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Trekking Poles Turned Me into the Flash

Year of past OR future Camino
2021
So after a bit of research and more than one failed attempt using a wooden staff (actually slowed me down) and at my wife’s urging I decided to give trekking poles a chance. I used them a few times on both road and trail for short trial runs. I needed to learn how to use them and not be a danger to myself (tripping hazard) or others (harpooning people is seen as a little rude now it seems).

After I felt I had the hang of them I wanted to do a 15k route with with hills and about a third of the distance on hardball. My target pace for a paved route is about 6 kph and approximately 5 kph moving average on unpaved but good ground. I must have focused a bit too much on those Nordic walking videos as my average moving speed was 6.8 kph and 5.5 overall. That worked out to 15k in 2:10. OK, not exactly Flash speeds but I traveled a lot faster with the poles than I did without. Actually it was a bit too fast. I don’t think my body would be able to stand up to that pace for between 5 & 6 hours a day for weeks at a time. I’ll need to recalibrate my pace over the next few weeks before I do myself a mischief.

tldr: poles made me way faster, but threw off my walking pace. Trekking poles for the win.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Quite correct. It's all about learning to use them correctly.....then determining a suitable pace.
The average pace appears to be around 4ks an hour on the flat, slower on the uphills and on the downhills.
Regards
Gerard
I really was not expecting a real increase in speed. I am experimenting with them as the Primitivo has an awful lot of up and down bits, and after reading a number of accounts from other pilgrims who took this route, and thought they would be helpful.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I had never used poles before my first Camino, but I find them very useful, especially while wearing a backpack - they help me readjust my center of gravity. I use them whether the terrain is flat, hill, tarmac or rocky trail. The only time that I stow them on my pack is when I'm walking through towns and cities, where they could be a hazard to others. While I was walking the Portuguese Camino I stowed them when I arrived in Valença, then I didn't want to bother stopping to take them out of my pack for the rest of the day's walk to Tui. It wasn't more than an hour's walk, but I could tell that my posture wasn't as good without the poles and my back became a bit sore.
Poles are also great for keeping hands from swelling, and keeping arms toned.
 
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nidarosa

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Inglés 2009+2017, Francés 2012+2018, Astorga-Santiago repeatedly
When I started using my Pacerpoles I experienced the same thing - I once set a new pilgrim landspeed record (for me at least) from Astorga to Rabanal, so I arrived before Gaucelmo had even opened! Then the next day I used them as rocket boosters to get me up the hill, and then handbrakes to get me safely down on the other side ... But I soon had to learn to slow the pace down, and started by stopping more often and looking around, taking photos etc. Enjoy your learning curve!
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Year of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
A hiking staff can do the same job in fast hiking -- but it's much harder to learn how to use one, and you also need to find one that's right for you, length, type of wood, etc.

The right length is about up to your armpit.

As to my own, it's a dried ash staff -- light, strong, and with just the right degree of flexibility and spring.

As to learning how to use it properly, well, took me 1,000 to 1,200 K to work that out ; or at my old hiking pace, using it 6-8 hours every day for about a month. The most difficult things to learn are proper balance, so you stop leaning into the staff ; then how to use both shoulders in your staff use.

One mistake most people make (and indeed many staff makers) is to hold the thicker end, and plant the thinner end on the path. Except the thicker end gets you more traction and a better grip on the terrain ; so instead you need to hold it by the thinner end.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
I walked two Camino's before trying out trekking poles. Now I wouldn't walk one without them. I walk faster and more efficient with them. They're a good workout for my hands and arms. Lessen the impact on my knees and helps balance me on downhills. Not to mention they saved my ass from a mean Rottweiler on the Portuguese. Both poles held tightly together and coming down across his haunches changed his mind about trying to take a bite out of a peregrino.
I don't care for the single wooden staff bit, shades of Gandalf Lord of the Rings lol. Just not as efficient for me and harder to stow away when walking through crowded towns and cities like Burgos, Pamplona etc.
 

