Ahead in the Poles

Aids and accessories for hikers.

Nearly 90 years ago, skilled Finnish cross-country skiers unknowingly started a fitness trend: They began exercising year-round with their ski poles.

A longstanding staple in Europe, exercising with walking poles is now practiced globally. Like pickleball, tennis and stand up paddling, it’s particularly popular in Southwest Florida.

The reasons include the use of more muscle groups, less impact on joints, proper posture alignment, improved breathing and increased calorie burning.

“Our tagline is ‘walk, run, play,’” says Will Scott, inventor and lead walking stick designer at DynamoMe.com based in Naples. “We are a lifestyle company more than anything else. Inventing a product is not enough; we want to let people live their lives with a tool that can take them to any place they want to be.”

The mobility device company recently introduced Prime Stick, marketed as “the first urban cane that converts into a walking stick.” A versatile hybrid, the Prime Stick is ideal for mountainous treks, flat trails and walking on sidewalks. The flexible footing is secure in all weather conditions.

Numerous other companies offer fixed-length, adjustable and folding poles.

Black Diamond Trail trekking poles are top-ranked by many consumer websites and specialty publications. A variety of styles for general and specialty uses are available at Dick’s Sporting Goods outlets in Fort Myers and Naples.

“We liked that they didn’t vibrate (some poles wobble) on uphills or downhills,” says Jenni Gritters in a Black Diamond review on gearpatrol.com. “They provided good traction in muddy spots or where rocks were loose, and we came home with happy knees and ankles.”

Naples Outfitters carries LEKI hiking and trekking poles, including the women-specific style Cressida.

“The Aergon Thermo foam compact (faux cork) grip is smaller in overall dimensions to better fit a woman’s hand, along with a shorter strap for less bulk,” the company’s website details. “The entire pole configuration is lighter and shorter to allow for more compact stowing into smaller packs.”

Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a sports medicine, fitness, strength-training and stability training specialist at the Mayo Clinic, extolls the benefits of walking poles.

“Walking poles work your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back muscles through a functional range of motion as you walk,” he says. “It helps you turn your daily walk into a full-body workout.”

Scott, a former international-caliber taekwondo athlete who has endured many injuries and surgeries, invented the Prime Stick for use by all ages.

“With the design of our sticks, I wanted to get rid of the stigma that walking sticks are for the infirm,” he says. “Society has kind of helped us get rid of the stigma with younger people doing hiking and walking.”

Prime Stick features an EVA foam handgrip and a lightweight aluminum core with a foam-covered upper post for versatile, sweat-absorbing and non-slip gripping. The tether is ergonomic for wrist support.

“The demographic part of it is amazing,” says Scott. “We have had a kid using them who broke his leg, and a grandma who likes it better than her cane because she has more stability and feels safer.”