Why Learn How To Use POLES Optimally?

Optimal Use means achieving ALL the benefits without incurring stress or strain in the joints

There is no such thing as CORRECT use of poles.  Every one is different and we all have different abilities and goals.  Therefore, we define OPTIMAL USE as achieving the benefits we want (and we want them ALL) without incurring stress or strain in the hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders.  Tension in the hands with non-optimal use can travel all the way up to your neck.  

Find poles that fit you well, that you love and then use them for the journey of a lifetime, for your favorite hike or walk, or just out your front door for some great whole-body exercise.

Pole "Anatomy"

Understanding Poles

In this section we discuss the elements that make up hiking poles, trekking poles and walking poles.  Finding poles you LOVE - that fit you well -  will help you achieve your goals.  Pole Fitting is an art.

We'll start at the top.

Grips come in different shapes, sizes and materials.  They are one of the most important features of pole comfort.  

Grip Shape

Feel the grip in your hand.  Compare different models to see what fits and feels best - what resonates for you?

Grip Materials

Grip fit and comfort depend on material, size and shape.

Plastic:  Least expensive, uncomfortable and can be slippery when wet.

Rubber: Some new rubbers are  comfortable, especially when you use gloves. Exerstrider rubber grips  are textured in a  subtle way that  provide a  comfortable   “touch”. You can get a "sock" accessory that makes them softer.

Cork:  Absorbent & more comfortable than rubber or plastic.

Foam: Comfortable and  durable.  Our favorite.


Grip Sizes

Grips vary in size.  Hold the grip and see what best fits your hand.  Too small feels uncomfortable. Too large can cause hand fatigue.


Grip Option on Trekking Poles:  Long Foam Grip

On some models, foam extends down the top section from the grip. We show how to use it to improve performance on both DVD's.  This feature can be useful for mobility  as well as for hikers (Grand  Canyon practice segment on hiking DVD).  

Long foam grips  improve  performance and stability  on  terrain like  rocky desert canyons, stream crossings or frequently changing terrain   when we don't want to use the straps.


Grip Shape

Grip shapes vary. Trekking poles can be straight or canted (slanted) at an angle of either 10 or 15 degrees

Exerstrider's flared grip is designed for comfort without the use of straps.

For hikers, the positive/slanted angle  of trekking poles allows the  hand and wrist to be in a more neutral position which adds to comfort.  We recommend trekking pole models with canted grips. This is especially important if  you have any hand, wrist or shoulder issues.



Trekking Poles, Hiking Poles have straps. Again, it's all about your COMFORT.

Exerstrider Walking Poles do not have straps. 

Straps vary in size, type and adjustability.
Use: See DVD for proper use of the strap. Correct use is  essential for avoiding stress or tension in hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders – even your neck.

Fit: Check to make sure the strap fits your hand. As  you progress,  a relatively snug fit can improve performance. If the  strap is too big, try gloves (see DVD) or another model of poles.

Adjusting:  Make sure you can EASILY adjust the strap of the pole to fit your hand. (check the directions that come with your poles). Some models have right & left straps which adds to comfort. 

Strapless option:  This is an excellent starting point for people with mobility challenges. 

Buckle straps: Straps that have a buckle are  generally found on less expensive models. They're uncomfortable and do  not provide optimal performance.


Pole Sections

Note: Do not order one piece poles. 

Adjustability is an important aspect of learning & progressing. 

See either DVD to learn how adjustabilty helps you achieve optimal use on a variety of terrain.

Models adjust differently - read the instructions that come with your poles.

Both DVD’s detail how to adjust your poles for your height, your use  and your concerns. Adjusting pole length is an important aspect of using  your poles optimally and achieving the many benefits. 

Twist style: There are several styles of twist  poles. These poles have an expander that opens as you twist to the R and  loosens as you twist the section to the L.  It's important to read the  directions that come with your poles so you understand the best way to  adjust your poles.

SpeedLock: LEKI poles. This  system is easy, fast  and intuitive.  Read the instructions and adjust to suit your needs.  Knob can be adjusted with your hands or straight screwdriver or even a  dime. Do not overloosen the knob.

FlickLock: Black Diamond's method of adjusting. Use a  phillips screwdriver to adjust. Do not overloosen. Make sure you close  in the proper position/angle - do not force this mechanism. It's easy to  make the mistake of not closing this mechanism completely. If it's not closed, it's OPEN.

Button:  Exerstrider's Activator model is an option  for people with mobility challenges. It features a spring loaded  button-in-hole  adjusting system like that commonly used on canes and  walkers. 


Baskets prevent pole tips from sinking into the ground – very useful  for hiking. They’re removable and interchangeable (use the larger  baskets for snow shoeing).

If using poles exclusively for mobility and balance, you'll probably not need baskets.



  • The tip of the pole is sharp and designed to grip the dirt.
  • Some  models we recommend have concave flex tips which are superior for gripping the ground while hiking.
  • Use caution and good etiquette when using poles – NO stabbing or sudden stops with pole tips angled back!
  • Many poles come with travel tips.  Remove them before using poles.
  • When on pavement, concrete or indoors, use rubber tips.  Using bare  pole tips on these surfaces can damage the pole tips as well as the  surface. 


Rubber Tips

  • Rubber tips are an essential accessory for many reasons. 
  • Use rubber tips for pavement and indoors.
  • Carry your rubber tips with you at all times. Using poles on  pavement without rubber tips is noisy and can dull your hiking tips.
  • Remove rubber tips for trails, dirt or hiking.
  • When putting new tips onto new poles use a bit of powder to make  them easy to remove. Once your pole tips get dirty, you won't have to  repeat this.
  • Watch the Mobility DVD Tips section for info on using tips on wet surfaces.
  • For general use, we recommend LEKI or Black Diamond tips. Exerstrider's boot style tip  provides a bit more cushion on pavement. 
  • Choose the shape that suits your goals. Standard rounded for general purpose, wavey foot style for Nordic Walking.
  • For increased balance for people with mobility challenges, we highly recommend  Bell Tips.


Pole Care

See either DVD for detailed pole care.  Take good care of your poles and they’ll take good care of you.

Our LEKI poles are 12 years old and in perfect condition.

NORDIC WALKING - An Introduction & How To!

Enjoy this short tutorial video which discusses some of the many benefits of walking with poles for exercise: