What’s the difference?
Can you Nordic Walk with ordinary trekking or walking poles? The simple answer is … No you can’t! However, you can use Nordic Walking poles for trekking; so anybody who is looking at purchasing poles, consider Nordic Walking poles as they come with extra benefits.
The significant difference between the two poles is the wrist strap. The Nordic Walking pole has a strap (some call it glove) that is attached to the grip. The reason for the wrist strap is twofold. For once - the emphasis with Nordic Walking is to apply pressure through the strap onto the pole. One can apply far more pressure through the strap onto the pole than holding onto the grip and applying pressure that way. The second reason for a proper wrist strap is lies in the Nordic Walking technique – once you push your body past the pole forward, you need to let go of the pole grip to get the pole further back behind the body and for the pole to become an extension of the arm (see picture).
Note: Very few Nordic Walking poles come with detachable wrist straps. While the ability to detach the strap is not essential, it is very convenient to push a button to have the hand free to grab a water bottle or keys or to wash the wrist straps after extensive use for hygienic reasons.
Trekking poles have a variety of grips, many of which are designed for comfort (see pictures) because the trekker will use these to transfer body weight onto the pole which helps to share the load and provide some stability. In general the trekker is not trying to push themselves forward in the way Nordic Walkers do. Therefore they plant the poles in front of them at a much more upright angle.
Note: Trekkers / hikers often use only one pole – we’d not advocate that as it can cause in-balance and back discomfort.
Another difference is the make of the shaft; while most trekking poles are adjustable to be able to be packed away and to be adjusted for different terrain, the ideal Nordic Walking poles are fixed length, providing more strength and better swing abilities. Whether for trekking or Nordic Walking, the fixed length poles are the preferred option – except of when travelling extensively and not wanting to check in poles at the airport.
As for the shaft material for both, Nordic Walking and Trekking poles – generally it can be said, cheaper (price and quality) poles are made from aluminium or fibre glass, more expensive (better) poles are made from a carbon mix up to 100% diamond carbon (used in cross country skiing world cup). Nowadays, most trekking poles come with rubber pads / paws; certainly all Nordic Walking poles do. The difference lies in the shape of the rubber pads – with Nordic Walking the pole is planted diagonally backwards which is the reason for an angled rubber pad for Nordic Walking poles.
A few pole brands now have a special rubber pad system where the pad does not come off anymore but stays on the pole (see picture). The pole tip shown here is the ONE WAY All Terrain pole.