Jul 14, 2010 at 8:29 pm #1261178
Do most people move their trekking poles each time they step, for a 1:1 overall ratio of foot placements to pole placements?
I almost always use a 2:1 (EDIT: fixed order) foot to pole ratio, taking longer, less frequent "strides" with my poles and smaller, quicker strides with my feet, but my brother, who has hiked much more than I have, informs me that this is crazy.
My poles are Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4's, but I did the same thing with my old Leki's, each extended so that my forearms are parallel to the ground when I'm standing with the poles in front of me (making them about 3 inches shorter than my armpit).
I've tried all of the 1:1 strides I can think of — right foot and left pole forward, right foot and right pole forward, poles placements staggered in-between feet placements — but all of them feel awkward, and unless I concentrate on them I quickly slip back into the 1:2 pattern where I move both feet in the time it takes me to move one pole.
I don't imagine there's a right or wrong technique — whatever works for stability and lessening stress on knees — but I'm curious, what does everyone else do?Jul 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm #1629060
Cayenne RedmonkBPL Member
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
I use them either 1:1, or 3:1. Some times I move both pole simultaneously, with 2:1, but I'm normally dead tired when I use them like this.Jul 14, 2010 at 8:54 pm #1629069
Travis LeannaBPL Member
I think I'm somewhere in between the 2:1 and 3:1 ratios.Jul 14, 2010 at 11:35 pm #1629125
What an interesting question, Jeffrey.
I am a 1:1 user, albeit I am also very new to using trekking poles. I use the BPL Stix, and more often think about not placing the poles in between cracks, or letting the shafts clank together when I rest.
The only time my ratio is off is when I get to uneven terrain, and start stagger stepping, or avoiding puddles. But then I will soon fall into a 1:1 ratio.
Looking forward to other responses. Thanks.Jul 15, 2010 at 5:24 am #1629181
I just started using poles on my last outing and I don't think I'll ever go back. I found a 1:1 ratio felt the most natural and after a mile or so I no longer even really thought about what I was doing unless the terrain was tricky and required thinking about pole placement. In the latter case ratios went out the window in favor of balance and just doing what I could to create the most balance.
EDIT: If I may be so bold as to add another dimension to this discussion, what height setting do you guys find to work the best? I tried having my arm parallel to the ground (this puts my elbow at around 90 degrees) but found it rather uncomfortable and awkward. I find an angle of around 40ish degrees more comfortable as it allows me to use what is refereed to as "unbendable arm" in the martial arts community to relax and put my weight on the pole.Jul 15, 2010 at 6:16 am #1629194
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
I will range from very infrequent pole placement to 1:1 depending on terrain, how tired I am and the condition of the trail. Uphills are more likely to be 1:1. Downhills will vary by terrain and straight level sections will be infrequent pole placement or maybe none at all. The nice thing about the LT4's is I can carry them without feeling like they are deadweght.Jul 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm #1629733
I use mine only to help keep my pace going forward. What I mean by that is on smooth level ground, they may touch every 5 to 10 steps. But uphill and when I am getting sluggish, maybe every 2 to 3 steps. I actually play with mine alot (twirling and swinging them back and forth) and a friend of mine can tell when it's time to talk and joke and bs, or time to quiet down and focus on our pace.
The biggest mistake ever (to me) is changing lengths and using straps. You don't need straps when walking up or down slippery staircases. Your hands loosely hold the rails, right? If you slip, then you grab the rail. Why would anyone need straps? Also I always read that you should change lengths for up and down hills. Why? Once again, I think of stairs. Do you need longer and shorter arms to go up and down staircases with handrails?
To sum up my points, jus find your comfort zones and have fun with your poles. I know I do.
I failed to write that I hate straps because when I go down steep hills, I flip the poles into my palms and fingertips to "lengthen" them. Straps make that difficult to do quickly.Jul 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm #1629736
Cayenne RedmonkBPL Member
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
Need. Interesting choice of word.
I won't ever need to worry about my bank account bleeding money to purchase of another pair of strap free, unadjustable poles.
I find them less efficient while walking, more effort to manage when stowed, more difficult to manage while scrambling, more difficult to lash together for a pyramid pole, and a complete PITA to take on the public transit, passenger cars loaded with gear, and planes.Jul 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm #1629898
@elpeebeeLocale: Too far south of the Pyrenees
I definitely use 1:1 most of the time – just feels natural. I'v egot Black Diamond Compact Trailshocks – I used to have some Komperdells and definitely adjusted the height for ascent/descent, but with the Trailshocks there's additional grip below the main grip, so when going up hill I can just move my hands lower and still feel comfortable. Contrary to a previous poster's experience, I definitely find that different heights help me get up a trail more efficiently and down a trail with less stress on my joints.Jul 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm #1630096
@retropumpLocale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
I use every combination under the sun.Jul 20, 2010 at 11:24 am #1630714
"I find an angle of around 40ish degrees more comfortable as it allows me to use what is refereed to as "unbendable arm" in the martial arts community to relax and put my weight on the pole."
