My Pacerpoles arrived today so I took them out for a trial run before my Lake District trip next week. It was a nice afternoon, warm but not boiling and the sort of weather that is perfect for a walk. I took my new friends to a local footpath that runs alongside the Mardyke, a flat grassy path that runs for about 4 miles to the middle of nowhere. The plan was to see how far I got in an hour and then turn back, as I only had a couple of hours to play with.
Walking through the streets to get to the start of the offroad bit, I carried rather than used the poles, mainly out of self-consciousness, but the moment I stepped off the tarmac, out they came. It took a few moments to find a way to hold them and move them, but that’s all. My biggest problem during the walk was missing the ground with the tips of the poles, partly because of the pace I was moving at.
What was clear was that I walked much faster using the poles, angled slightly behind as per the instructions, with them helping push me along, rather than the way traditional trekking poles are used, which is more about pulling yourself forward.
Apart from pole placement issues, which were in part due to uneven terrain, part due to my pace, and part due to my general clumsiness, I got on with them fine and maintained a 6kph pace along the entire riverside path. Now that’s a pace I can do on the street, but not continuously for an extended period without starting to flag. The poles helped me maintain that pace no problem, and that’s even before I factor in the retarding effect of the uneven path.
Having turned around one hour in, I got back to the road slightly ahead of schedule, and stowed the poles so that I didn’t look too much of a wally using extremely technical crutches in the middle of an urban environment. I have to say that I really noticed how much slower I was walking and how much more I felt my legs on that last easy bit back to my house. In two hours I notched up about 7.7 miles, but depending on the terrain that’s something I could probably have done without the poles. But I think the poles are not just about propulsion, but also about reducing fatigue, enabling you to go further, and keep going, and I certainly think there’s something in that.
The Pacerpole propoganda claims that it is the handle that is the key to the pole, by making it an extension to your arm and by trying to make the hand-handle join work as much like a bodily joint as possible. That seems to be the case, and all the while I was walking with the poles, my arms seemed to be moving like they would if I were gently swinging my arms as I would walk normally. At the end of the walk, both arms and legs felt fine, and importantly my hands did too – if I’d gripped normal poles for that long continuosly, I’d have started to get cramps and rubbing – I know because I’ve had to put Compeed on my hand from pole use in the past.
So it seems to me that the poles work in a combination of ways:
- The handle is more of a hand rest than a grip, so tiring your hand less, which probably helps you keep at it for longer, and therefore getting the benefits of using a pole for longer.
- The handle shape encourages you to angle the poles backwards (on the flat) and generate a pushing-off action rather than a pulling forward action as with normal poles. I did notice the extra propulsion, although I think the extra endurance is likely to be more noticeable than extra speed in my case.
- The rhythm generated by using the poles, I’m sure is a major factor in keeping you going.
- An element of placebo effect – because you think they will help, they do.
- I suspect that the sort of person that would buy Pacerpoles, is also the sort of person that would use them properly and get the maximum benefit from them. Hence the good reviews.
So in short, they worked, but I’ve not used them yet on rocky terrain or any significant slope (yesterday’s walk had ascent of only 10m), or in bad weather conditions. But they’re going to get a thorough test over the next 10 days or so, after which I’ll do a more thorough review. All I can say now is that they are certainly more comfortable than normal poles and that I am more likely to use them as a result