Best Trekking Poles of 2024

We tested the best trekking poles on the market today — here are our top picks.

By and on March 20, 2024 | Comments
Best Trekking Poles - Jeff Rome climbing a ridge

Jeff Rome power-hikes a hill with the assistance of trekking poles. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

As more and more trail and ultrarunners took to the hills, the use of trekking poles to move fast across steep terrain skyrocketed. The boom of mountain and ultramarathon trail running meant that these lighter and smaller poles soon became a staple for runners seeking mountain goat-like speed and stability when climbing and descending technical mountain trails. Trekking poles for trail running have become so popular that, in recent years, many companies have begun to produce poles designed specifically for running, including those that fold into multiple segments for easy storage.

For this guide, we tested a number of these lightweight trekking poles in many types of terrain and conditions to offer advice about the best trekking poles available. Please note that we tested only foldable trekking poles that runners can stow in a pocket or with cords on their hydration pack. Their versatility is key for trail running applications, and we found ourselves turning to the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles and Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlight poles as our go-to options for going light and fast. Those looking for a budget option will appreciate the functionality and price tag of the Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles.

For more background information, see our buying advice, testing methodology, and frequently asked questions below the picks.

Best Trekking Poles

Best Trekking Poles - Maggie Guterl fastpacking in mountains

Trekking poles can make climbing steep slopes while fastpacking much easier. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Trekking Poles – Carbon Fixed Length: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles ($190)

Best Trekking Poles -Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking-Running Poles - product photo


  • Relatively lightweight and durable
  • It is easy to extend and fold the poles
  • Widely available


  • Heavier than other options on the market, a model update might be necessary to continue competing in this space

The unisex Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles and the women’s specific Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles – Women’s are considered the best trekking poles among many trail runners and ultrarunners, and for good reason. Their simple, lightweight design is strong and reliable, making them an excellent choice for long mountain days and a longstanding favorite among the iRunFar team. The poles feature 100% carbon fiber shafts with reinforced joints to improve stiffness and durability. A simple push-button locking mechanism makes extending and folding the pole quick and easy. When not used, the poles quickly collapse into three parts and fold up in parallel, allowing for secure storage in or on your pack.

The poles are available in 100 to 130-centimeter lengths in five-centimeter increments between the unisex and women’s versions. This range should fit runners anywhere from four feet 10 inches tall to around six feet four inches.

The straps are simple, lightweight, and moisture-wicking loops that are easy to get in and out of — making aid stations and snacking on the go a breeze. These are attached to a comfortable EVA foam grip that provides enough cushion without compromising grip security, especially in cold or wet conditions. The grips are quite long, so multiple hand positions are available to effectively adjust pole length depending on whether you’re going uphill or downhill or cruising along flat ground.

These poles also come with interchangeable rubber and carbide tips and are compatible with snow baskets for winter use, making them a versatile addition to your running gear. One of our testers had issues with the tips of the poles falling out after a lot of hard use. If you notice immediately and replace the tips, this isn’t an issue, but the rubber at the end of the pole will wear down quickly and make it impossible to reattach tips if the issue isn’t addressed promptly.

You can read more about these poles in our in-depth Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles review.

Available Lengths: 100-130 centimeters, in 5-centimeter increments | Folded Length: 33-44 centimeters, depending on pole length | Pole Material: Carbon fiber shafts, EVA foam grip

Shop the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running PolesShop the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles - Women's

Best Trekking Poles – Carbon Fixed Length: Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite ($250)

Best Trekking Poles - Leki Ultratrail FX.One Superlite - product photo


  • Extremely lightweight
  • The Trail Shark grip system improves energy transfer and decreases the risk of dropping poles
  • A wide range of lengths can accommodate most trail runners


  • Expensive
  • Grip straps attached to poles are slower to get in and out of for eating, taking photos, etc.
  • Only one tip is included

Many trekking poles are on the market today, but the Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite stands out from the crowd for a variety of reasons. These folding fixed-length carbon fiber poles are light as a feather and made to move fast in the mountains. They feature a very light carbon fiber shaft that folds into three sections with just enough slack to keep them parallel for storing without flopping around.