I do the opposite — make them a bit long, and rest on them like in "san chin" (if you seen Goju, you know what that is). On steep ascents, I apply force from my abs that way.
On steep descents, I reach down and plant the poles with unbendable arms and let my body down to meet them, because I found that it helped to take the impact off of my knees.
It just goes to show how many ways there are to use them :)Jul 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm #1630737
Joe ClementBPL Member
I guess I use a 1:1, I just swing my arms like I do when walking. I don't use them on flats. Uphill, I keep my pole tips behind my feet and push; dowhill, I reach downhill and use them to brake. Sort of like skiing. The blocking pole plant is my friend.Jul 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm #1630823
Do most of you use your trekking poles in sync with your stride? Meaning, right heel strike, right trekking pole strike, left foot strike then left pole strike. Or do you natrually go opposite of this. I've found on ascents, keeping them in tune makes me fly up the hills.Jul 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm #1630838
Andy BernerBPL Member
I do the 1:1 with left arm, right leg. When going up hill I push on them pretty hard to propel myself up faster. When walking flats I tend to only bring them up a little and push backwards more than anything. I use straps and kinda just let my arms fall and they kinda send me forwards.
When going down it turns into more steps than pole plants like 2:1 or even 3:1. Also on the down hills I just flip my poles so the top of the pole is in my palm and put some weight on them.Jul 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm #1630852
Eugene SmithBPL Member
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
I'm kind of all over the map in terms of trekking pole usage, sometimes they're in my pack and I'm running, sometimes I'm relying heavily on them and crawling. The easiest way for me to describe my typical trekking pole cadence when I'm in the zone, tapped into the rhythm of the trail, it resembles a beat pattern that goes like so:
1= Step one left foot, left pole
2= Step two right foot, right pole
3= Step three left foot, left pole
This probably sounds confusing, makes complete sense in my head, only way I know how to describe it.Jul 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm #1630901
Wow, I hadn't expected so many different answers!
Cameron and Travis: How does the technique of more frequent pole placements than foot placements work? I tried this, but short of tapping out Morse code, I couldn't manage a 3:1 ratio.
EDIT: Whoops! It looks like I got my own ratio reversed in my original post. So 3:1 would be less frequent pole placements. That makes more sense.
Eugene: If I understand you right, does that pattern mean you skip every other right pole placement, for a 4:3 overall ratio?
My brother showed me his technique when he visited the other day. He uses shorter poles and a more relaxed arm position (like the one described by Larry) and the tips of his poles are always behind his feet, propelling him forward. I tried this, using shorter poles, and found it much easier to keep a 1:1 ratio.
I can't wait to try all of these techniques out on my next actual hike!Jul 21, 2010 at 5:25 am #1630932
Eugene SmithBPL Member
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Yep, I think you're right Jeffrey, so I suppose that translates into a 4:3 ratio. Kinda funny, I've never really thought much about my "technique" until this thread.Jul 21, 2010 at 10:39 am #1631004
@davecLocale: The West Slope
On flat or gently inclined trails I usually am in the 3:1 camp. On steep hills, snowfields, or in mud (etc) I use the 1:1 (left foot, right arm, etc) technique. It's the same descending, gentle descents mean less frequent placments, steeper means a more aggressive and frequent pole plant.
There's also the double pole plant and vault/jump used to get down big waterbars or over small creeks.
My fixed poles are 115cm, which put my lower arm, when the upper arm is aligned with my torso, at a little less than level with the ground. This combined with the multi-position GG grips gives me the ideal position options for various techniques and types of terrain. The only time it comes up short is in deep snow, when I want much longer poles, and thus use adjustable BD ski poles.Jul 21, 2010 at 11:03 am #1631010
I'm glad I'm not the only one using a shorter pole or implementing unbendable arm in some fashion. I will say when my poles had straps I was able to put my weight on my wrist and let my hands just guide the poles. Once the strap broke (Sports Authority house brand poles) the unbendable arm technique was only effective when I didn't mind gripping the poles a bit tighter. With the straps I was able to really rest my weight on the poles for long stretches of even relatively flat ground. This was nice towards the end of a day or if nursing a hot spot on my foot.
