Nordic Hiking Poles: Do They Really Help?

Nordic hiking poles are becoming more popular among hikers. While they were once used among only enthusiasts and some older folk, they’re increasingly popular among all demographics. A recent Camino de Santiago walk from Porto, for example, has many younger people using the poles.

The reasons are actually difficult to pinpoint, because there are a broad range of perceived benefits to these poles. But, just how much do they really help?

What are Nordic hiking poles?

Nordic hiking poles are specialised trekking poles designed to enhance your hiking experience. With ergonomic grips and adjustable wrist straps, they’re used like oversized walking sticks. These poles are usually lightweight, and they sometimes double as a way to pitch a tent. 

The design encourages a natural walking motion, using both the upper and lower body. This style is derived from Nordic walking, a fitness activity that originated in Finland. The main difference lies in the technique and posture promoted by these poles, which aim to provide a full-body workout while reducing the impact on joints and muscles.

Benefits of Using Nordic Hiking Poles 

One of the primary perceived benefits is in enhancing stability and balance, especially on uneven terrains. This can help prevent falls and injuries, but it’s not really what they’re designed for. They shouldn’t be relied upon for keeping balance, but for some people they can. 

Generally, the biggest benefit is distributing weight more evenly. You may not even notice this, as it’s not like you’re using your arms that much. But, over time, you notice reduced stress on joints and muscles in your knees and ankles. This is why they’re seen by those undergoing long walks with well-paved ground, like the the Camino de Santiago de Finisterre walk, because it’s not really for traversing uneven ground (though it can be). So, the conditions of a trail isn’t really what’s important when it comes to poles.

Improved posture is another key benefit. Nordic poles encourage an upright stance, which can alleviate back pain and improve breathing. The poles also engage the upper body, providing a workout for the arms, shoulders, and chest. This can increase overall fitness and muscle tone.

Scientific Evidence Supporting Their Use 

Scientific research supports the benefits of Nordic hiking poles. Studies have shown that these poles reduce the impact on joints quite drastically, making them ideal for people with joint issues.

Another study found that they can increase energy expenditure by 20%. Now, this isn’t necessarily a good thing if you’re going for a huge feat of endurance and have limited food, but it is great for those that want to burn as many calories as possible during their afternoon walk.

Another study revealed that regular use of Nordic poles improved cardiovascular health and muscle function over time too.


Nordic hiking poles offer numerous benefits, from improved stability and reduced joint stress to enhanced posture and increased calorie burn. While you don’t necessarily want the cheapest ones, it may not be a product that needs a lot of spending. You should steer clear if you’re concerned about using up too much energy, or not having enough food, but otherwise, they seem to have a net benefit for users of all ages.

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