JamesVT

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2019
When I started using my Pacerpoles I experienced the same thing - I once set a new pilgrim landspeed record (for me at least) from Astorga to Rabanal, so I arrived before Gaucelmo had even opened! Then the next day I used them as rocket boosters to get me up the hill, and then handbrakes to get me safely down on the other side ... But I soon had to learn to slow the pace down, and started by stopping more often and looking around, taking photos etc. Enjoy your learning curve!
I also walked with Pacerpoles which really helped my two replaced knees and one replaced hip manage the distance and ups and downs on the way. The only down side of Pacerpoles, a small thing, is that they can be a bit tricky to lean against a wall because of the the shape of the hand holds. Not a bit deal. One other thing with any set of trekking poles is that they may be in the way if you want to stop and take photos with a camera or phone. But, friends, trekking poles in my opinion are just great for helping with one's pack load and distance. Highly recommended. I wish I was out on the Camino right now, using them.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2021 (Sept, Oct)
My wife and I live in the mid-west of USA in a very flat state. Prior to our first camino in 2015, we had never used trekking poles before. We bought two sets of Leki poles with cork handles. We watched a few YouTube videos regarding how to adjust the poles to the appropriate height, how to hold them (straps on the cork handles) and how to walk with them. We were able to quickly learn how to use them. They were life savers throughout our first camino, particularly navigating steep uphills and down hills. They are a great safety tool, since you can quickly steady your balance if you stumble on the path. We used them again on our 2017 and 2019 caminos and will certainly bring them with us again this fall.

Two tips for newbies: There are lots and lots of trekking poles on the caminos. Some albergues require pilgrims to place their trekking poles in an umbrella stand close to the shoe racks. It would be very easy to accidentally (or not) pick up another set of poles the next morning. On more than one occasion, we heard pilgrims complain that someone stole their poles. To limit this, we decorated our trekking poles with unique colorful tape and painted our poles in a few locations so we could easily identify our poles in the morning. This is no longer an issue since during our last camino and the one this fall, we will stay in private rooms and bring our poles into our rooms with us.

Secondly, as a courtesy to other pilgrims and folks in towns that you walk through, please use rubber tips to cover the metal ends of your poles. Otherwise, the constant clank, clank, clank of metal on concrete / asphalt can be be quite annoying. I still recall during our first camino we followed a pilgrim that clanked his way ahead of us for several kilometers. Then we approached the green metal bridge over the railroad tracks before entering Astorga. He clanked his way up the ramp and back down. Quite annoying ! !

Bob
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I was 47 on my first camino, and various hiker friends advised me before I left that I was young, that poles were unnecessary etc etc. Worried about carry-on baggage, I did not take any with me.

However, in a last minute flash of wisdom, I bought a pair of poles in Saint Jean and quickly figured out how to use them (with some help from a fellow walker). They were cheap, and heavy... and totally indispensable. I found that my speed increased immediately from my training walks leading into Camino, and that my hips and lower back stopped aching all the time.

When I returned home I bought a nice pair of Flick-Z Black Diamond poles and have been using them ever since, for almost every walk I take. One cannot waddle side-to-side with poles, and so our gait becomes more efficient, less likely to stress out the hips. The load distribution, the stress-relief... all so very worth it.

I now book a direct flight and check my pack instead of having it as carry-on. I wrap the poles and the entire pack in cello-wrap, and off It goes. I carry just enough in my 6L Osprey hip bag to get me through 24 hours if my pack should fail to deliver (but that hasn’t happened yet). And now that we can track our baggage with the UPC codes on our phones, I really don’t worry about a bag going missing.

Some folks simply can’t get a direct flight, and I think that for them I’d recommend hitting a Decathlon store in Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Pamplona etc. And getting a pair of poles.

Buen Camino everyone!
 

auburnfive

Active Member
Recently in an Eddie Bauer store I discovered their house brand z poles for $40! Easily fold up and lightweight, seem similar to the Black Diamond. Height adjusts, but the lowest setting was 110cm, too high if you’re short. They will refund if any problems, I’ll report back after I’ve given them a workout
 

El Cascayal

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo May 2019
Invierno November 2019
Ingles April (2020) postponed
I thoroughly am on the trekking poles bandwagon. Like many, the Primitivo was my first use. Provided stability, security from falling, plunging puddle depths, parting thorns, waving at critters. Swiftness, lightness of being: got my poles ready to tackle any hilly windmill going up and worst of all going down wet rocks ie descent Por Hospitales. Green identifying tape on mine. Women’s ergonomic cork Black Diamond, got em on sale. Going, pack them in a tube and check them. Return, pack them bundled in clothes in very light nylon duffel. Added bonus of learning to use them: constant amusement of my neighbors watching me practice. “You put your left foot in with your right arm out...you do the Peregrina hokey pokey... Win-win for all.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Caminos Francais: 2002, 2012, 2019. (Future Ingles, Primitivo, Portuguese in 2021)
My wife and I live in the mid-west of USA in a very flat state. Prior to our first camino in 2015, we had never used trekking poles before. We bought two sets of Leki poles with cork handles. We watched a few YouTube videos regarding how to adjust the poles to the appropriate height, how to hold them (straps on the cork handles) and how to walk with them. We were able to quickly learn how to use them. They were life savers throughout our first camino, particularly navigating steep uphills and down hills. They are a great safety tool, since you can quickly steady your balance if you stumble on the path. We used them again on our 2017 and 2019 caminos and will certainly bring them with us again this fall.

