TRAIL RUNNING: HOW TO RUN WITH POLES?

You often see trail runners using a pair of poles, especially on ultra-trails. If poles seem to be for trail runners what binoculars are for hunters, are they really essential? How do you use them properly? And which model should you choose? Follow our guide!

WHY USE POLES WHEN TRAIL RUNNING?

For trail runners, poles come into their own on long races, especially when there is ascent and descent involved. They may even prove essential for ultra-trails.

What are the advantages? They help runners save energy by acting as a 3rd leg, ensure better balance and stability during technically challenging stretches and give runners a sense of security. They also act as stabilisers and shock absorbers, helping you stop yourself when descending. In a nutshell, they won't necessarily make you faster, but they provide some welcome respite to your legs when running long distances.

However, you should check the race rules before taking your poles: in some places, such as Réunion, they are prohibited, to prevent accidents or preserve protected areas.

 

WHAT TECHNIQUES ARE USED WHEN RUNNING WITH TRAIL POLES?

Firstly, using poles when running is a fairly technical exercise and you will need a little training: they may get in your way if poorly positioned and cause you to trip if they get tangled up… It's best to anticipate any difficulties and learn to use them before you race!

Also, there are 2 ways of trail poles, whether descending or ascending: simultaneous or alternating. Which one you choose will depend on the gradient of the slope and the space available for using the poles:

-       Simultaneous: useful on steep slopes to relieve your thighs by hauling yourself up with your arms or when descending to hold yourself back and give your legs a rest. You can take several strides each time before your poles touch the ground. Try and lean forward and drive your poles into the ground.

-       Alternating: more appropriate when there is less space available and a gentler slope, this technique requires less power and consists in alternating between your right and left legs, with the opposite arm pushing the pole down in front of you and the other arm behind you, in the air. In this case, it's best not to drive the pole too hard into the ground to maintain a better rhythm. Try and take smaller steps for this technique to become more natural.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR TRAIL POLES?

If you wish to invest in poles, the key criteria you should keep in mind are: compact design, low weight and wrist comfort. The priority for trail runners is easy storage and fast deployment of the poles to be able to either use them or forget about them while racing, depending on the route. The most compact poles are less than 40 cm long when folded!

You should take hold of them and test them, since comfort is crucial to prevent blisters on your hands while racing. Some poles have straps or, less often, gloves which offer better comfort and ergonomics but restrict your movement.

Final tip: ensure you let your poles dry to prevent corrosion caused by damp.

There, that's everything you need to start using trail poles. Learn to master the technique and choose the model which will enable you to finish your races without a hitch. Oh, and do pay attention! Don't stick your poles in the shins of your fellow runners!

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