Nordic Walking Poles: Upgrade Your Cane

Living an active life after an injury, surgery, or long rehabilitation period can be tough. Activities like long-distance walking are hard with a cane or walker—equipment designed to help people walk, not exercise. If only there was a way to upgrade old medical device designs…

Good news! Innovations have been going on for years in the form of Nordic Walking and Nordic Walking poles. The walking poles used in Nordic Walking poles are great for rehabilitation, recovery, and general cardiovascular exercises. If you are looking to replace your cane with a better alternative for leading an active lifestyle, this article is for you.

Note: Nordic Walking poles are not a substitution for canes in every situation. If you have moderate to severe balance issues, please talk to your doctor before considering Nordic Walking poles as a replacement for your cane or walker.

What is Nordic Walking?

Nordic Walking is described as fitness walking with specially designed poles. Developed in 1979 by Mauri Repo in Finland, Nordic Walking poles are an evolution of poles used by hikers and backpackers for decades. The general idea behind Nordic Walking was off-season ski-training with poles.

Using walking poles forces users to involve their whole body while walking—not just their legs. Nordic Walking poles have been increasingly used in place of canes, forearm crutches, and walkers over the past twenty years for rehabilitation.

The total body benefits from using Nordic Walking poles help promote fitness, recovery, and posture. Some research has shown that walking with Nordic Walking poles burns over 40% more calories than regular walking. For people that can’t walk for long periods of time, getting more from less is a big help!

How are Nordic Walking Poles Different from Standard Canes?

The main difference between Nordic Walking poles and standard canes is the overall support. Nordic Walking poles give bilateral support while standard canes give unilateral support. The two poles used in Nordic Walking grants equal support to each side of a user. Standard canes are meant to be used as stand-alone support—using 2 canes is not recommended.

Grip-style on Nordic Walking poles is vertical, promoting upright walking with less pressure on the wrist. Using two poles over a single cane also adds an additional contact point, lessening the stress caused to the wrist.

Can Nordic Walking Poles Replace a Walking Cane?

In many situations, Nordic Walking Poles can replace a walking cane.

Nordic Walking poles can replace a cane in these situations:

  • Rehabilitation exercising
  • Support during long-distance walking
  • Adding exercise tolerance after major surgeries

Nordic Walking poles should not replace a cane in these situations:

  • You need a cane for all walking
  • Outdoor walking is not a priority (short-distances only)
  • Cardiovascular exercise is not an option

Can Nordic Walking Poles Replace a Cane or Walker During Rehabilitation?

This is a question that should be answered by your doctor or physical therapist. Nordic walking poles come in pairs, allowing users to distribute their weight on two points, like a walker. Walkers allow users some room to lean—something Nordic walking poles don’t work for.

Nordic walking poles are, however, a great stepping stone for muscular or cardiovascular rehabilitation. Moving to Nordic walking poles instead of a cane during a rehabilitation process can improve overall fitness—something canes don’t do.

Rehabilitation covers a broad spectrum of physical injuries, so be sure to ask your care provider if Nordic walking poles are an option.

Will Nordic Walking Poles Help Before Surgery?

Nordic walking poles are a great option to strengthen your body before surgery. Just make sure you ask your doctor how much daily exercise your body can handle.

Keeping stress and weight off a knee or hip before surgery can be beneficial to your overall recovery. Risking reinjury or exacerbating a torn muscle or ligament is the last thing you want to do.

Nordic walking poles offer balance, stability, and reduced impact on your body while walking. Keeping your body as healthy as possible before surgery should be a priority. Making your pre-surgery walks or workouts easier and safer should be something to consider.

How Do Nordic Walking Poles Work?

Nordic walking technique is very simple. Start by taking a few steps at your desired pace, while letting the poles drag behind you. When you achieve your desired speed, plant the poles at the same angle you let them drag at. Walk normally—alternate the poles as you step forward.

Walking with Nordic walking poles should feel natural and you should look like you’re skiing—without the skis! Here are two detailed sources on ‘how to Nordic walk’:

Nordic Walking: Where You Should Start

Your doctor or physical therapist. I’m going to repeat this again—I need to sound like a broken record as this is very important! All medical equipment use for rehabilitation or post-op purposes should be discussed with a licensed medical professional before use.

If you are just looking to get some exercise in (no injuries or surgeries), Nordic walking poles are available at many medical and some sports retailers. Just be sure to find the best poles for your needs!

How Much Do Nordic Walking Poles Cost?

Nordic walking poles are sold in pairs and range from $100-$200.

There are always exceptions to general price ranges, but most major brands sell their standard poles in the $100-$200 range.

Nordic Walking Poles at Oswald’s

We are always looking for viable alternative care options here at Oswald’s Pharmacy and Medical Equipment. One size does not fit all when it comes to medical equipment.

We currently carry Nordic walking poles from Urban Poling. They have a lot of interesting articles related to Nordic walking helping with injuries, exercise, rehab, and senior living. If you are looking for a specific topic, Urban Poling probably has it covered.

If you want to try out Nordic walking poles or have more questions, feel free to stop by our Medical Equipment Showroom. We are open 7 days a week and our expert team is always happy to answer your questions.

If you can’t make it in, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call. We’d love to hear your questions about any medical equipment-related issues.

Written by Wil Anderson

Wil has been working for Oswald's since 1994. A 6th generation member of the Wickel-Oswald-Kester-Anderson family, Wil focuses on web development, inventory, and sales. With over 10 years of experience selling durable and home medical equipment, Wil is an expert on helping people find what they need to use after major surgery or an accident. Wil graduated with a BA in English Literature from Knox College in 2008, minoring in History. A graduate of Naperville North High School in 2004, Wil is a lifelong Naperville resident and is currently a columnist for Positively Naperville.