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Keep Moving! Hiking Poles & Tips for Success

Whether you call them walking, hiking or trekking poles, these tools are designed to give hikers of all abilities extra stability and confidence. They also ease stress on joints, whether hiking up- or downhill and help to increase endurance on long walks and hikes (like the Camino de Santiago). As a bonus benefit, these poles can also contribute to upper body strength! 

But as with all tools, you get the best results when you know how to use them! Read on for top tips from our hiking expert, Maurice Walsh.

Participants hiking in Québec, Canada

How to Properly Use Your Hiking Poles

Choose quality poles. Consider it an investment in your safety. Go to a proper outdoor store and get good ones!


  • Learning to use walking poles is like learning to ride a bike — it takes practice. Watch some well-sourced videos on the correct way to use them.


  • Start off with only one pole. That’s enough to help you balance and could save you from falling. Then, when you’re comfortable, take on a second pole. Two poles help reduce pressure on your joints.


  • Your poles are useless unless you know how to adjust them properly for effectiveness. For example, the poles should be at a different height on downhill terrain than they are on flat or uphill paths. If you’re using them correctly and the poles are adjusted right, you can take 30% of the pressure off your joints coming down steep slopes.

Participants hiking in Québec, Canada

  • On level ground, it’s okay to use your pole’s straps. But if you’re on rocky, uneven paths where there’s a risk of stumbling, or if you’re on steep terrain when climbing a mountain, you need to put the poles away — and not loop them through your wrist — which could actually trip you up.


  • The safest way to navigate a challenging trail involves keeping your hands free. Maurice calls it having “three points of contact,” — two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, in the event that scrambling becomes necessary. 


Bottom line? Trekking poles are there to help you walk a variety of terrains with confidence — if you're feeling inspired, explore Road Scholar's collection of walking and hiking programs!

Have hiking tips or stories you want to share? Join the conversation — and the community — on Facebook.

Parcipants hiking at Utah's Grand Circle of Parks and Monuments