Two tips for newbies: There are lots and lots of trekking poles on the caminos. Some albergues require pilgrims to place their trekking poles in an umbrella stand close to the shoe racks. It would be very easy to accidentally (or not) pick up another set of poles the next morning. On more than one occasion, we heard pilgrims complain that someone stole their poles. To limit this, we decorated our trekking poles with unique colorful tape and painted our poles in a few locations so we could easily identify our poles in the morning. This is no longer an issue since during our last camino and the one this fall, we will stay in private rooms and bring our poles into our rooms with us.

Secondly, as a courtesy to other pilgrims and folks in towns that you walk through, please use rubber tips to cover the metal ends of your poles. Otherwise, the constant clank, clank, clank of metal on concrete / asphalt can be be quite annoying. I still recall during our first camino we followed a pilgrim that clanked his way ahead of us for several kilometers. Then we approached the green metal bridge over the railroad tracks before entering Astorga. He clanked his way up the ramp and back down. Quite annoying ! !

Bob
Bob, I am in mid-Missouri and "stuck" with the closest waling option 5 minutes drive away, the Katy Trail, a reconverted railroad line which snakes 240 miles through the Show Me State. And is it flat! Flat, flat, flat! On a bike, for instance, one is contantly peddling; grdients vary seemingly in millimeters. So, how do I practice using my potential purchase for a (fourth) Camino, nthis time from Porto, Portgual in 09/2021? Ain't no hills, buddy! BTW, hank you for the reminder to use rubber tips (mental note to purchase an extra set) in consideration of other pilgrims and residents alike. After a final disgusted heave-ho of the latest in a seemingly endless closet collection of Ospreys and the brands many irritating interior and exterior model changes, I am opting for a Gossamer Gear backpack. And looking with a keen eye at their own brand of walking poles, too.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I used trekking poles on The Camino Frances and I am glad I did. It was not so much for speed walking as for not slipping and breaking my buns on slippery or rocky segments. Steep slopes combined with mud and loose rocks are really dangerous. And you do NOT want to hurt yourself way out in the middle of nowhere and not be able to walk. THAT would not be good.
I remember on a certain steep slope I met an Australian guy who thought I was a sissy for using poles. The then proceeded to slip a couple of times on the wet leaves covering the flat stone path and almost break his pelvis. He got real quiet after that!!!
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes to SdC, SJPP to SdC
So after a bit of research and more than one failed attempt using a wooden staff (actually slowed me down) and at my wife’s urging I decided to give trekking poles a chance. I used them a few times on both road and trail for short trial runs. I needed to learn how to use them and not be a danger to myself (tripping hazard) or others (harpooning people is seen as a little rude now it seems).

After I felt I had the hang of them I wanted to do a 15k route with with hills and about a third of the distance on hardball. My target pace for a paved route is about 6 kph and approximately 5 kph moving average on unpaved but good ground. I must have focused a bit too much on those Nordic walking videos as my average moving speed was 6.8 kph and 5.5 overall. That worked out to 15k in 2:10. OK, not exactly Flash speeds but I traveled a lot faster with the poles than I did without. Actually it was a bit too fast. I don’t think my body would be able to stand up to that pace for between 5 & 6 hours a day for weeks at a time. I’ll need to recalibrate my pace over the next few weeks before I do myself a mischief.

tldr: poles made me way faster, but threw off my walking pace. Trekking poles for the win.
As an aside, I find that using a good set of poles not only assists in an easier walk but also facilitates a more contemplative way of walking. With practice, I think you will find a more enjoyable way forward.
 

