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Pole Walking Spares Your Legs When Going Uphill

In a recent”sweat science” column, Alex Hutchinson summarized research on the effectiveness of using poles while walking, running, or hiking. It turns out they either have little benefit in saving energy or actually cause you to use more energy in many circumstances (that is bad for performance, but not necessarily if you are trying to get a better workout). But they show a noticeable benefit while going uphill, especially on steeper slopes: they reduce the amount of force on each footstrike, because some of the propulsion is coming from the poles. This will in turn save wear and tear on your legs.

I use them mainly because they make me feel more secure on downhills. A slight slide with your foot on a gravel surface is less disconcerting when you have a pole planted. But they also can make walking more enjoyable as it becomes a rhythmic use of arms and legs. And this can definitely get me huffing and puffing if doing it at a brisk pace uphill.

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