The unique feature of these poles is Leki’s signature Trail Shark grip system. The poles come with a lightweight mesh glove-like strap that Velcros onto your hand to stay snugly in place. A loop attachment clips the strap to the cork grip on the pole, directly attaching you to the pole. This can increase power transfer and efficiency from your arms to the pole, allowing you to push off hard on those steep climbs without keeping a death grip on the poles with your hands.

When it’s time for a snack, a photo, or any other trailside activities that require using your hands, quickly pushing a button on top of the grip releases the loop and sets your hands free. The Trail Shark mesh straps stay on your hands, which is fine for most tasks. But in fluctuating weather, taking them on and off whenever you want to put on or remove gloves can become tedious. The straps may also impede grip on rocks if there’s rock scrambling involved in your run. However, leaving the straps on was comfortable and easy in most conditions.

A small trail running-specific basket keeps it from getting stuck in soft ground, though it’s rather small, and we have had to pull these out of an unexpected sink into dirt and moss at the edge of the trail. While many poles from other brands come with a rubber tip option, only a carbide tip is available for these poles. We found it to provide good grip on many surfaces.

Check out our in-depth Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite review.

Available Lengths: 105-135 centimeters, in 5-centimeter increments | Folded Length: 33 centimeters | Pole Material: Carbon fiber shafts, Trail Shark grip system with cork grip

Shop the Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite

Best Trekking Poles – Carbon Adjustable Length: Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite ($250)

Best Trekking Poles -Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite - product photo


  • Lightweight and nicely packable
  • The grip strap helps maintain good contact with the poles
  • Adjustable length makes them shareable with family or friends of different heights
  • Adjustable length makes them helpful in setting up fastpacking tarps


  • Very pricey
  • The adjustable length adds some weight and bulk
  • Grips are not quick to get in and out of

Adjustable trekking poles are not nearly as popular as fixed-length folding poles among runners, largely because of their heavier weight, but there are some circumstances where they may be your best choice. The Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite is our top pick of the adjustable-length poles tested for this guide for its versatility, weight, and strap. The glove-like strap and cork grip provide good power transfer and comfort, and the carbon fiber shaft is relatively light. The carbide tip provides plenty of grip on most surfaces, though people who regularly use poles in rocky areas may miss the option for a rubber tip.

These poles come in two sizes: standard, which can be adjusted between 110 and 130 centimeters, and compact, which adjusts between 100 and 120 centimeters. Both sizes have an internal locking mechanism for folding and extending the poles, which is a very nice feature that avoids the sometimes difficult push-button lock system of some other poles. The external speed-lock lever is very smooth and easy to use, even with gloves on, and makes it very easy to adjust the pole length on the fly.

These trekking poles fold into three sections for easy storage when not in use. The section with the grip is approximately three inches longer than the other two shaft pieces when folded, but this was not a problem when storing the poles. When folded, the longest section is 42 centimeters long — similar to the length of other folded 120- or 130-centimeter fixed-length poles. The cork grip is longer on these poles than Leki’s running-specific fixed-length poles for a more ergonomic fit and multiple hand positions, and they are billed as dual-use trail running and hiking poles. Even with all of these features, they are impressively light.

Available Lengths: 110-130 centimeters for the standard version, 100-120 centimeters for the compact version | Length When Folded: 42 centimeters | Pole Material: Carbon fiber shafts, Cross Shark grip system with cork grip

Shop the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite

Best Trekking Poles – Aluminum Fixed Length: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles ($140)

Best Trekking Poles -Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking-Running Poles - product photo


  • Affordable in comparison to carbon fiber poles
  • Full-featured poles


  • Heavier than carbon poles

The Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles are the aluminum version of the popular Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles we reviewed above. Made from 7075 aluminum alloy, these fixed-length folding poles are an excellent option for trail running and hiking. While they are heavier than their carbon counterparts, they are still lightweight and durable. They easily fold into three parts to stow on your pack when not in use.