Arn

Veteran Member
I started my first Camino with my AT staff. I figured if it were good enough on the 2,164 miles/3483km of the AT, the CF would be a snap. Well, snap, it was. As I made it down the far side of the Alto del Perdon, in a storm, my right leg was trapped in between two large rocks, and my staff lodged to my front. By the time I arrived in Burgos, I had ditched my staff and continued with forearm crutches. Not exactly trekking poles, but they did the job. On my next CF, I was walking alongside a German couple that was using Diamond poles. They were moving so fast; I struggled to keep up, so I returned to my original pace as they left me in the dust.
Several hours later, I joined them for lunch. The gentleman, indicating he didn't need his poles, offered to show me how to use them properly. I used them the rest of the day and was surprised how beneficial they were: pace improved, balance improved, up and down hills improved. The following day he gave them to me against my remonstrations. I've used them ever since.
Going from the USA to Spain, no problem with them in my pack (carry on). From Spain to the USA, I had to remove the poled, pack them in a small box, and put them in hold. Other than that never a hassle.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Caminos Francais: 2002, 2012, 2019. (Future Ingles, Primitivo, Portuguese in 2021)
I thoroughly am on the trekking poles bandwagon. Like many, the Primitivo was my first use. Provided stability, security from falling, plunging puddle depths, parting thorns, waving at critters. Swiftness, lightness of being: got my poles ready to tackle any hilly windmill going up and worst of all going down wet rocks ie descent Por Hospitales. Green identifying tape on mine. Women’s ergonomic cork Black Diamond, got em on sale. Going, pack them in a tube and check them. Return, pack them bundled in clothes in very light nylon duffel. Added bonus of learning to use them: constant amusement of my neighbors watching me practice. “You put your left foot in with your right arm out...you do the Peregrina hokey pokey... Win-win for all.
Here's the part your neighbors are missing -- after you have put your right and left feet in and and have shaken them all about, you do what? Why, "you put your whole self in, you put your whole self out, you put your whole self in and you shake it all about, you do the hokey-pokey (arms over head and turning in a circle) and that's what it's all about!"

Thinking about it as I write, that last bit, wherein the whole self jumps into the circle and one shakes oneself all about, is, after all the Camino experience!
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
I have a completely different take on this issue. I have no problem how anyone uses poles except the people who do not use the rubber tips and I have to hear that absolutely annoying sound of poles hitting the ground over and over again. I take poles with me but use them only selectively. When I walked the Norte I had the poles out most of the day as they definitely help pushing up hills and are even more important on the downhill. I will also use them on really rocky stretches especially when it is wet. The pole hits the ground before my foot and on those surfaces I am always looking down.
But in terms of speed and pace I find it much more beneficial for me to just let my body choose for me the right pace. I think that all the up and downs on the Norte were especially difficult for me because as soon as I walked out of the albergue in Irun the hills started and I had trouble establishing a rhythm that made me comfortable. For me nothing is more wonderful than walking in the rhythm of my body and breath without any thought or effort. I do not worry about my how fast I am walking because my rhythm is getting me there as slow or fast as it wants to go. I am happier and less tired at the end of the day because of this and because I have learned that stopping a little sooner rather than later makes me a happy pilgrim with alot fewer aches and pains. It is one less thing to think or worry about as I walk. My motto is not walking with mindfulness is it walking with mindlessness. It works for me. But whatever works for you go for it. As long as you wear those rubber tips, please!
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I don't think that people are necessarily using trekking poles to increase their speed, but are finding that a faster pace is a byproduct of using trekking poles. I discovered that, while wearing a backpack, they help me find my natural rhythm.
 

Arn

Veteran Member
Here's the part your neighbors are missing -- after you have put your right and left feet in and and have shaken them all about, you do what? Why, "you put your whole self in, you put your whole self out, you put your whole self in and you shake it all about, you do the hokey-pokey (arms over head and turning in a circle) and that's what it's all about!"

Thinking about it as I write, that last bit, wherein the whole self jumps into the circle and one shakes oneself all about, is, after all the Camino experience!
Of course, you must be a authentic Hokie to get it right.
 

Chris Gi

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Did April through June 2018 from Pamplona to Santiago.
2020 May or end of September - NO!
2021 ?
Recently in an Eddie Bauer store I discovered their house brand z poles for $40! Easily fold up and lightweight, seem similar to the Black Diamond. Height adjusts, but the lowest setting was 110cm, too high if you’re short. They will refund if any problems, I’ll report back after I’ve given them a workout
Same with REI - I actually found their brand name poles easier to fold up, nicer to use and - of course, cheaper. Highly recommend them.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés 2015
Via de la Plata, 2016
Camino del Norte, 2019
Portuguese, 2021
From my blog post about a day on the John Muir Trail a few years ago:

One long day during my trek, I planned to camp by a lake that was almost 12,000 feet in elevation. This particular day was going to be another eighteen miles of hiking. Later that afternoon I met an older gentleman (older than me, at least) coming down the same trail I was headed up. We offered the usual greetings, and he asked where I planned to camp that night. After hearing of my planned destination, he asked if I had hiked this portion of the trail before (that should have been a warning sign!). I replied that I had not since this was my first JMT. He remarked that the next few miles were “a bitch.” Hoping for a different reality, I told myself he must have been a negative type: the whole trail is hard if you looked at it the way he did. WRONG. The man was not negative—he was coarsely stating the obvious. That short section of just a few miles is unusually rugged and was a lot of work for weary legs at the end of a long day.

