Poles can offer a lot of benefits to hikers, trekkers, and trail runners alike. But for many there are questions about which poles are right to use and the difference between trekking poles vs running poles. Below we’ll break down the major differences so you can make the right choice when choosing your next set.
Trekking Poles vs Running Poles – What’s the difference?
The biggest difference between trekking poles vs running poles comes down to material (strength / weight) and the folding ability of the poles.
Trekking poles are often made out of a steel or a heavier, stronger, and more durable material. They will also often only be collapsible at one point of its shaft. Both of these features add to the poles strength for hikers and trekkers who are carrying backpacks with heavy loads.
Running poles will be made of lighter materials, primarily aluminum or graphite. Aluminum is a little heavier but less prone to snapping than graphite. Secondly poles for trail running will typically fold in two spots. Often called numb chucks or z-fold poles, these allow you to either store them in or attach them to your running bag.
Cork vs Foam Handles
With trekking poles, most hikers prefer something with a natural cork handle. For longer hikes where you are putting a lot of weight on the poles, the natural cork can be better at preventing blisters and reducing moisture. Cork tends to be featured on more high end trekking poles.
For running poles there seems to be less emphasis on natural cork handles. With many of the highest end trail running poles like the Black Diamond Carbon Z-fold and the Leki Pro Running Poles featuring EVA foam handles with “cork texture.”
Can you use trekking poles for running?
Yes, you can use trekking poles for running. They work exactly the same while being used. The biggest differences will be their weight (heavier) and how compact they can be stored.
Can you run with walking poles?
Yes, you can run with walking poles. They will just be heavier and less compact than poles designed for runners.
How to Choose The Best Poles for trail running?
When choosing poles for trail running there are a couple things to take into account. First is the material. The two most popular materials are aluminum and carbon poles. Aluminum will be abit heavier (not as heavy as steel) but will have increased strength and durability. Carbon will be lighter but may break under heavy use. So if you are heavier or tend to put a lot of weight on your poles, the you may want to go with the stringer material.
Next will be the grip material. I’m a fan of cork but a lot of higher end poles will use quality foam. Which many runners seem to like. This is really a personal preference. And it’s worth going into a place like REI and testing out a couple different options so you can figure out which is right for you.