Hiking with Arthritis – Walking Poles in Review

A review of walking poles for hiking with arthritis or joint pain. On Falcondale Life blog. How to use walking poles and how could walking poles help on a trek or ramble. Image description: man with toddler in back carrier using a pair of walking poles., and someone hiking in the Lake district with walking poles, plus blog title.
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I’ve now had a year to recover from my foot surgery. I still have pain but much less, and my foot is more flexible. It will be great to be able to get out and trek this summer, but I’m going to review walking poles for the first time, in the hope they could take some of the strain when I walk.

My foot story – surgery for arthritis

My surgery was a cheilectomy for arthritis in my big toe joint. I thought I was much too young to get osteoarthritis but apparently people of any age can suffer. I had a small, painful lump on top of my big toe, and pain in the ball of my foot. At times I couldn’t touch my foot to the floor at all, but it came and went over a couple of years. I began using a walking stick. After surgery I used crutches, then later I went back to the walking stick. After a few months I got my balance back and stopped using the stick, however I still need really comfy shoes.

I wasn’t diagnosed with arthritis for 18 months. Instead I was looked after by the podiatry department who never really understood my condition. During that time I thought I would never walk properly again and I began to feel despair. It got to the point where I couldn’t visit a shop unless I parked directly outside, and I wasn’t even entitled to a blue badge for my car. I posted this on Instagram :

Getting back to walking

A year after posting that they discovered that all my pain was caused by arthritis and three months later I had surgery. I’ll never be as good as new but what a difference it has made!

I’m quite out of shape after such a long period without exercise. Walking is one of the best things I can do for my health now but if I am going to do a lot of it, I want to avoid putting strain on my joints. My in-laws are seasoned hikers and lead walking groups regularly. I asked them how they would describe walking poles in review.

A review of walking poles for hiking with arthritis or joint pain. How to use walking poles and how could walking poles help on a trek or ramble. On Falcondale Life blog. Image description: man with toddler in back carrier using a pair of walking poles.Walking poles in review

Using walking poles will lower stress on the joints, in particular the knees and hips. You don’t have to suffer joint pain to appreciate how useful that is on a long walk. They help with balance and grip on uneven ground and are good on muddy surfaces too. You can attach baskets (circular bases) to stop them sticking in mud. Very large baskets are available for walking in snow, too.

Two walking poles are infinitely preferable to just one, which would leave you unbalanced. My father-in-law finds he walks much faster with poles. They are great for going downhill, saving pains in the knees. It’s best to adjust the walking pole length for different directions; longer for downhill and shorter for uphill. On an awkward path which is narrow or sloping sideways, you will be glad to have a pair of walking poles. In this situation, one can be longer than the other.

A review of walking poles for hiking with arthritis or joint pain. How to use walking poles and how could walking poles help on a trek or ramble. On Falcondale Life blog. Image description: woman with backpack on a path using a pair of walking poles.Using walking poles – how they work

Once you’ve got used to a pair of walking poles, my mother-in-law says you won’t want to go back to walking without them. She recommends them for all serious walkers, and that’s not related to arthritis (which she doesn’t have). However some people never get the knack of walking with poles. It’s important to use them alternately in time with your feet and not together as if you are skiing. This smooth walking motion is the reason walking poles have vertical handles, instead of a bent one like a walking stick. The support comes from a quite different action than it does with a walking stick. The walking poles avoid a sideways lean or rocking motion.

Just like in rock climbing, you can move over surfaces with a constant 3 points of contact thanks to the pair of walking poles. It’s ideal for icy paths or compacted, slippery snow. Some people think that using walking poles is overkill on well-made flat path. However if you have joint pain it can mean the difference between getting out or being stuck in the car. So next time you see someone in the park with walking poles, perhaps don’t joke with them that they must be going skiing. Like me, they may just be grateful to be going anywhere!

Having done this walking poles review with the help of my in-laws, I can see I really need to get some. Have you ever had a condition which affected your walking? Or have you tried hiking with walking poles? Please share your tips or review of walking poles with other readers in the comments.

Additional photograpy R&J Shaw

A review of walking poles for hiking with arthritis or joint pain. How to use walking poles and how could walking poles help on a trek or ramble. Image description: man with toddler in back carrier using a pair of walking poles.

 

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12 Comments

  1. 2nd March 2019 / 3:01 pm

    I completely feel for anyone with arthritis. So, something as simple as walking poles can be a god send I am sure. They look fab xx

  2. 1st March 2019 / 9:21 am

    Those walking poles look so good. Sometimes a little help is just what we need. My family adore Malham they have the best views.

  3. 1st March 2019 / 8:59 am

    I think I need to get some for our longer walks as they will probably help with my sciatica.

  4. 28th February 2019 / 8:21 pm

    Those walking poles look to be a great help. I have a friend who had both feet operated on due to artheritis.

  5. 28th February 2019 / 4:59 pm

    It is great that you are now able to get back out there and enjoy those views again. Walking poles are very popular over here in Sweden, and most hike with rather than without them

  6. 28th February 2019 / 4:19 pm

    I’m glad that you’ve been able to find something to help you to carry on walking. I always feel much better after getting out in the fresh air for a good walk too.

  7. 28th February 2019 / 2:37 pm

    Big empathy about your arthritis and I hope your operation enables you to get back out into the hills soon. I have OA in my toes and fingers (about 5 years now). I’ve been meaning to get some hiking poles – a few people have said they’d help me. Thank you so much for the review and advice. will get some cheap ones and try it out.
    bec in Monton

    • 28th February 2019 / 3:15 pm

      Yes we ought to both try them out and compare notes!

  8. 28th February 2019 / 10:46 am

    I don’t have arthritis, but when hiking (haven’t done it for a while now) I always use walking poles … as you say that actually help, especially when going downhill

  9. 28th February 2019 / 8:56 am

    I’ve never tried walking with sticks before. I don’t have arthritis, but my knees suffer when there’s an incline. I can walk for miles on the flat, but struggle with hills. Maybe I should give these a go.

    • 28th February 2019 / 3:14 pm

      I think a very large percentage of people have some kind of niggle or other, especially with knees. I think it’s best not to exacerbate it, so walking poles might be a good solution.

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