I've been a walker all my life. When growing up we were a one car family and if I wanted to go somewhere or run an errand for my Mom I either used my feet or my bike. Even as I got into my teen years my feet were still my main source of transportation. Now that I am older and use my car to run errands i still love to walk and hike. Several years ago I read an article about Nordic walking and that was the beginning of my walking with poles. The benefits of walking with poles outweighs the strange looks I get when using them, and i do get them along with some very interesting comments. Walking with poles does a body good, they take stress and strain of the hips, knees and ankles, keep your posture nice and straight, get the upper body involved, burn more calories,and are a great aid in going up and down hills. One of my favorite reasons is that your fingers don't get that swollen feeling from hanging down.
I use my poles whenever I can. They are great for walking on paved or dirt packed surfaces, but don't work as well on trails that have undergrowth because you are forever untangling them from something. My husband and I went hiking a few weeks ago in southern Illinois and my poles not only aided with the hike but also acted as a second pair of eyes. The trail was covered with several inches of leaves and the poles helped me "know" where to put my feet. They kept me from stumbling over hidden rocks or limbs on the trail. They were also very helpful with all the up and down the trail took.
There are all kinds of walking poles for sale, but for me an old pair of bamboo cross country ski poles with the baskets cut off are my poles of choice. I cover the cut ends with rubber tips I get at the hardware store. I have a pair of walking poles I bought at Walmart, but too me they seemed awkward and had a squeak i couldn't get rid of. My husband now uses them sometime, the squeak doesn' seem to bother him. If you want a real pair of poles by all means do some reasearch and find a pair that works for you or you can make a pair that will IMO work just as well. Any sturdy pole will do, a wooden broom handle cut to the right length ( the length if from a 90 degree elbow bend to the ground) with handle grips and a strap added to go around your wrist. If this sounds like too much work, buying is easier. Oh, the one thing about the poles you buy is that they have springs in them to absorb some of the impact.
This very good link will give you more info about walking poles, there are several pages to read thru. The official name is Nordic walking but the benefits and techniques are the same.
I hope this sharepost will encourage some of you walkers out there to give them a try. take care...phyllis