As I neared my destination, the trail made a quick turn to the right along a dry streambed. As I was looking around to see where the track led, I got tripped up in my trekking poles and did a pounding face-plant into the rocks. This all hurt so bad—you know, that traumatic shock!—that I thought it possibly the end of my journey right then and there.

Slowly, I recovered enough to do a self-assessment: sprained fingers and a wrist, scraped knees, and something quite askew with my face. (I’ll save your sensibilities by not including the iPhone selfies I took of that facial injury!) I rinsed everything and felt about to see how bad the injury might be, finding a hole with my tongue on the inside of my lip and a hole with my finger on the outside. Did I have a hole through my lip? How am I going to blow up my air mattress with a hole in my lip? Fortunately, the hole did not go all the way through, the injury did not end my trip, and the damage did eventually heal.

I never put my hands in the loops of the poles anymore.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Recently in an Eddie Bauer store I discovered their house brand z poles for $40! Easily fold up and lightweight, seem similar to the Black Diamond. Height adjusts, but the lowest setting was 110cm, too high if you’re short. They will refund if any problems, I’ll report back after I’ve given them a workout
Have sent this suggestion to a friend on a budget, aiming to head out next year.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
One cannot waddle side-to-side with poles,
I think this may be the “secret” to my increased pace. I tend to sway when I walk, the swinging straps on my pack are a dead giveaway. The poles reduced that swaying and I spent more energy going forward rather than side-to-side. Coupled with the push from the poles going uphill I made pretty good time.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I have no problem how anyone uses poles except the people who do not use the rubber tips and I have to hear that absolutely annoying sound of poles hitting the ground over and over again.
I am with you there brother. I picked up rubber tips when I bought the poles. I have seen more than one post mentioning the annoying clicking of poles, especially in the mornings, and didn’t want to be “that guy”.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
From my blog post about a day on the John Muir Trail a few years ago:

One long day during my trek, I planned to camp by a lake that was almost 12,000 feet in elevation. This particular day was going to be another eighteen miles of hiking. Later that afternoon I met an older gentleman (older than me, at least) coming down the same trail I was headed up. We offered the usual greetings, and he asked where I planned to camp that night. After hearing of my planned destination, he asked if I had hiked this portion of the trail before (that should have been a warning sign!). I replied that I had not since this was my first JMT. He remarked that the next few miles were “a bitch.” Hoping for a different reality, I told myself he must have been a negative type: the whole trail is hard if you looked at it the way he did. WRONG. The man was not negative—he was coarsely stating the obvious. That short section of just a few miles is unusually rugged and was a lot of work for weary legs at the end of a long day.

As I neared my destination, the trail made a quick turn to the right along a dry streambed. As I was looking around to see where the track led, I got tripped up in my trekking poles and did a pounding face-plant into the rocks. This all hurt so bad—you know, that traumatic shock!—that I thought it possibly the end of my journey right then and there.

Slowly, I recovered enough to do a self-assessment: sprained fingers and a wrist, scraped knees, and something quite askew with my face. (I’ll save your sensibilities by not including the iPhone selfies I took of that facial injury!) I rinsed everything and felt about to see how bad the injury might be, finding a hole with my tongue on the inside of my lip and a hole with my finger on the outside. Did I have a hole through my lip? How am I going to blow up my air mattress with a hole in my lip? Fortunately, the hole did not go all the way through, the injury did not end my trip, and the damage did eventually heal.

I never put my hands in the loops of the poles anymore.
That sounds like a whole lot of unfun.
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
In regards to trekking poles in albergues. Sometimes I left them in the basket, most of the time not. Most of the time I simply collapsed them and attached them to my pack, both on the floor near the bunk. When I set my poles up to my proper height I take a permanent marker and mark on the poles where to lock them down. That makes them easy to set back up for walking. I also put orange or yellow reflective tape on the poles in 2-3 places. It is quite visible in auto headlights on the occasion when I start walking before the sun comes up. Other pilgrims tell me they can see the tape quite visibly when an auto goes by or another pilgrim with a headlamp. The reflective tape also makes them stand out when they are in the basket. Lessens the chances of being mistakenly, or not taken.
I carry 4-5 sets of rubber tips with me. I dislike the noise trekking poles clacking on the street/road. No need for it. Actually kind of rude. If not to fellow pilgrims, to locals. Especially early in the morning. I have found at the most I go through one set a week on the Camino. Having 4-5 sets is plenty for me.
 

