Friday, June 9, 2023

Nordic Walking Poles vs. Trekking Poles: What’s the Difference?

September 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Gear, Poles for Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking poles and Trekking Poles may look similar, but there are significant differences in design, which allow them to serve different purposes.   Consider the Biking Analogy: Using Trekking Poles is like Mountain Biking and Nordic Walking is like road biking.

General Purpose:  Hiking *
Varied, mountains, hills, etc.

  • Poles are in 3 sections.
  • Baskets are interchangeable and useful for preventing poles from sinking into the ground.
  • Adjusting of poles helps improve performance on varied terrain.
  • Adjustable, locking straps enable user to maintain contact with grips without using causing hand strain.
  • Concave, carbide Flextips are designed for optimal performance on a variety of non-paved surfaces.
  • Rubber tips enable user to walk indoors or on pavement.

Technique: Overall goals – Optimal performance on a variety of terrain:

  • Flat:  Ease of use
  • Uphill:  Increased power and endurance
  • Downhill:  Support for joints, balance and agility

Uphill: Poles are used behind the body in a pushing action, recruiting large muscles in the back as well as muscles in the core.  This increased muscle recruitment increases power and endurance.
Poles are lengthened and used in front of the body in a “checking” action.
*Note:  People with balance challenges often find LEKI trekking poles (especially poles with the Speed-Lock mechanism) extraordinarily beneficial for achieving and maintaining mobility.

General Purpose:  Walking for exercise, health, well-being and fitness
:  Mostly flat or gently rolling hills

  • Light-weight poles come in fixed-length, 2 or 3 sections.
  • Releasable strap system.
  • Specially-designed, removable rubber tips are angled to assist with push-off.


  • Poles are used beside and behind the body in a pushing action.
  • The body’s natural gait pattern – called reciprocal gait – is accentuated when using Nordic Walking poles.
  • The stride lengthens and spinal rotation is key to achieving walking “with attitude.”  This recruits more muscles but actually often lowers perceived exertion because more muscles are being used.
  • Poles are not adjusted as often as trekking poles because terrain is less varied.


17 Responses to “Nordic Walking Poles vs. Trekking Poles: What’s the Difference?”
  1. Clark Alley says:

    I think your article was probably a good beginning to a potential series of articles about this topic. A lot of people act like they understand what they’re preaching about when it comes to this area and really, hardly anyone actually get it. You seem to grasp it however, so I think you need to take it and run. Thank you!

  2. We were doing some research and came across this website. I must say that this information is on point! Keep writing more. Will be reading your articles

  3. Rick Deutsch says:

    A good analogy is thinking of trekking poles as being a road bike and Nordic Walking poles being a mountain bike. Each is optimized for its use. You can certainly ride a mt. bike on the road, but the low pressure, knobby tires and upright position would not be the best. Similarly, you can ride a road bike on the hills, but the high pressure thin tires and crouched position would not be fun. The same logic applies to the 2 types of poles. Each is optimized for its purpose.

  4. Dean Hue says:

    Was Just was doing a search and shocked by the article you posted. Found exactly what I needed also. Thx

  5. Mike Key says:

    Enjoyed your article but I think the distinction between trekking poles and nordic walking poles is fuzzier than you claim. Why do I say this? Because I recently nordic-walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago using Black Diamond trekking poles. They worked great. I used the straps, not the handles, as leverage points to push off from. I did notice though that 99% of my fellow peregrinos used their trekking poles in the normal trekking manner i.e.,plant poles forward and pull.

    • No, NOOOOOOO….. The Plant Push – is the exercise – whether you use trekking or Nordic Walking poles. I’m delighted that you were able to use your trekking poles to help propel you along – that’s the exercise of using your body optimally – well done!

      Your fellow “peregrinos” were probably not using their BODIES optimally. It’s not about correct or incorrect, it’s about spinal rotation and using the diagonal (natural) pattern of walking….but – oh by the way – you happen to have sticks in your hands.

      Nice comment – thanks!

  6. A Vaughan says:

    I sometimes use my trekking poles in the nordic walking fashion and actually get a better workout as they are heavier than nordic poles. I prefer hiking/rambling to nordic walking workout walks (having taken classes in nordic walking). I find a light pair of trekking poles can be used for both types of walking. I would be worried about using nordic poles and being strapped in with velcro gloves on difficult ground in case of falling and dislocating thumbs or even shoulder. It would be nice to be able to afford both types of pole perhaps for different types of walk. I find nordic walking per se less interesting compared to rambling, as nordic seems to focus on speed and workout rather than the more interesting challenges of navigating, and difficult terrain in trekking or rambling, which provide a workout as a by-product rather than the main focus.

  7. Emily Petermann says:

    I’m recovering from an ankle injury and am planning to get into Nordic walking (since I shouldn’t jog). I’d like to get poles I can also use when hiking, in order to protect my ankle on downhill climbs. From your comparison of the features, it seems the biggest difference is the angled rubber tips on Nordic poles. Since the rubber tips are removable, could I get two different sets of rubber tips and use the same lightweight Nordic poles for both? Or is there a really good reason to spend the money on a second set of trekking poles?

    Thanks for your advice!

  8. Heidi says:

    Will be going to Switzerland in August/September and plan to do some hikes on forest trails and up hills. I have both NW and trekking poles and plan to take the trekking only. Should I take both? Also when I tried out my trekking poles on an uphill trail I found it easier if I placed them in front, yet I’ve read articles saying they should be behind the body on uphill and in front on the down. What are your thoughts?

    • For hiking, use your trekking poles.
      Use in front engages small muscles/tendons.
      Use in back engages core muscles that support your spine. Your choice. Bio-mechanically, behind is more efficient and beneficial. Have you taken a class or seen the video?

  9. Kirsten Dangler says:

    My question is can trekking poles be used to do nordic poling. One response said they used them for both. Is one better over the other.
    I want to use whatever will help me with my walking program.I walk on paved roads and on dirt hiking paths. Sometimes both on the same walk.
    Since I have knee and foot problems, I was told that using poles would help me feel more stable and would take some pressure off my knees,ankles and back. I now don’t know which to purchase.
    Any pro’s out there that can help?

  10. Yes, they can. You reached one. My website has info on how to approach the purchase of poles. Stable, yes. Pressure relief, yes.


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