Honestly, till this morning I hadn’t even heard of the term “Nordic walking stick”.
Then when I heard about them I decided to do some research and it turns out there’s a whole sport that they get used for.
So in this article, I’ll be showing you the findings of my research into Nordic Walking and it’s unique walking sticks.
So what are Nordic walking sticks?
Nordic walking sticks are poles that are used specifically for the sport of Nordic walking. The poles have wrist straps with thumb loops (known as the glove or gauntlets) that allow you to open your hand fully during movement. Nordic Walking poles are usually a fixed length and made of carbon to minimize vibration on impact.
Even though Nordic walking sticks seem like regular hiking poles they do have their differences.
Also, it’s worth noting you can use Nordic poles for hiking but you can’t use hiking poles for Nordic walking.
So let me explain the small differences between the two.
Differences Between Nordic Walking Poles And Trekking Poles
So let’s explain the two in case you decide to one day take up Nordic walking.
Here are the key differences:
Nordic Walking Sticks
- Specific to the sport of Nordic Walking
- Preferred material is Carbon because it is lighter than aluminum, stiffer and vibrates less
- Has wrist strap gauntlets to help with propulsion and to push at the correct angle
- Single-piece poles are preferred as they provide slightly less vibration
- Has a rubber tip which is best for the pavement
Image Source: leki.co.uk
- Used for Hikes and Treks to help with balance and support.
- Telescopic tubes are preferred as you can adjust the high to suit your needs on the hiking terrain.
- Usually made of Aluminum as can be more flexible and still strong
- Have a loop strap for support
- Has a metal spiked tip which is better for grass, dirt and uneven terrain
Image source: leki.co.uk
So as you can see there are a few subtle differences between the 2 kinds of poles.
Now you know the difference, and if you’re like me I’m sure you want to know what Nordic walking is.
So here’s what I found out…
What Is Nordic Walking?
Nordic walking is a more full-bodied walk if that makes sense.
With Nordic walking, you use up to 90% of your muscles in comparison to the 40% used in walking or running.
Nordic walking uses upper and lower body muscles.
The muscles used in regular walking would be glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quads.
With Nordic walking, you use the lower muscles just mentioned plus it also works shoulder and neck muscles, triceps, forearms, upper and lower back muscles, obliques, and abs.
Overall Nordic walking gives you a better workout than standard walking.
So let’s talk benefits.
Benefits of Nordic Walking
- Burns way more calories than regular walking. (up to 500 calories an hour)
- Limits the impact on your joints which is helpful with someone who has arthritis, feet, knee or hip problems.
- Provides a full body work out (Up to 90 of muscles are used) which improves muscle strength and a more toned body.
- Helps improve posture, balance, and coordination
- Improves cardiovascular system.
Not bad for walking eh?
I can see why it’s so popular and why it’s a good choice for the more elderly.
That being said I think this is a great hobby and way to stay fit for all kinds of people of all ages.
Image: “Nordic Walking Chiarano – sabato 4 agosto 2012” by Nordic Walking Treviso is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Because Nordic poles are a little different to trekking poles you need to make sure you choose the right one.
Let me explain…
Choosing The Best Nordic Walking Stick
There are a few important factors to consider when choosing a Nordic walking stick.
- The straps
- The Material of the pole
- The Size
- The paws
Let me now explain each factor in a little more detail.
When you choose a Nordic walking stick you need to make sure the strap (gauntlet) is right for you.
They should be comfy plus they should be easy to attach and un-attach.
If they are not then choose a better pole suited for you.
Your pole straps need to be correct so they can help develop the push technique that real Nordic walking requires.
The Material Of The Pole
When it comes to Nordic walking, lighter is better.
Carbon is lighter and stiffer than aluminum, and in Nordic Walking, this is good as you want less vibration on your push.
Aluminum is also light (not quite as light as Carbon) and is more flexible making it better for hiking and trekking.
Because Nordic walking you mainly walk on well-maintained terrain you don’t need to the extra flexibility that aluminum provides.
You can get good mixed composite poles made of carbon/aluminum which can also be a good option.
Nordic poles need to be the correct height for you to be able to have the proper technique when using them.
Nordic poles come in lots of lengths meaning you can get one the right size for you.
To work out what size you want you just need to know your height.
Then you calculate your perfect Nordic Walking stick length by using this formula: Height (cms) x 0.68.
Because most are fixed lengh you will likely need to round up or down to the nearest 5cm when choosing your pole.
You can work out the pole length needed by holding the pole at its grip then standing the pole upright in front of your body with your elbow held next to the body.
Your elbows should then form a 90° angle or just over.
Also, it’s worth noting you can still use an adjustable length Nordic walking pole but they aren’t usually considered a true Nordic walking pole.
There’s not too much choice here.
You just need to make sure you can change the tips easily and be able to add/change Rubber Tips/Asphalt Paws with ease.
And make sure the rubber paws have the correct angle for use.
History Of Nordic Walking
So this is just a brief history of how Nordic walking originated.
I’m sure you don’t want to know every detail just the main bits.
Nordic Walking started in Finland which has now turned into a modern sport.
For a long time dating back decades in 1900s athletes in Finland used to train for cross country skiing by walking with ski poles calling it “ski-walking”.
Then in 1966 a woman named Leena Jääskeläinen who was a school gym teacher started taking her students for walks with Ski Poles.
She later started promoting her ideas on the benefits of it publicly.
Also around the same time, a man named Mauri Repo started promoting using ski poles to walk as a way to train for cross country skiing all year round.
He even created a book on it called “Hiihdon lajiosa” , in English this translates to “cross-country skiing training methodic”.
Over time Nordic walking has progressed through Europe and over to North America.
Popularity is growing year on year as people are now seeing the great benefits of this fun full-body activity.
It’s crazy I haven’t heard of it till this morning!
So there ya go!
Now I’ve answered the question of “what is a Nordic walking stick?” and I’ve shown the difference between that and a regular trekking pole.
Hopefully, you now can sleep well tonight having learned about Nordic walking 🙂
In all honestly, I may give Nordic walking ago for a bit of fun as it’s not a bad way to take a walk and get a full body workout at the same time and without putting too much pressure on the joints.
How much more calories does Nordic walking burn in comparison to normal walking?
A study in 2002 by the Cooper Institute concluded that Nordic walking burned about 20 percent more calories than regular walking. Over an extended period this a considerable amount.
Can you use ski poles for Nordic walking?
You could use Ski poles but that wouldn’t now be classed as true Nordic walking as Nordic walking requires that the poles have the glove/gauntlet for better technique.
When Nordic walking originated normal skiing poles were used but as it progressed so did the technique and the equipment used.
Thanks Alan, this is very helpful and contains great detail. I am using it to write an article on my own site later this year after interviewing a local Nordic walking instructor. Your article will help me with the right questions http://www.consultingfootpain.co.uk
Hello Alan: I’m age 89 and not ready for the rocker. Walking has become more difficult – shortness of breath, tired legs, and more frequent rests. I travel as much as possible, but the foregoing issues restrict me from total enjoyment. I do use an exercise bilke to help with mobility and lung function. Will Nordic walking sticks provide more flexibility for me? Your thoughts please, but remember, I’m not willing to occupy the porch. Thanks for listening. Fred Lewis