Trekking Poles (Crutches for the Modern Man)

  It is my belief that these devices are leading the modern human into a higher risk of injury.  Using these devices as crutches cause humans to have poor posture and a lower cadence.  Which in turn leads to over-striding; this puts the body in an unnatural alignment.

 In order to address this issue further.  We need to look back into why man created this device.

  Through the generations in the outdoor world; we have adapted this habit of carrying more stuff.  A lot
also has to be taken in account that earlier materials just weren't very light; plain and simple.   There is also the fact of the novelty of big chain stores.  Walking into these places just make you want to buy gear.  That is the way they were designed.  I am personally guilty of this.

Is all this stuff necessary to enjoy and survive in the outdoors?

random gear store
Gear Shop

Bring a Ton of Outdoor Gear

  With the purchase of all this gear; now one has to have some where to fit it all.  So you guessed it, time to purchase a bigger backpack.

  This leads us to a never ending downward spiral on our bodies; with the added stress of greater loads.  Acting like an anchor to a ship,  dragging us underwater without oxygen.  Our instincts just want to swim to the surface to take a big gasp of air, but we can.   Ever felt like this carrying your backpack?

Loaded Packers

Heavy and Overbuilt Footwear

  The biggest problem is modern mans footwear.  For hundreds of years they have been designed to give the user 'more support/protection'.  With all these fancy materials such rocker plates, waterproofing, shoe laces and ect.  All this acting like bricks taped to the human foot.  Some adding up to multiple pounds a pair.

  The boot design isn't the biggest culprit.  The main issues is when you elevate your heal;causing your body to go into unnatural alignment.  Also, the more support you give your foot.  The range of motion is drastically decreased.  Putting you into what I call, Forward Slumping Posture.  Meaning that your knees are pushed to far forward while standing and your hips are rotated our of alignment.  Once your hips are not aligned correctly; this affects your upper body and the way your head balances over your torso.

  You see where Im going with this.  Our bodies let us know too.  Sore shins, knees, lower back and neck to name a few.

Read my article on minimalist footwear!

heavy hiking boots
Old Hiking Boots

Modern Man Crutches

We need to make some changes to help get rid of all this pain.  Our bodies are letting us know this with core stability muscles.

Humans adapt to any condition,  a change had to be made.

  My guess is that someone started with sticks found in the forest.  Using these like crutches to help stay more upright; how we naturally already should be.
This adjustment made walking a lot more enjoyable.  Having less pain in the body let the user walk for greater distances again and this was good.

trekking pole crutches
Modern Trekking Poles

Some Benefits of Trekking Poles

My thoughts on these common comments.

Help keeping me Upright:  As I shed light on above, you would be better off focusing on lightening your load.  An even higher priority in my book.  Is to wear footwear that does not restrict the range of motion; as well as destroy your posture.   
  After time walking upright and at natural alignment.  Your body will strengthen muscles needed to maintain this posture. 

Keeping Pace and Arms Moving:  It is almost impossible to keep a high enough walking cadence, while having to move objects with our arms.  The modern human already has a hard time walking properly.  Then you add having to move objects as well with each step.  I have seen nothing but a slower cadence when when objects are in the users hand.  (unless you are a trained professional)
  How do I keep my arms moving you ask?  Like a runner; your arms should move once for each step.  

Tip:  Using your imagination and break your habit:  At first it helps to pretend you have trekking poles in your hand.  Move your arms and focus more on staying upright with your core tight.

Helps with Hand Swelling:  The main culprit here is walking with your hands next to your sides.  Like mentioned above;  keep your arms moving.  Try the tip above. 
  A high sodium diet also plays a role.

Aids in Ascending and Descending:  Only lean forward from your ankles. Do NOT put your body weight against any device.  
  Now this is the most common use for trekking poles that I hear/see from users.  Using these modern devices to help with sore knees and back. 
  As I mentioned above everything has an effect on something else.  You can not just alter one thing and not expect something else to be seriously affected.  Serious changes must be made.
  Like a foundation to a strong house.  Fix your footwear, lighten your pack, work on your posture and stride.  I guarantee that you will never use poles again.

  Now I am not suggesting that you take you poles and go throw them in the garbage.  I am just letting you know unless you are a highly skilled user.  That keeps proper posture and does not use poles like crutches.  Only they may use trekking poles..

  So you should wean off them, simplify your stride and posture.  Do not rely on any item to fix posture.  Only staying upright can fix issues.

  It is very important that you do not let your shoulders roll forward while trekking.  Keeping your hands completely free at all times.  Chest up and arms naturally moving.  Not doing so will destroy the posture.

trekking poles bad posture
Don't let this be you

Benefits of Keeping Upright

  • Lowers the risk injury
  • Maximizing caloric efficiency
  • Walk further
  • Lower Fatigue
  • Drastically lowering stability muscle soreness. 

In Concision/Disclaimer:  Your body will take some time to adjust to this posture change.  Muscle soreness in the whole back side of your body is common.  As with your footwear; start out slow and build distance at your own pace.
  You should choose footwear based on YOU. You should only use this as a guide. The time that it takes to rehab the muscles in your feet varies on every human. The bodies height, weight, torso and limb length, all play a role as well. I will cover the importance of stretching your feet and how the footwear fits around you at a later time. 

Updated August 2016 by Barefoot Jake