Would You Play Tennis with a Badminton Racquet?

It doesn’t happen often now, but years ago people would sometimes arrive at one of my Nordic walking clinics with cross-country ski poles.

It’s understandable. After all, we do often refer to Nordic walking as “cross-country skiing without the skis.”

  • But cross-country poles are much longer than Nordic walking poles.

  • They also lack angled rubber boot-shape tips for walking on sidewalks and other hard surfaces (versus trails and sand).

  • Cross-country poles have simple wrist straps and very thin handles. Nordic walking poles have thick strapless handles and a large ledge on their base. (Exerting pressure on the ledge is critical to creating forward propulsion.) Alternatively, they may have a strap/glove system.

  • Cross-country poles are always a fixed length. Nordic walking poles telescope so their length can be varied (to match the terrain or be shared with friends of different heights), and so they can be easily transported.

Can you use hiking poles (also called trekking poles) for Nordic walking?

  • Hiking poles, similar to cross-country poles, have simple loose wrist straps (to stop the poles from dropping to the ground if you release your grip).

  • They also lack angled rubber boot-shape tips. (Some hiking poles have round plastic tips, but these are to cover the sharp carbide tips while transporting them.)

  • Hiking poles tend to be extremely light (since their purpose is to minimize effort). Nordic walking poles are usually heavier (to increase the intensity of the workout).

  • Some hiking poles have a “swing weight” integrated into the bottom of each pole and/or have a spring loaded feature, both of which make Nordic walking awkward.

If you’re not ready to commit to Nordic walking yet, borrow a pair of real Nordic walking poles for your first few outings. Only with the proper equipment can you get a true understanding of any new activity.