These poles offer most of the same features as the Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles, including the foam grip and wicking wrist strap, interchangeable carbide and rubber tips, removable low-profile trail basket, and snow basket compatibility.

The aluminum poles are a great, fully-featured pole that compromises some on weight but is a more affordable option when compared to most carbon poles.

Available Lengths: 100-130 centimeters, in 10-centimeter increments | Length When Folded: 33-44 centimeters, depending on pole length | Pole Material: 7075 aluminum alloy shafts, EVA foam grip

Shop the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles

Best Trekking Poles – Aluminum Fixed Length: Camp Xenon Pro 2.0 ($100)

Best Trekking Poles - Camp Xenon Pro 2.0 - product photo


  • Budget-friendly
  • Packs down small for easy storage
  • Attached Velcro strap to secure pole segments when folded


  • Heavier than carbon poles
  • The wrist strap is basic and can be uncomfortable

The Camp Xenon Pro 2.0 is another excellent aluminum fixed-length folding pole that is affordable, lightweight, and great as an entry-level trekking pole. It is made of 7075 aluminum alloy and features a Kevlar tensioning cord running through the shaft. Since the poles break into four pieces instead of the three of other types of trekking poles, they are much shorter and potentially easier to store when folded.

A Velcro strap remains conveniently attached just below the foam grip to secure the pieces when folded so that they don’t flop around or get tangled when you take them on and off your pack. The wrist loop is a simple, non-padded, adjustable nylon strap that isn’t as comfortable or sturdy as most other poles tested.

These poles have a unique design compared to the others in this guide. To secure the extend of the pole in place, the Kevlar tensioning cord is pulled upward through the center of the pole, out of the grip. A small knot secures the cord in a notch at the top of the grip. This system can be adjusted and re-tensioned as needed. The poles include interchangeable rubber and carbide tips and a solid rubber basket to improve stability and prevent the ends from catching between rocks or sinking too far into soft ground.

Available Lengths: 115-135 centimeters, in 5-centimeter increments | Length When Folded: 33-36 centimeters, depending on pole length | Pole Material: 7075 aluminum alloy shafts, foam grip

Shop the Camp Xenon Pro 2.0

Best Budget Trekking Poles: Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles ($60)

Best Trekking Poles - Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles - product photo


  • Very inexpensive compared with other trekking poles
  • Packs down small for easy storage
  • Sturdy, good crossover for hiking/backpacking and running
  • Adjustable lengths make them helpful in setting up fastpacking tarps


  • The heaviest pole we tested
  • The screw on the adjustment lever can loosen and may need adjusting when deploying

Many of the trekking poles we tested and chose for this guide are pretty hefty financial investments as far as running gear goes, and we chose the Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles as the best budget option on the market. These adjustable-length folding carbon poles won’t break the bank.

While not marketed specifically for running, their size and features make them more than capable of making the leap from hiking to running.

The poles come in two sizes to accommodate a wide range of heights: a 100—to 120-centimeter option and a 110—to 135-centimeter one. They have carbon shafts with aluminum connectors, carbide and rubber tips, cork grips, and a wide, comfortable nylon strap. They fold into three 15-inch sections to store easily in or on your pack.

These poles have a thicker shaft diameter than the other trekking poles we tested and are potentially more durable. One of the main downsides to these poles is that they weigh significantly more than others on this list. However, weight is one of the only compromises these poles make, as the height adjustment lever was simple, and the click-button locking mechanism is also on par with other pricier poles.

Available Lengths: 115-135 centimeters and 100-120 centimeters | Length When Folded: 38 centimeters | Pole Material: Carbon shafts with aluminum alloy connectors, cork grip

Shop the Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

Comparing the Best Trekking Poles for Running

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles $190 9.8 ounces 110, 120, 130 CMs
Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite $250 4.8 ounces 105-130 in 5 CMs
Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite $250 12 ounces 105-130 in 5 CMs
Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles $140 Not listed 100-130 in 10 CMs
Camp Xenon Pro 2.0 $100 12.7 ounces 115-135 in 5 CMs
Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles $60 17 ounces 100, 120 CMs

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Trekking Poles for Running

Types of Trekking Poles

When shopping for trekking poles, there are three common designs to choose from: fixed-length folding poles, adjustable-length folding poles, and fixed-length non-folding poles.

