LEKI Nordic Walking Poles – Gear Review
If you have read our introduction to Nordic Walking, you already know the basics of the activity. But what exactly do you need to get started? What should you look for in a pair of poles? How do you fit the poles to your body? And what poles are really worth purchasing?
I recently tested a pair of LEKI Spin Shark poles, an excellent option for novice and beginner Nordic walkers alike, and a review and recommendation will follow at the end of this piece. But first, what differentiates this sort of walking pole from, say, a ski pole or a hiking stick? Well, the length is perhaps the most obvious difference. As opposed to cross country ski poles, which come up to anywhere from your armpits to your chin depending on the technique, Nordic walking poles are more akin in length to alpine ski poles. This means they come roughly halfway up your torso.
To adjust your walking poles to the proper height, first loosen the adjustment mechanism (more on this later) and second, extend or collapse one pole until your elbow forms a 90 degree angle when the pole is planted vertically in front of you. Repeat with the other pole.
Proper Nordic walking poles also have a slightly more intricate strap system than the simple downhill ski pole. Like cross country ski poles, there is always a right and a left strap, each with an upper hole for your thumb and a larger, lower hole for the rest of your fingers and palm. A Velcro pad cinches and secures the belt that holds the whole contraption to your hand. The strap itself hangs off the top of the pole grip, which is usually made from either cork or rubber, for maximum—well, for maximum grip!
Good Nordic walking poles will have an easy height adjustment feature that feels solid when it’s locked in (i.e. nothing is clanking around loosely), a secure and comfortable grip-strap setup, and a lightweight design. The last feature to be cognizant of is on the bottom end of the pole: the tip. Most poles allow for the interchange of tips, from the rounded steel point that is attached to the pole itself, to a rubber-soled pavement pad that gets popped on over the metal.
I recently had the opportunity to test LEKI’s Spin Shark SL—and let me say right off the bat, these are an example of a great Nordic walking pole. They are both quite light and extremely sturdy, and felt more than capable of withstanding the beating I put them through. I took the poles for a spin through the hilly and occasionally technical terrain of my local national park: over rocks, down steep slopes, up slippery grades, and even through thick brush, the poles emerged without a scratch and swung along well with me the whole way.
My only hiccup was in the first minutes of my Nordic walking adventure, after I hastily adjusted the Spin Sharks. Scoffing at the instruction booklet, I went ahead and undid the adjustment clasp, slid the pole to my 90-degree-elbow height, and hit the trail. Sure enough, as soon as I planted the right pole with some weight, it shrank by an inch. Upon further examination, the directions clearly instruct you to tighten the ‘locking force adjustment screw’ before closing the clasp. It took me all of two seconds, and the poles did not budge an iota after that—apparently it pays to read the instructions!
Luckily, another excellent feature of these poles comes in quite handy for such mid-trail adjustments as this one. The Active Strap technology allows you to remove your hand from the pole without undoing the Velcro strap: you simply press down on the top of the grip and pull your hand up and out. To reattach the strap, slip the small white loop into the slot at the top of the grip until you hear a click.
Though this might seem a touch unnecessary, you might be surprised at how often you want quick use of your hands while walking. Got to take a quick selfie or photo? Pop one hand out and snap away. Need to tie your shoes? Again, the quick release makes such stops easy and efficient. What I actually used the Active Strap for the most, though, was to remove or replace my mask as I passed other walkers—a probably unplanned but perfect solution to what could be a serious annoyance, if I had to stop and remove the straps entirely each time I crossed paths with someone.
These particular LEKI’s come with removable rubber soles, which slide easily on and off the tips. I was able to cruise along with the rubber on hardpacked or pavement sections, and then quickly pop them off and into my pocket for the more technical slopes and looser surfaces.
Speaking of technical terrain, these poles consistently enhanced my traction, stability and pace. As I tried a little speed walking along a steep section of single track, the poles dug in and helped pull me upwards, displacing some of the strain from my legs to my core and arms. And though it’s not technically Nordic walking, I did try a little jogging with the poles: they performed admirably, and actually felt quite natural as I plummeted down a couple hills.
But the poles really shine when paired with a steady stride. From flat asphalt to gently rolling hardpack to loose, root-covered hiking trails, the LEKI Spin Sharks allowed me to engage my upper body and get my heart rate up while maintaining a quick, well-balanced gait. They are light enough to not fatigue your wrists, elbows or shoulders, sturdy enough to propel you forward, and pretty enough to make other walkers say wow. At a surprisingly reasonable $99.95, what’s not to love?
More on LEKI Walking Poles.
Get your pair now from Sunny Sports!