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Fitness | GEAR

Walking poles set your upper body in motion too

March 01, 2004|Roy M. Wallack

Nordic walking, a Finnish fitness craze that is rapidly gaining converts in the U.S., adds an upper-body workout to walking. Using specially equipped hiking poles, you propel yourself with legs and arms. This rhythmic, aerobic workout is suitable for all ages and athletic abilities; it burns calories, tones your torso and is easy on your legs. Here are four sets of poles to help you reach, plant and push.


Ultralight and quite flexible

Swix Carbon: Ultralight, high-performance carbon poles.

Likes: Lightweight poles (12 ounces per pair) help prevent fatigue. Carbon graphite material is flexible and has good shock absorption on dirt trails. Comfortable cork handle. The hand strap allows complete movement of the hand and arm.

Dislikes: Small, hard-rubber knob over tip does not absorb shock of asphalt very well. Fixed-length pole means it won't fit friends and family of dissimilar heights.

Price: $150. (800) 343-8335 or (978) 657-4820;


Comfortable and well-designed

Leki Nordic Walking Supreme: Plush aluminum poles loaded with comfort features.

Likes: Grips the ground and absorbs shock well, thanks to large, soft rubber tip. Comfortable cork handle. Telescoping, two-piece pole adjusts to fit people of various heights and is easy to pack. Well-designed hand strap is secure and easy to adjust.

Dislikes: Some say two-piece poles, which adjust by loosening and tightening, may be vulnerable to collapse with heavy use. These are heavy (18 ounces per pair).

Price: $99. (800) 255-9982;


Good leverage; straps not secure

Exel Trainer: Fast, light, carbon-fiberglass poles.

Likes: Solid one-piece design. Handle grips have small shelf on outer edge that provides good positioning and leverage. Optional snow basket available for use with snowshoes ($15). Lightweight (14 ounces per pair).

Dislikes: Unsecured locking mechanism on hand straps can pop off and get lost, making the strap worthless. Length doesn't adjust.

Price: $100. (802) 864-0005;


Multipurpose, and price is right

Life-Link Teton: Bargain, all-purpose aluminum poles.

Likes: Handy two-piece design telescopes to 52 inches and packs easily. Ski baskets twist on for ski and snowshoe use. Metal tip works well on off-road trails.

Dislikes: Simple ski pole-type wrist strap lacks performance benefits and comfort of a dedicated walking hand strap. Rubber cap at tip provides poor shock absorption and grip. Heavy (18 ounces per pair).

Price: $49.95. (307) 733-2266;


-- Roy M. Wallack

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