Folding poles do what their name implies — they fold into three or four sections to make them short and easy to store when not in use. Non-folding poles are one solid piece, much like a traditional ski pole. Folding poles can be found in fixed-length and adjustable-length versions. Fixed-length poles, like the Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite, remain the same length when extended, while adjustable-length poles such as the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite have an extra sliding section that can extend or reduce their length by 10 to 20 centimeters. Any of these pole types can be found in a carbon fiber or aluminum version, the two most common materials used in trekking poles.

As with all pieces of gear, there are pros and cons for each, depending on your budget and planned use.

Folding Versus Non-Folding Trail Trekking Poles

Folding poles are the most commonly used type by runners as most people want to have the option of storing their poles on their pack during parts of their run. Because of the versatility and popularity of folding poles, we focused our testing on them. They are made of three to four sections of either carbon fiber or aluminum, and a cord threaded through the center of each piece keeps everything together, whether the cord is folded or extended.

The cord tightens when the pole is extended, and the pieces lock together at reinforced joints, creating a stable, secure pole. When not used, the poles fold up, allowing for easy storage in or attached to your hydration pack. The Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite can fold down to a 33-inch length, which is easy to store on most hydration packs.

Fixed-length non-folding poles are the lightest poles available as they do not require the extra materials required for the construction and mechanics of folding poles. However, these poles are difficult to store in a pack, so you will need to carry them in hand throughout a run—which can be inconvenient on long sections of runnable or flat trails.

Fixed-length non-folding poles work best in uphill-only events such as vertical kilometer races, where the poles will be in use for the entirety of the run. Because their versatility is much lower than folding poles, there are fewer options on the market, and we chose not to include these in our testing for this guide.

Best Trekking Poles - Meghan Hicks testing Komperdell trekking poles

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks testing Komperdell trekking poles on an early summer day in Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Adjustable-Length Versus Fixed-Length Trekking Poles

Fixed-length folding trekking poles, such as our winning picks, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles, and the Leki Ultratrail FX.One Superlite, fold into a compact carrying size and extend to a set length while in use. The ease of use, packability, light weight, and simplicity of fixed-length folding poles make these the most popular choice for ultrarunning and trail running.

Adjustable-length folding trekking poles, such as the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite, fold in the same way as fixed-length folding poles but can be adjusted within a range of lengths once extended. This can be a budget-conscious option if the poles will be shared among runners of different heights. The ability to adjust the length of your poles on the fly can be helpful in specific terrain settings, such as extending the length of your downhill-facing pole when traversing a narrow off-camber hillside trail.

If you are fastpacking and using a pole to set up an ultralight tent, adjusting its height may also be helpful. Adding adjustability means more materials, which increases the pole’s weight compared to a fixed-length pole.

Carbon Versus Aluminum Trekking Poles

Almost all of the best trekking poles are made of aluminum, carbon, or a combination of the two materials. Both materials are very durable, but there are some key differences to consider when choosing the best option for you.

Aluminum trekking poles are usually made of 7075 aluminum, which is a strong, lightweight aluminum alloy with a high fatigue point. These poles are durable and can withstand the stress of pushing off the ground and being leaned on heavily. Under high stresses, aluminum poles are more likely to bend rather than break because aluminum is less brittle than carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is incredibly strong under vertical loads but can snap catastrophically under lateral loads.

While no one wants to end up with damaged equipment on the trail, a bent pole can be straightened and remain usable. Some users have noted increased vibration from striking the ground with an aluminum pole compared to carbon. Aluminum is a less expensive material, so aluminum poles will be more budget-friendly than full carbon fiber poles. We named the Camp Xenon Pro 2.0 our best aluminum fixed-length trekking pole for its weight and unique extension system.

