One of the many beauties of Nordic Walking is that it’s an activity that appeals to non-techies and techies alike. If you’re a non-techie, all you really need at the beginning at least, is a pair of decent walking shoes and weather appropriate clothing, as we provide poles for hire.
However once you’ve done your “Learn to Nordic Walk” course, the chances are that you’ll be thinking about buying your own poles and getting yourself set up so that you can go out on walks between classes. That’s when the fun begins! Do you want fixed or adjustable poles; aluminium or carbon shafts; Smart Tips or Silent Strike pads; walking boots or specialist Nordic Walking shoes – the list of options goes on and on.
If you require any help working your way through what can seem like an overwhelming array of choices, we’re here to help at NWEK, but in the meantime, here’s a brief guide to what you need to consider when buying your “kit” for Nordic Walking.
The #1 rule when it comes to buying poles for Nordic Walking is to make sure that they are Nordic Walking poles. There are dozens of different “sticks” designed for walking on the market – all of which look broadly the same to the untrained eye. However, many of these will be poles designed specifically for trekking (placing the poles in front of the body in to order to provide support) rather than Nordic Walking (placing the poles behind the body in order to provide propulsion).
When buying a set of Nordic Walking poles, essential features to look for include:
- Hand-specific (ie left and right shaped) straps which are fixed close to the hand.
- Correct height – typically your height (cm) x 0.68, but it’s important to allow for variations in arm length and personal preference. Fixed-length poles have certain minor advantages over adjustable ones, but a big drawback is that they are only available in 5cm increments. If your ideal pole height is for example, 118cm, you are not going to feel entirely comfortable with a 115cm or 120cm pole.
- Removable rubber ‘paw’ or pad (angled at 45 degrees) which covers the tip of the pole for walking on hard surfaces.
Another important, although not essential consideration is pole composition. Nordic Walking poles may be made from aluminium, carbon or a mixture of both. Of the two, aluminium is the more robust, while carbon, being stiffer, provides a more satisfying walk, with no vibration on strike. If you’re a beginning Nordic Walker, or using Basic Technique, you probably won’t notice much vibration in an aluminum pole, but once you start planting and pushing with increased intensity, you will probably notice some vibration in an aluminium pole, particularly in the collapsible, travelling models.
We use a range of poles at NWEK, from the entry-level Gabel Stretch, right through to the ultimate in Nordic Walking poles, the Leki Speed Pacer Vario, all of which you are welcome to try before buying your own poles. More about choosing poles…
While it’s possible to buy specialist footwear for Nordic Walking, it’s expensive and most casual walkers won’t really need such shoes. You’ll be fine as long as you have a pair of flexible shoes that are waterproof, breathable and offer sufficient support. If it’s really muddy, a pair of lightweight walking boots make for an easier clean than trainers. Avoid the pitfalls created by snow and ice by investing in a pair of ice grips or overshoes.
Whatever the weather, breathable fabrics are best if you’re out exercising. If it’s cold, wear several thin layers, rather than one thick one. Waterproofs, including waterproof trousers are recommended in case of wet weather.
As with all exercise, you should bring a drink when you’re out Nordic Walking. Sun screen and a hat are also vital during in hot weather. A lightweight daysack is very useful for carrying all these extra little things you might need when you’re out walking.