Monday, May 14, 2007

Walking Sticks, Not Just For Hiking

Living in the Rockies, we may be more aware of walking sticks, hiking poles or staffs than many who live elsewhere. As hikers of trails, we have certainly seen our share, if not used them ourselves. Designed to enhance balance and stability, walking sticks make sense in many other situations, too. They are a whole lot cooler looking than the average cane! Most people chose a single walking staff, although there are those who swear by two. It’s a matter of comfort and ease of use. Experimenting is critical…and before you’re on your way up the fourteener!

The science behind the walking stick is fairly simple. It helps reduce stress and strain on the back and joints, especially knees and ankles, by reducing the amount of pressure placed on the foot with each step. Because you are leaning on the stick, the amount of weight falling on the foot shifts, creating a more comfortable stride. I actually have seen complex formulas explaining this. You can find them online if you love numbers.

You typically need some upper body strength to handle a walking stick, slightly more than using a cane; the arm takes on a more significant role. In fact, using hiking staffs can actually enhance upper body strength. Choosing the proper material for the walking stick is also critical. Hardwoods are preferred because of their durability; hickory is heavier, bamboo lighter and more appropriate for everyday use, as reported by many of our customers. The size of the staff depends on the individual using it. Most can be sized. Be sure there are a good six inches left above the elbow to allow for plenty of stick when maneuvering down hill.

Most walking sticks come with a shock absorber of some kind, often a rubber tip that can be replaced. You can also buy options, a compass on the top of the stick, for example, or grips, and a strap to wrap around the wrist to prevent slippage.

Try a walking stick when you are considering a hike in the hills, across the parking lot, or through the mall!

Tell us your hiking story!

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