Carbon fiber poles are the gold standard for lightweight trekking poles. The material is stiff and strong and will bend and flex less than other materials during use. Carbon also minimizes vibrations and offers exceptional energy transfer. But, if a carbon fiber pole is damaged, there’s no bending here — it will break. Temperature extremes, particularly cold temperatures, can affect the durability of carbon fiber trekking poles, making them more brittle and susceptible to breaking.

The lighter weight of carbon poles means you’ll conserve more energy with every arm swing. On paper, the weight savings of carbon over aluminum might seem negligible, but every little bit counts during a 30-plus-hour mountainous 100-miler! That weight savings comes at a premium, though, as carbon fiber trekking poles are more expensive than their aluminum counterparts.

Choosing the Correct Trekking Pole Size

Trekking pole lengths are based on the height of the user. An easy way to determine the appropriate length of trekking pole for your height is to stand with your elbows flexed at around a 90-degree angle with your forearms parallel to the floor. The distance from your hands to the ground will be the approximate length you will need for your trekking poles. Most manufacturers have a size chart or calculator available on their site to help you confirm the appropriate pole length based on a range of heights. If you’re unsure which size to get, you can always go for an adjustable-length pole like the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite.

A longer pole will increase the bend in the elbow and provide more support and stability, especially on downhills, while a shorter pole will improve forward and uphill propulsion. These measurements and guides are a good starting point, but ultimately, the best trekking pole size for you comes down to what you feel comfortable using — practice makes perfect!

Best Trekking Poles - testing trekking poles in Colorado

Testing trekking poles in Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


In theory, all trekking poles would be created equal — I mean, how many ways can you reimagine a stick, am I right? — but in reality, there are many subtle differences to consider when shopping for the best trekking pole for you.

As mentioned above, foldable trekking poles for trail running are the most popular option. The way the poles fold differs slightly from one brand or model to another and is something to keep in mind when choosing your poles. They all have a joint of some sort where the pieces come together, and a cord threaded through the middle keeps them in place. This cord is usually Kevlar and is sometimes covered in a plastic sheath for extra protection. Some poles fold up easily and loosely, while others are under more tension and harder to keep folded.

These poles will fold into three or four sections for stowing in or on your pack. The length of the folded poles can vary a bit, and not all poles work well with every pack’s pole storage system.

The pole grips are one of the most widely varied features of trekking poles. Grip material usually features cork or foam, and some have unique features. The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles grip is quite long and allows for many different hand positions.

A traditional pole grip features a wrist loop, usually made of a lightweight, moisture-wicking material that loosely encircles the wrist and allows you to loosen or adjust your grip without dropping the poles. These straps may include a little padding or a Velcro adjustment for comfort and a more secure and universal fit. Some trekking poles, including the Leki Ultratrail FX.One Superlite have glove-like Velcro straps that stay securely fastened to your hand and click on and off the pole with an attachment on the grip.

The tips of the poles are an important yet under-the-radar feature of trekking poles. Most poles have a carbide tip at the end, which is more durable and provides traction on rocky or icy terrain. Rubber tips are softer and better suited for areas where ground damage may be an issue, such as environmentally sensitive alpine tundra or softer ground. Rubber tips are also a good choice for long stints of pavement to prevent damage to carbide tips. They are also less noisy.

Some poles, such as the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles and Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles, provide interchangeable tips. Other brands include a rubber cap that can be placed over the carbide tip to protect your pack from damage.

Why You Should Trust Us

While there are many trekking poles on the market, specific features make some much better for running than others. The iRunFar team has been using trekking poles for runs and races for years, and our testing process ensures you get the best gear for your needs. We started the initial version of this guide by extensively researching the trekking poles on the market and narrowed our list to 15 top candidates for testing.

Primarily based in the mountains of Colorado, our testing team put the poles through their paces on miles of rocky mountainous terrain there and the rocky, rooty trails of the U.S. East Coast. Our Colorado- and Utah-based testers used poles for long training runs and for race and FKT efforts, including the Hardrock 100 and Nolan’s 14.

From long climbs to scree-filled descents on summer summits to wintry treks to long slogs through sandy canyons, we tested the efficiency and durability of the poles to decide which are the best for trail running. When evaluating trekking poles, we considered their strength and stiffness, weight, grip comfort, strap attachment system efficiency and comfort, and tip and basket options. We also considered the ease with which the poles collapsed for storage and straightened.

