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.
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.
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