Trail running: mastering the art of running with poles

Running with sticks on trailIn the realm of trail running, there comes a point where a crucial accessory becomes indispensable: trail poles. While they might not be necessary for a “rolling” or shorter race, their significance amplifies as the race becomes more technical and features steeper slopes. Let’s explore the advantages of incorporating trail poles into your trail running arsenal.

The advantages of trail poles

Trail poles offer a multitude of benefits. During ascents, they alleviate the strain on your legs by engaging the upper body, contributing to both traction and support. This translates to energy savings for leg muscles, providing substantial relief for the quadriceps and calves, especially during prolonged runs. Additionally, poles assist in maintaining a consistent rhythm by ensuring a regular cadence. On downhill stretches, they enhance stability and serve as shock absorbers.

How and when to utilize trail poles

It’s advisable to consider trekking poles for races spanning at least 30 km, particularly when walking constitutes a significant portion of a long or steep run.

  1. Climbs of More Than 20%: In extremely steep climbs, employ both poles simultaneously, using the strength of your arms to hoist yourself. Take several strides between each stick plant, and slightly lean forward for enhanced efficiency.
  2. Climbs of 10 to 20%: On moderately steep climbs, use the poles alternately. Plant one pole at the level of the opposite foot, with the other arm behind and in the air. This method provides support without exerting excessive force on the arms, aiding in maintaining your pace.
  3. Climbs of Less Than 10%: No need to bring out the poles for climbs with slopes less than 10%.

On downhill sections, tilt your torso forward, employing the sticks to alleviate stress on the quadriceps and knees while stabilizing your body. Use alternating or simultaneous techniques, depending on the steepness of the slope or the size of the steps.

Evolution of equipment

Modern trail running poles are increasingly practical, featuring lightweight designs, easy folding/unfolding mechanisms, and convenient portability (Z-fold). However, it’s crucial to verify whether the race permits their usage. Be mindful of fellow runners, especially in the initial kilometers when the trail is crowded.

Carbon and aluminum are the primary materials for trail running poles, with leading brands such as Leki, Black Diamond, and Kinetik offering reliable options.

Poles serve as more than just race companions; they harmonize upper and lower body efforts. Regularly incorporate them into your training routine if you plan to utilize them during races.

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for communication management.