We tested both adjustable- and fixed-length poles at various price points so that we could suggest one for nearly any runner’s specific needs. Many of the poles featured in this guide have been used by iRunFar testers for years, and our team continues trying new poles on the market to keep this guide updated.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trekking Poles

How do trekking poles help when running?

There are a few different ways trekking poles can help improve your trail running performance. The most common use, and the one with arguably the most benefit, is when climbing. Poles help offload some of the strain on your legs by allowing you to use your arms for both points of contact for balance and additional power. Getting your upper body in on the fun can improve forward propulsion when climbing, particularly on steep, mountainous terrain.

What goes up must come down — and in the case of mountain ultras, the descents can be pretty darn treacherous. Those trekking poles that helped propel you up the mountain can also help keep you stable and upright on the way back down. The extra points of contact on a steep, rocky downhill can help maintain speed over obstacles when cruising and slow you down when it is so steep that your poor quadriceps muscles are in over their head.

In addition to using more upper body strength to offset leg fatigue, using poles can help keep you in a more upright position, lessening the strain on the lower back and keeping your chest expanded to optimize breathing. While trekking poles aren’t a substitute for strength and core work, they help keep you standing tall as the fatigue from the late stages of a race kicks in.

Hiking speed and cadence also benefit from the use of trekking poles. The arm swing and audible click of the poles on the trail can function like a metronome, keeping your hiking rhythm going up steep terrain.

Whether running or walking, the extra points of contact are a huge benefit in maintaining balance. If you’ve ever crossed a river or stream using poles, you know what I’m talking about! Traversing uneven or slippery terrain with poles is much easier than trying to do it without them — and can save you a slip and fall along the way. Since most of the best trekking poles are incredibly lightweight, like the Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite, you don’t have to pay much of a weight penalty to get a big advantage.

Best Trekking Poles - using an adjustable non-folding trekking pole in a fastpacking tarp

Adjustable-length trekking poles are helpful in setting up fastpacking tarps. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

What are some downsides to using trekking poles?

Using poles properly takes some practice. If you hit the trails with them and haven’t gotten the hang of your arm swing or pole placement as you climb or descend, they can get in the way and cause more harm than good. The excess energy spent holding and swinging poles as you are hiking or running will be for nothing if you aren’t placing them properly and pushing off correctly. This can turn any potential power gains into losses and tire you out in the process.

While trekking poles can do a lot of good for running and hiking power, they are, simply put, another thing to carry. Becoming proficient at hand placement, carrying them while running, eating and drinking while using them, navigating aid stations, and attaching them to a pack takes a lot of practice and repetition to make it second nature when fatigue sets in.

As we mentioned above, one of the benefits of running with trekking poles is their help with balance on uneven terrain. While they give a lot of help here, they aren’t magic sticks, and slips and falls still happen. Inadvertently falling onto a pole has the potential to cause serious injury.

This is magnified if using a style of grips and straps that attach your hands to the poles very securely. This is certainly not a reason to skip trekking poles altogether, but it should be kept in mind as you practice your pole running technique on the trails.

Trekking poles are also one more thing to manage in your run or race kit and add weight. Even the bulkier of our selections for the best trekking poles, like the Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles, don’t add too much weight or bulk, but everything weighs something, and having more gear to deal with can add complications.

What terrain is best for using trekking poles?

Trekking poles provide the most benefit on steep terrain, be it climbing or descending. They can be used for increasing power on the climbs, where your arms will help do some of the work of propelling you to the top. Using the extra points of contact when rock-hopping your way back down the descents is an acquired skill — as is using your poles as an emergency brake on those very steep downhills where it feels like you might start somersaulting instead of running! Choosing an adjustable pole like the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite can allow you to take maximum advantage of your poles on both the up and downhill.

If your run is on more moderate runnable terrain, you will want to leave the poles at home, as they will more likely be a hindrance and just add extra, unnecessary weight to your kit. That’s not to say we have never used them in the late stages of a flatter 30-hour race to keep ourselves awake and upright — but these situations are few and far between.