CalgaryLynn

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
When I started using my Pacerpoles I experienced the same thing - I once set a new pilgrim landspeed record (for me at least) from Astorga to Rabanal, so I arrived before Gaucelmo had even opened! Then the next day I used them as rocket boosters to get me up the hill, and then handbrakes to get me safely down on the other side ... But I soon had to learn to slow the pace down, and started by stopping more often and looking around, taking photos etc. Enjoy your learning curve!
Yes, that is what I have as well, Pacerpoles. They force you to keep your back properly aligned which results in less back strain.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
The other advantage of poles, at least for me, is that they prevent my hands from swelling.
Others have said the same about swollen hands. Thankfully that is not an issue for me. But why do poles help your hands not swell.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
Others have said the same about swollen hands. Thankfully that is not an issue for me. But why do poles help your hands not swell.
I think it is because the poles keep one's hands from swinging below the heart. blood pools in the hands when the force of the swing is greater than the ability of all the little capillaries in the fingers and hands to get that blood back up above heart level.

Using the poles gets rid of the low swing, keeps hands elevated enough... and I've found that I can now walk for far far longer without the poles and have none of that tingly feel that I used to get. I suspect that that is because my cardio fitness was improved by being able to walk longer distances with greater comfort.
 
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GailGwyn

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
part Camino Frances (2013), Part Camino Norte (2014)Camino Frances (2019)Camino Portuguese (2020)
When I started using my Pacerpoles I experienced the same thing - I once set a new pilgrim landspeed record (for me at least) from Astorga to Rabanal, so I arrived before Gaucelmo had even opened! Then the next day I used them as rocket boosters to get me up the hill, and then handbrakes to get me safely down on the other side ... But I soon had to learn to slow the pace down, and started by stopping more often and looking around, taking photos etc. Enjoy your learning curve!
I use Pacerpoles too. I love them.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
I think it is because the poles keep one's hands from swinging below the heart. blood pools in the hands when the force of the swing is greater than the ability of all the little capillaries in the fingers and hands to get that blood back up above heart level.

Using the poles gets rid of the low swing, keeps hands elevated enough... and I've found that I can now walk for far far longer without the poles and have none of that tingly feel that I used to get. I suspect that that is because my cardio fitness was improved by being able to walk longer distances with greater comfort.
Thanks so much. I always have poles and as age keeps creeping up on me I will keep this in mind for the future.
 

cbacino

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte - Primitivo (2018)
Via Francigena (2017)
Appalachian Trail (2016)
So after a bit of research and more than one failed attempt using a wooden staff (actually slowed me down) and at my wife’s urging I decided to give trekking poles a chance. I used them a few times on both road and trail for short trial runs. I needed to learn how to use them and not be a danger to myself (tripping hazard) or others (harpooning people is seen as a little rude now it seems).

After I felt I had the hang of them I wanted to do a 15k route with with hills and about a third of the distance on hardball. My target pace for a paved route is about 6 kph and approximately 5 kph moving average on unpaved but good ground. I must have focused a bit too much on those Nordic walking videos as my average moving speed was 6.8 kph and 5.5 overall. That worked out to 15k in 2:10. OK, not exactly Flash speeds but I traveled a lot faster with the poles than I did without. Actually it was a bit too fast. I don’t think my body would be able to stand up to that pace for between 5 & 6 hours a day for weeks at a time. I’ll need to recalibrate my pace over the next few weeks before I do myself a mischief.

tldr: poles made me way faster, but threw off my walking pace. Trekking poles for the win.
Skiers intrinsically know how to use poles (and the straps). The motion is the same whether downhill or cross-country skiing or walking. They aid rhythm, relieve weight on some joints (think downhills), assist on slippery trail, and defend against aggressive dogs (saved me more than once; think carbide tips). That said, some prefer no poles.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
The other advantage of poles, at least for me, is that they prevent my hands from swelling
I am finding that as well. I have to carry something in my hands or they start swelling around the 12 mile/20k mark while wearing a pack. I did an awful lot of “hiking” in the military but never had an issue with hand swelling. Looking back I realize I was always carrying something. Once out I was training for a charity walk that called for three consecutive 20 mile days. My hands started swelling up, but I started carry a gps in my hand (switching from right to left from time to time) rather than my pocket and the swelling became a nonissue.
 
