The Disadvantages of Walking Sticks Uncovering the Hidden Drawbacks

The Disadvantages of Walking Sticks: Uncovering the Hidden Drawbacks

Walking sticks and trekking poles have gained popularity not only among older adults but also among younger generations looking to optimize their hiking experiences and prevent potential lower back and knee injuries. Advocates of these aids often highlight their numerous benefits, such as improved mobility, balance, and safety. Medical professionals and physical therapists often recommend walking sticks for individuals with joint pain, and research supports their effectiveness in reducing the strain on the lower body. However, it’s essential to shed light on the lesser-known drawbacks of using walking sticks to make an informed choice about whether they are the right fit for you.

How Walking Sticks Help Mobility and Prevent Injury

Before delving into the disadvantages, let’s explore the advantages of using walking sticks, which are the primary reasons many people opt for them.

  1. Improved Mobility

Walking sticks and trekking poles offer a significant advantage when it comes to distributing the force away from your lower extremities and into your arms, thereby relieving tension in your knees when descending and your lower back when ascending. This shift in force can make hiking and walking more comfortable, especially on challenging terrain.

Linda Brown, a physical therapist, explains that while using walking sticks is a matter of personal preference, many hikers use them to prevent mobility issues. They are effective at dispersing forces away from your lower back and knees and toward your arms. Research even shows that using walking sticks can decrease ground reaction forces (GRF) on knee joints by up to 16% compared to not using any aids.

Additionally, using walking sticks promotes a forward-leaning posture, resulting in smaller knee movements, further reducing stress on lower extremity joints.

  1. Injury Prevention

Regular hiking and walking can be excellent forms of exercise, but over time, they can lead to muscle and joint wear and tear, increasing the risk of injuries and mobility issues. Walking sticks help shift the load off your joints and onto the poles, reducing the risk of developing joint problems later in life. Moreover, they provide better balance and stability, decreasing the likelihood of falls during hikes and helping prevent lower back pain.

  1. Balance

Maintaining good balance is crucial while walking and hiking, particularly on uneven terrain, to prevent falls and injuries and maintain an upright posture. Research shows that walking sticks improve acute balance and stability for hikers carrying a load on their back, as well as for people with mobility issues.

  1. Safety

In addition to the health benefits, walking sticks can be essential in emergencies. They can help test the depth of uncertain terrain, aid in crossing fast-flowing water by providing balance and stability, and even be used for self-defense against wildlife. Moreover, they can be employed to clear spiderwebs or dangerous plants from your path and serve as makeshift splints in medical emergencies.

Enhancing Exercise with Nordic Walking

Nordic walking, which originated in Finland in the 1990s to assist cross-country skiers in off-season training, has gained popularity as a full-body workout and exercise enhancement method. Incorporating trekking poles into your walking routine by actively pushing against the ground with each step can build strength in your arms, shoulders, and core, in addition to the benefits for your legs and knees.

Other exercise benefits of Nordic walking include burning more calories than regular walking, increasing cardiovascular metabolism, improving upper and lower body flexibility, allowing for faster walking speeds, and providing a social activity when joining Nordic walking clubs.

Who Benefits from a Walking Stick?

While walking sticks and trekking poles offer advantages for many individuals, certain populations can benefit the most from the prolonged, rhythmic activities they enable. These populations include:

  1. Adults over the age of 65: As mentioned earlier, balance and mobility tend to decline with age, making walking sticks a valuable aid for older adults.
  2. People with specific conditions: Those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, obesity, arthritis, acute and chronic lower back pain, and joint pain can benefit greatly from walking sticks, as these aids can reduce the stress on their joints and improve stability.

The Drawbacks of Walking Sticks

Now that we’ve explored the benefits of walking sticks and trekking poles, let’s delve into the hidden drawbacks of these popular outdoor accessories.

  1. Limited Hand Use

One of the most apparent disadvantages of using walking sticks is that they occupy both your hands. This limitation can be problematic if you need to carry a water bottle, manage a camera, eat, or drink while walking. It can disrupt your ability to multitask during your outdoor activities.

  1. Terrain Obstacles

Walking sticks and trekking poles can get caught in snow, rocks, or other obstacles on the trail. When this happens, it can throw you off balance and potentially lead to accidents or falls. This drawback underscores the importance of using these aids with caution and situational awareness.

  1. Increased Physical Exertion

While walking sticks provide many benefits, they also make your upper body work harder, resulting in increased energy expenditure. This extra effort can lead to arm and shoulder soreness, especially during prolonged use. For individuals looking to avoid muscle pain, this can be a drawback.

  1. Cost

Quality walking sticks and trekking poles can be relatively expensive. Higher-end brands can start at around $100 or more, making them an investment that not everyone may be willing to make.

How to Select and Use a Walking Stick

If you decide that walking sticks or trekking poles are suitable for your needs despite the drawbacks, here are some tips on how to select and use them effectively:

  1. Adjustable Height: Choose a walking stick or trekking pole that is adjustable to your height. When using a walking stick, your arm should be parallel to the ground and at a right angle with your shoulder. Adjust the stick’s length when hiking uphill or downhill accordingly.
  2. Key Features to Look For:
    • Foldability for convenient storage when not in use.
    • Shock-absorbent springs inside the pole to reduce impact when walking downhill.
    • Ultralight poles for ease of movement.
    • A locking mechanism to keep pole height stable during use.
    • Grips made from materials like cork, rubber, or foam for a comfortable and secure hold.


Walking sticks and trekking poles offer numerous advantages, including improved mobility, balance, and safety, making them valuable tools for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. They are recommended for individuals with joint pain and certain medical conditions. However, it’s crucial to be aware of their limitations and drawbacks, such as limited hand use, potential obstacles on the trail, increased physical exertion, and the cost of quality poles.

By considering both the benefits and drawbacks, you can make an informed decision about whether walking sticks are right for you. Ultimately, these aids can benefit people of all ages and abilities, enhancing outdoor experiences and promoting overall well-being.

Raphael Dume
Raphael Dume

Raphael Dume, bestselling author and internet entrepreneur, is the visionary behind He developed this platform to inspire and educate outdoor enthusiasts., driven by a team of experts, offers accurate, insightful content and resources for adventurers of all levels. The site is a trusted guide for outdoor tips, gear reviews, and experiences, reflecting Raphael's passion for the outdoors and commitment to fostering a community of nature lovers.

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