Should I use trekking poles made of aluminum or carbon?

The short answer is … yes. Many great aluminum and carbon poles are on the market, and either will give you the benefits we discussed above. When deciding which type of poles is right for you, the biggest factors to consider are budget, the amount you will be using them, and how you plan to utilize them.

Aluminum poles like the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Poles are less expensive than carbon and will, in most cases, be heavier. If you are just starting with poles, will be using them sporadically, don’t care too much about gear weight, or plan on doing a combination of running and hiking with your poles, aluminum may be the best choice. Carbon poles are the way to go for long days in the mountains, frequent use, and for people looking to keep their running gear ultralight.

Can I use trekking poles at races?

Most races allow the use of trekking poles. In many mountainous races, especially in Europe, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone not carrying them. There are exceptions to the rule, though, notably the Grand Raid de la Reunion. Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, didn’t allow poles for many years, but even they have relaxed their rules and allow runners to use them. It’s always good to double-check race rules for any restrictions on trekking pole use.

Best Trekking Poles - using trekking poles to hike uphill

Using trekking poles to hike and run uphill can transfer some energy from your legs to your arms. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

How do I learn to use trekking poles when running?

Practice makes perfect! Or, at the very least, proficient. There are a few different strategies for using trekking poles while running and hiking that depend on the terrain you are on. Before you hit the trails, get comfortable with the poles on even ground. Try out the wrist straps and grip. Hold them while walking to get used to the feel of your arm swing with trekking poles in hand. Getting used to the grip system of the Leki Ultratrail Fx.One Superlite or the Leki Cross Trail FX Superlite can take a little more time than the regular wrist strap of most other poles.

Once you feel comfortable with your poles’ basic grip and swing, practice on the hills to dial in that power and efficiency boost. The most common ways to use the poles are by alternating with your arm swing or by planting both poles in front of you as you push off, either going up steep terrain or downhill over rocks.

Can I use hiking poles for running?

Hiking poles serve the same basic function as trekking poles and can certainly be used for running, especially if you are trying them out or using poles very infrequently. Their design will be slightly different, as hiking poles are designed to distribute the load when carrying a heavy pack on rather than improve forward propulsion when moving quickly.

Hiking poles may have some shock absorption built in, which means the poles will have some give and spring when leaned on — eliminating some of the energy return you need to propel you forward uphill. Hiking poles usually telescope in on themselves for storage rather than fold and end up much longer and bulkier than the best trekking poles when collapsed. The Paria Outdoor Products Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are a versatile option for both hiking and running.

How do I carry my poles if I’m not using them?

The simplest way to carry running trekking poles is to just keep them in your hands. This is the only option if using a fixed-length, non-foldable pole. Some runners will keep their poles in hand even when folded to make it quick and easy to deploy them when needed. This option means that you will have to do a little juggling act every time you have to eat, drink, refill hydration, or do any other trail activities that require using one or both hands.

A more common way to carry poles when they’re not being used is by using trekking pole attachments on a hydration pack or waist pack. Most hydration packs on the market today have at least one attachment system to secure poles to the outside of the pack, with many having multiple configuration options either the front or the back of the pack. Trekking poles can also be stored inside a pack with a large enough rear pocket. The sleek design of the Camp Xenon Pro 2.0 makes them easy to tuck away in a hydration pack.

Some companies, such as Salomon or Raidlight, also offer a separate pouch or “quiver” that holds trekking poles and attaches separately to the outside of the pack. These systems are similar to an archery quiver that would hold arrows.

A waist belt with elastic attachments is another pole-carrying option that provides quick and easy access to your poles. Check out our best running belts guide for some of our favorite running belts and waist packs with trekking pole attachments.

Call for Comments

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Carly Eisley
Carly Eisley is a trail runner, hiker, mountain biker, and traveler. Her home base is in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and two rescue dogs. When not writing or adventuring, she works as an emergency department nurse practitioner. Follow her on Instagram.
Carly Eisley

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.