Get A Grip

Trekking Poles Part 2


Very close to me is the highest point of the Southdowns Way Long Distance Footpath, Butser Hill.  It is easily accessed from the Queen Elizabeth Country Park main car park.  A walk to the top and back is a pleasant 3 mile round trip with the option to extend it if required.  However, the purpose of this blog is not about Butser Hill, but something I observed whilst walking there today.

As I said it is a popular walking area and today I met numerous individuals and parties, many using trekking poles to assist their journey.  Unfortunately every single one of them was using the poles wrong!  Or to be more precise, holding the poles wrong.  Now that may seem like an irrelevant, elitist comment but I can assure you it is not.

At the top of every trekking pole is a cloth loop through which you place your hand before grabbing hold of the handle.  Well believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to place you hand through the loop.  No, this is not a matter of etiquette but one of health and efficiency.


The picture above shows the obvious and totally WRONG way to hold the poles.  Everyone I saw to-day had placed their hand through the hanging loop and grabbed the handle.  They are using the loop purely as a means of keeping the poles attached to their wrists.

Now the problem with this method is that you are gripping the handle in order to transfer your weight and energy through to the poles.  Tightly gripping the handles creates tension in the lower arm which will migrate up the arm to the shoulder and neck.  As a result after a long walk you will have a painful and stiff neck.


Now this picture shows the hand being placed up through the loop before gripping the handle.  You are in fact holding the handle and the strap in your hand.  Now the advantage of this is that you do not need to tightly grip the handle in order to transfer your weight and energy through to the poles.  The transfer is being done by your wrist and the strap.  You can, in fact, release your grip and still be efficiently transferring your weight and energy to the pole.

The great advantage of this method is that you are not gripping the handle tightly so are not creating any tension in your lower arms.  You are more relaxed and with a soft grip purely to hold the poles in place you can walk for miles without any undue pain or stress.  You and the poles have become one.

So next time you go out walking with trekking poles, make sure that you are holding them correctly and pass this knowledge on to everyone that you meet.  They will thank you for it eventually.

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4 thoughts on “Get A Grip

  1. Kev Gore

    I must fall into the incorrect bunch😂Only have one pole to start with and never use the strap. I like to be able to change my grip and move my hand all around the top of me stick depending on whatever I’m doing with it at the time. It very seldom takes any weight, just an occasional point of balance. On a very personal level would find a strap across the top of my wrist uncomfortable. But I am very lucky in that I am 59 (60 in Feb!🙂) and don’t suffer with arthritis or repetitive strains of any kind yet. Just me being me👍


  2. It is an interesting point that you raise and whilst the blog is directed at those who are using poles to assist in the transfer of weight, when used for balance only the strap is superfluous. However, even with the strap on, I am able to reposition my hand to assist when going down a scamble or steep ground where I want my hand on the top of the stick. Personally I only tend to use them on steep slopes because my left knee is ‘shot’.


  3. 100% correct, nice blog. The other key thing is to set the length correctly and adjust it as you go. On level ground your forearm should be slightly above horizontal when hanging your weight from the strap. I use poles constantly when walking with a full pack, they’re a game changer for oldies 😉


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