Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether walking with poles reduces loading to the lower extremity during level over ground walking.
Methods: Three-dimensional gait analysis was conducted on 13 healthy adults who completed 10 walking trials using three different poling conditions (selected poles, poles back, and poles front) and without the use of poles (no poles). The inverse dynamics approach was used to calculate kinetic data via anthropometric, kinematic, and kinetic data.
Results: All walking with poles conditions increased walking speed (P = 0.0001-0.0004), stride length (P < 0.0001), and stance time (P < 0.0001) compared with the no poles condition. There also was a decrease in anterior-posterior GRF braking impulse (P = 0.0001), a decrease in average vertical GRF walking with poles (P < 0.0001-0.0023), and a decrease in vertical (compressive) knee joint reaction force (P < 0.0001-0.0041) compared with the no poles condition. At the knee, extensor impulse decreased a 7.3% between the no poles and selected poles conditions (P = 0.0083-0.0287) and 10.4% between the no poles and poles back conditions (P < 0.0001). The support moment was reduced between the no poles and poles back (P = 0.0197) and poles front (P = 0.0002) conditions. Ankle plantarflexor work (A2) was reduced in the poles-front condition (P = 0.0334), but no differences were detected in all other ankle, knee or hip power and work variables (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: There were differences in kinetic variables between walking with and without poles. The use of walking poles enabled subjects to walk at a faster speed with reduced vertical ground reaction forces, vertical knee joint reaction forces, and reduction in the knee extensor angular impulse and support moment, depending on the poling condition used.