the flats using this technique feels like a useless waste of time if you try to evaluate or measure the benefit from a single step. It is like the "rest step" in mountaineering which seemed ridiculous when I learned it but I was assured by my instructor that proper usage of the technique would determine if my ascent was successful or not. Like the polling technique, a very small benefit over a very long period of repetitions ends up having a significant effect. I think the rubber tips I bought helped me with the "push" effort because they were large and rounded, providing more surface area and grip which aided in an effective push without premature slide-out. These rubber tips were heavy and bulky compared to normal rubber tips. I bought them because my normal rubber tips were a hard plastic that was almost as noisy as the metal tips on pavement. They did last the whole trip but did wear down quite a bit, just like my shoes, so I must have unloaded a lot of weight on them. While on the flats I did not use the "lift & push" efforts all the time and when I did use this technique, sometimes I only put a small amount of effort into it and sometimes, when my joints and legs were feeling fatigue, I put out a large amount of effort. Other times I held both poles, with both hands behind my back to relax my shoulders and then for short intervals I pulled up on the poles behind my back lifting part of the weight of my pack off my shoulders. All of these changes in pole usage required new effort from a different muscle group while relieving some effort from other muscle groups which was always a beautiful thing. So in summary, the poles can be very useful in a number of ways. I would highly recommend them and if your hand/eye or overall coordination is not great, learn to use them with the technique that works best for you before you leave so they feel natural when you get to your camino starting point. I wrapped some tape around the tip of my poles to get a tighter fit on the rubber tips I purchased and they never fell off and I never took them off...they worked fine on all surfaces, dirt, mud, rocks, pavement. These are the poles and the pole tips I used.

Tips: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006HMDN6S/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Poles: https://www.amazon.com/FastCap-Trek...pID=31aBwCEnOhL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
 
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