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kmrice

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Santiago - Fisterra 2008
St. Jean Pied de Port - Santiago 2013
A long time ago, in The Complete Walker, Colin Fletcher explained that a walking stick converts an unstable biped into a stable “tri-ped.” I took this advice to heart and used a stick when hiking from the 70’s until 2012. My stick was a free piece of bamboo; carpets used to come rolled up around bamboo sticks and the carpet stores threw the bamboo away. Once I tried my stick, I never hiked without it. A crutch tip protected the bottom end; a heavy twine wrapping on the other gave me a good grip.

In 2012, before my first Camino, my sister gave me a pair of Lekis. They converted this aging, and somewhat less stable than he used to be, tri-ped, into a very stable quadruped! Three thousand miles of caminos later, I’m still using them. They have prevented a few falls, speed me up a bit, eliminate swelling in my hands, and reduce stress on my knees. I train without them but would never go on a serious walk without them.

Rubber tips are a must, not only to avoid annoying fellow pilgrims, but also to get a grip on surfaces like rock or asphalt which the metal tips can’t dig into.
 

stinmd

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances - May 2015; Camino del Norte/Primitivo - July/August 2016; Camino Portugues - Sept 2017
So after a bit of research and more than one failed attempt using a wooden staff (actually slowed me down) and at my wife’s urging I decided to give trekking poles a chance. I used them a few times on both road and trail for short trial runs. I needed to learn how to use them and not be a danger to myself (tripping hazard) or others (harpooning people is seen as a little rude now it seems).

After I felt I had the hang of them I wanted to do a 15k route with with hills and about a third of the distance on hardball. My target pace for a paved route is about 6 kph and approximately 5 kph moving average on unpaved but good ground. I must have focused a bit too much on those Nordic walking videos as my average moving speed was 6.8 kph and 5.5 overall. That worked out to 15k in 2:10. OK, not exactly Flash speeds but I traveled a lot faster with the poles than I did without. Actually it was a bit too fast. I don’t think my body would be able to stand up to that pace for between 5 & 6 hours a day for weeks at a time. I’ll need to recalibrate my pace over the next few weeks before I do myself a mischief.

tldr: poles made me way faster, but threw off my walking pace. Trekking poles for the win.
The way I see it, the point of using poles, especially while going downhill, is not so much to speed up your pace but rather to lessen the strain on your knees. You can demonstrate this for yourself by stepping on a bathroom scale with one foot and lean on the pole with the other hand. Notice how the weight drops on the scale.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
The way I see it, the point of using poles, especially while going downhill, is not so much to speed up your pace but rather to lessen the strain on your knees. You can demonstrate this for yourself by stepping on a bathroom scale with one foot and lean on the pole with the other hand. Notice how the weight drops on the scale.
Definitely felt that advantage on the downhill! One of the primary motivations for trying them out was for the downhill. I came across lots of accounts of people on the Primitivo and San Salvador struggling on the steep downhill portions.
 

Pilgrim9

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPdP-SdC (2017)
SdC-Muxia-Fisterra-SdC (2017)
Lisboa-SdC (2018)
Ferrol-SdC (2018)
In my opinion the descent of the western side of the Alto de Perdón, half-a-day's walk west of Pamplona, is quite dangerous due to the vast expanses of bowling-ball-sized boulders covering the slope. They create a very unstable surface. Definitely one of the several places where I absolutely needed my poles for balance and safety.

Another idea is to wrap a supply of one's favourite type of adhesive foot-protection-tape around each pole just under the handle. As soon as one senses a hot spot developing, one can immediately unwrap some tape and apply it to the irritated area of the foot, and then carry on. It avoids the need to take off one's pack and rummage around for that roll of tape that always seems to hide at the bottom of the pack.
 

MikeJS

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis (2011), Norte (12), VdlP (16). Sureste/Invierno (17). Olvidado/San Salvador/Primitivo (19)
Horrible things. I hate the clackety clack of those dam poles! Almost as bad as the high intensity head lights……...
 
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stinmd

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances - May 2015; Camino del Norte/Primitivo - July/August 2016; Camino Portugues - Sept 2017
I also walk in a zig-zag fashion when ascending or descending a steep slope. In fact, it can be show that this could reduce the effective slope of a hill by up to 30%.
 

Bob from L.A. !

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
Your knees, hips and back will thank you in years to come
 

Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious. Rep stravaiging offender
Year of past OR future Camino
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
Used Leki Vario Micro from the very first Camino.