In short I find the straps very beneficial. I believe they allow for a very relaxed 1:1 ratio because they put the weight of the pole more on the wrists where it can be lifted with larger muscles than those in the hands.Jul 21, 2010 at 3:29 pm #1631091
>I do the opposite — make them a bit long, and rest on them like in "san chin" (if you seen Goju, you know what that is). On steep ascents, I apply force from my abs that way.<
I Googled San Chin and I see what you're talking about. I walked around the house a bit with the poles like this and found it to be a bit uncomfortable to use but my back ground is in "soft" arts like Tai Chi. It'd probably work better for me if I was more practiced in it but it is similar to what I do going up steep sections.
Jeffrey, I also took a bit of time to further examine my technique. I'm usually putting the pole about 1" behind the ball of my foot (left foot with right pole and visa versa) and it stays there until I move it forward in the same motion as my foot (this sounds similar in concept to what your brother is doing). I also noticed that my elbow typically bends very little throughout the entire motion (It may move a degree or so because I'm not actively trying to move it or hold it steady – I'm just keeping it relaxed.) and the vast majority of my arm movement is accomplished at the shoulders. At the end of the stroke this puts my wrist about 4 inches below the top of my pelvis.Jul 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm #1631102
"I Googled San Chin and I see what you're talking about. I walked around the house a bit with the poles like this and found it to be a bit uncomfortable to use but my back ground is in "soft" arts like Tai Chi. It'd probably work better for me if I was more practiced in it but it is similar to what I do going up steep sections."
The older, traditional Goju style is actually also a soft style, mostly — Goju means "hard/soft" — but it doesn't mean hard vs soft body.
I don't have a lot of experience with Tai Chi, but from what I do know of it, plus what I've learned from similar Chinese styles (mainly Feeding Crane), the core concept is the same.
It's basically still an unbendable arm, but extended to include your shoulder and your back (I sometimes jokingly describe it as an "unbendable butt" when teaching it ;)). When you get it right, you can let your arms stay largely relaxed, and pull yourself up steep hills with your legs and abs instead of your arms and shoulders.
On descents, I think I do almost exactly what you do, using my unbendable arms as shock absorbers.
Of course, without seeing it, it's easy to overlook lots of differences :)Jul 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm #1631123
Ah, I see! I was wondering if this was one of those things that had been corrupted over the years and it does appear that it is. The videos I saw were very strained and unnatural looking. The running joke back when I was practicing was always, "this is so hard!" It would infuriate the older instructors.
It's a lot of fun once you get to the point where you can make unbendable everythings. I used to have a bad habit of subconciously making an unbendable wrist when I was practicing Aiki Jutsu and was the person being pinned. It would greatly complicate things for the defender trying to simulate a break. Those were fun times.
I too think we are doing basically the same thing on descents.
On ascents I may be doing something similar to what you describe because I notice a lot of tension in my abs (but not as much in the legs). However, in the extreme example of a double pole plant on a really steep climb, my arms are extended and I'm sort of leaning or resting my weight on the unbendable arms and poles. Then I'm using my abs and legs to pull/push the rest of my weight up.
It would be interesting to actually see the subtle differences though.Jul 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm #1631240
Yes, it certainly would be interesting to see.
It's interesting to train in Aikijutsu, particularly being a long-time Goju pratcitioner (20 years). The two arts have a lot in common, but there are definitely differences in the way that we approach things. And we don't really do pins in Goju ;)
It's rare to find an Aikijutsu practitioner these days — or even someone who's heard of it.
But, back to trekking. It's interesting that there are so many ways to use trekking poles, even more than I anticipated.Jul 22, 2010 at 6:34 am #1631278
Martin RJ CarpenterMember
Even deviants using long single poles of course :)
One long, often wooden one in main hand here. More or less 1-1ish on the flat. Planting a little ahead and walking up to it. On steep downhills grip on the top and walk down to it.
Uphill is a bit different (and unique to wooden poles I suspect) – I grip it near the top but on the handle, plant ahead and then let my grip move down the pole as I walk up to it.
(basically it goes from the angle to vertical when you reach it.).
You can grip wooden poles anywhere of course so length adjustment a total non problem :)
That is until you have to get somewhere by transport/stow it! Sub optimal. I've sort of surivived buses and trains with ~180cm tall things, but only bother for multi day trips and cars really would be out.Jul 22, 2010 at 7:41 am #1631291
Mike MBPL Member
I never paid any attention to my "technique", as it turns out I don't have any :)
My last trip I started paying attention and I'm using most of the ones mentioned here- it varies greatly w/ the terrain and often how much energy I have mustered at the time
My favorite is double poling w/ a good push like a ski skating- it's my favorite as it means I'm full of energy and covering ground in long strides (I'm sure this is not a really efficient technique, but it is fun!)
I have found that shortening poles slights for long steep ascents and lengthening them slightly for long steep descents is worth the 30 seconds to do so
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