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Review: Running and walking poles

Written by Fiona

January 11 2020

Many runners and walkers swear by poles for offering increased endurance during long and hilly races. See Benefits of walking and running poles.

Here are my reviews of different types and brands of poles that are aimed at people moving fast in the hills and mountains, whether running or fast walking.

Leki Micro Trail Pro poles

Price: £144.95 (shop around for deals)

Leki state these are the “ultimate trail running folding poles”. They are “versatile and extremely light thanks to shafts made of 100% carbon”.

The Leki Micro Trail Poles are available in a good range of lengths, from 105cm to 135cm (at 5cm intervals) to suit different heights of user.

They are made of 100% carbon and feel very light (just 191g per pole) yet they are still robust. I have used a similar pair for the past few of years and they have proved to be strong and long-lasting.

The poles are easy to put together and pull apart. The poles are held together by a cord wrapped in a thick plastic sheath, which is durable. Other poles have much weaker looking attachment cords.

You slot the poles together in two places and then extend the pole length so it clicks together. To undo, simply press in the small button at the top, pull apart and fold away.

It’s the Trigger Shark 2.0 grip and strap that I most like. The strap is like a glove in structure and fits around the hand and over the thumb. This attaches, via a loop and a quick release trigger joint, to the pole at the back of the handle.

This means the poles are attached to your hand and you can let go of them if you want. You’ll either love this or hate it but I really like the system.

The straps are an upgrade from my previous Leki poles. They feel softer and more breathable and far easier to adjust. They are also more comfortable because they are a one-piece design. They are really very good.

The glove style straps will not be great if you have huge hands or you wear thick gloves underneath but for most hand sizes and for wearing with thinner running style gloves they are great.

I also like the cork handle. It is hard-wearing, long-lasting, lightweight and doesn’t get sweaty. But if you prefer a wider grip this is not for you.

The poles are one length, rather than adjustable. So you buy the pole to suit your height. The downside of this is that you can’t swap poles with your taller or shorter partner. Tell them to buy their own!

You really need to use the straps to make the most of these poles and if you lose one you need to buy another one from Leki. It’s worth paying attention to make sure you do not lose them.

The poles also fold into three parts which means they are easy to carry on a rucksack or when travelling. The length when folded is just 37cm.

The poles have a small basket – no snow basket attachment – so they would be rated three season only. I like that there are rubber caps for the metal ends of the poles, too. The metal tips are good at gripping various types of terrain, including grass and mud.

See Leki.

Leki Black Series Micro Vario (2019)

Price: RRP £195

Leki state: “For the ultimate in trekking pole performance, it has to be the Leki Black Series folding walking pole.” For running, I always choose the Leki Micro Trail Pro poles but for walking, I favour these Leki Black Series poles.

They are made of carbon fibre and weigh 207g per pole. This makes the poles easy to use and to carry around.

The poles have a Core Locking Device, a new basket design and fold into three parts. To start with I found the folding system a bit of a hassle but I am now used to it. The build and collapse set up is nowhere near as easy to use as other Leki poles but when built they are very stiff and feel robust. Just read the instructions before you set out for the hills!

It is the extended Aergon foam handle that I most like. They are very comfortbale on bare skin and the rounded, shaped top is great for descending. I lean on the top of the poles with my hands on top as I go downhill and I find the shape and hold to be excellent. In fact, when I walk with poles that do not have this extra rounded top feature I really miss it.

The poles are adjustable in height – mine at 110cm to 125cm and they fold into three pices to give a collpased lenght of 40cm.

The poles are an eye-watering £195 (shop around for cheaper!) but they are my go tos for mountain walking.

See Leki Black Series.

Komperdell Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 poles

Price: RRP £175.

Komperdell rates their poles as “extremely lightweight” and very packable. The poles are 100% carbon and feel strong and light. They are only a fraction heavier than the Leki poles at 192g per pole. The weight and balance of the poles is good.

The poles can be bought in various lengths and they are adjustable by 25cm. For example, the 120m poles can be adjusted to 145cm. This means you can adapt the length of pole to suit the terrain, going up or downhill, or share the poles with people of different heights.

The poles screw together via a “Power Lock 3.0” system, rather than the more common slot and click system. The plastic screw system makes me think the poles will be longer lasting but I have no proof of this.

I find the screwing in and apart concept a pain while on the hills because it slows you down but it does offer extra strength.

The adjustable height is done via a telescopic upper section. This is too easy to pull apart by accident and I worry that this section of the pole would become worn.

The clip together system might also end up broken and that would render the poles useless. That said, it has remained as good as new after many miles of walking and running, folding out and away.

The poles fold into three parts and pack down to 39cm length.

The thick foam grip is soft and comfortable and the padded strap is adjustable. The padding is lovely.

I prefer the glove set up of the Leki pole but it’s personal preference. The Komperdell grip is much more versatile for different hand sizes and when wearing all types of gloves.

The tip of the pole is long and usefully grippy on all kinds of terrain. There are removable baskets that could be used for snowy conditions, too.

The poles have a slightly wider diameter than the others and this might cause a bit of wind resistance but I would expect it to be negligible. I prefer a set of poles that feel robust and strong, rather than lightweight, thin and flimsy.

See Komperdell.

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles

Price: Around £120. (I have seen them for as little as £65 in stores such as Decathlon.)

Black Diamond class these poles as their “lightest Z-Pole; ideal for fast-packers, endurance runners and adventure athletes”.

These carbon poles are the cheapest and the lightest on test. They weigh just 280g per pair for the 100cm to 295g per pair for the 130cm. They do feel super lightweight and they are very slim.

You can buy fixed lengths, in 10cm intervals, from 100cm to 130cm.

(These are Hubby G’s favourite poles!)

The handgrip is basic but comfortable and the extra section lower down is useful for when you need to adjust the pole height going up and down hill.The hand strap is minimal and not the most comfortable against bare skin. It’s adjustable thanks to a Velcro section.

The poles are very easy to extend and collapse with a quick-release button. I worry the speed-cone deployment system feels a bit weak and might be prone to breaking but so far they have stood up to my use (and G’s poles have lasted well).

The basket at the base is very small but it has a “clipping together” cut-out which is useful when the poles are folded down.

These poles are in the middle of sizes when folded up. The Leki are slightly shorter, while the Komperdells are around 5cm longer.

Collapsed length is between 33cm and 43cm depending on the fully extended length of the pole that you choose to buy.

See Black Diamond.

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