When sb asks "why do you have to use poles "
I ask back: how long do You walk with a 10 - 12 Kg load before you hear growls from your back, what is Your distance??
It is here people admit they do not themselves actually walk any distance worth speaking of ...

My distance is 14 km before I sag in the hip, lose concentration on my stature, my Scheuerman takes over, and the hurting starts.
Speed, sure, but you only need to do that glorius speed march once, say to get a connection or to get out of the rain, before you reach a conclusion that you do not really need the speed...

Poles helped me straighten my back from the second Camino on and improve my posture and my breathing, and yes, at home, I hide the poles till I´m off the common road....
- it has saved me from taking an unfortunate tumble some times when my legs were mere timber post from exhaution and not at all reacting to stimulus...
but contrary to speed, I have now slowed down to a comfortwble 4,5 km/hr instead....

Rubber tips:
I alway don the tips and can do that on thr fly, so before hitting the first cement or tarmac road surface in towns, my tips are getting on.... I hate the sound as well.
After 7 year, my original rubber tips are still intact...
 
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Walton

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
We love our Pacer poles and wouldn't walk without them.

There is a couple of downsides to pole use though that some folk might not be aware of.

If you wear a step counter / distance thingo such as a Garmin or Fitbit or the like on your wrist, you won't get accurate stats.

We found it was best to put our devices in our pockets because the distances and steps taken measurements was most likely far more accurate.

The same thing occurs when I'm mowing the lawn with a push mower. Do ten laps of the lawn and almost zero recorded steps. Oh, the woe of modern life! 😭

The other downside, in my case, is that occasionally, I accidentally trip myself - ouch. Occasionally, I accidentally trip my wife also 😄.

Apart from poles, apparently it has been said that I'm dangerous to others when using unbrellas but that's a whole new thread!

Cheers
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
We love our Pacer poles and wouldn't walk without them.

There is a couple of downsides to pole use though that some folk might not be aware of.

If you wear a step counter / distance thingo such as a Garmin or Fitbit or the like on your wrist, you won't get accurate stats.

We found it was best to put our devices in our pockets because the distances and steps taken measurements was most likely far more accurate.

The same thing occurs when I'm mowing the lawn with a push mower. Do ten laps of the lawn and almost zero recorded steps. Oh, the woe of modern life! 😭

The other downside, in my case, is that occasionally, I accidentally trip myself - ouch. Occasionally, I accidentally trip my wife also 😄.

Apart from poles, apparently it has been said that I'm dangerous to others when using unbrellas but that's a whole new thread!

Cheers
Thanks for the step counter heads up. I did not know that.
 
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Walton

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
Thanks for the step counter heads up. I did not know that.

Try it for yourself before you go Flig.

Go for a maybe, five minute walk, for example, without poles and record the distance / number of steps etc.

Then do the same five minute walk using your poles and then compare your stats.

We used our cheap and cheerful Garmin Vivofits 2 and 3.

What we discovered may not be the case with other models / brands.

My wife upgraded to a Vivofit 4 after our previous Camino and after going through four Vivofit 4's in a year, we wouldn't recommend the 4.

Garmin to their credit refunded and my wife now wears some fancy Garmin U beaut Forerunner 45s.

I'm not envious - no I'm not really. 😇

Oh, the injustice of it all, being stuck with an ancient Vivofit 3.

Cheers

Graham
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
Another reason to use your poles all the time instead of keeping them in your pack is to lighten the load in your backpack. 😉
I always say that my poles are there to carry me, not visa versa.

My son and I also found that poles significantly increased our hiking speed, from about 3 km/hour to about 4-5km/hour, when we finally picked them up in Viana. How much that is attributable to the poles and how much it is attributable to improved muscles, I can't say. But there were enough things slowing us down (hence getting the poles) that I am inclined to attribute the speed increase to them.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
Others have said the same about swollen hands. Thankfully that is not an issue for me. But why do poles help your hands not swell.
I definitely had the same experience. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it is the use of hand muscles in gripping the poles, to the extent that one does (I rarely hold them at all tightly). Perhaps it is that they don't swing down as low. But the benefit is certainly there, for those that can get swollen hands.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I haven't read this whole thread, but have only skimmed over it.
I bring two hiking poles, but prefer to only use one of them the majority of the time. I like having one hand free to grab my camera out of my waist bag as I take lots of pictures! I do just fine with one pole and both my arms look the same when I return home.😅
I offer my other pole to my son on muddy, wet paths as he thinks he doesn't need to bring his Leki's on the Camino because it's not a backpacking hike.😉
Screenshot_20210407-193637~2.png
 

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