Walking sticks are multifunctional tools that can greatly enhance your hiking or walking experience. Properly used, a walking stick can aid balance, reduce stress on joints and help your body function more efficiently. The result is that you expend less energy, reduce aches and pains and get more pleasure out of your walk or hike.
Sticks, Staffs and Poles
Walking sticks have many names. Manufacturers refer to them as staffs, sticks, poles and even broomsticks. Prices can range from $50 to over $100, depending on where you buy, the accessories (straps and special tips) you choose and the materials that the stick is crafted from. In the end, the best walking stick is one that meets your specific needs and conforms well to your hands and body type. Many walkers use different types of staffs and poles depending the terrain and length of the hike.
One or Two?
Walkers who traverse rough or mountainous terrain will often use two walking sticks, in the same way you would use poles while cross-country skiing. If you're planning to walk long distances or cross a lot of streams, you may find that using two sticks give you more stamina, better stability and let you take a leaning rest instead of having to sit down. If you're walking on relatively flat ground or paved trails, one pole should suffice.
Get a Grip
Once you've chosen a stick you like, the proper way to grip it is by loosely wrapping your fingers around the handgrip. Plastic grips tend to get slippery if your hands sweat, so opt for cork or molded rubber. If your stick has straps, put your hand through from the bottom of the loop, loosely grasp the handgrip, and then snug the strap to fit around your wrist.
Get the Right Height
Once you have a snug hold on your walking stick, adjust the height. Stand straight with legs slightly apart, and, with your arm close to your side, plant the stick where it feels comfortable. At the correct height, your arm will be at a 90-degree angle if you will be walking on flat or uneven ground. For going uphill, adjust the stick a couple of inches shorter, for downhill a couple of inches longer. Experiment with your height adjustments until you get one that feels natural.