Is it possible to reduce the knee joint compression force during level walking with hiking poles?

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Dec;21(6):e195-200. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01241.x. Epub 2010 Nov 18.


Walking with hiking poles has become a popular way of exercising. Walking with poles is advocated as a physical activity that significantly reduces the loading of the hip, knee and ankle joints. We have previously observed that pole walking does not lead to a reduction of the load on the knee joint. However, it is unclear whether an increased force transmitted through the poles can reduce the load on the knee joint. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to investigate if an increased load transmitted through the arms to the poles could reduce the knee joint compression force during level walking with poles. We hypothesized that an increased pole force would result in a reduction of the knee joint compression force. Gait analyses from 10 healthy subjects walking with poles were obtained. The pole force was measured simultaneously during the gait analyses. The knee joint compression forces were estimated by using a biomechanical knee joint model. The results showed that the subjects were able to increase the pole force by 2.4 times the normal pole force. However, this did not lead to a reduction in the knee joint compressive force and we rejected our hypothesis. In conclusion, the use of poles during level walking does not seem to reduce knee joint compressive loads. However, it is possible that the use of poles in other populations (e.g. osteoarthritis patients) and in terrain would unload the knee joint. This should be investigated in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / prevention & control
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Male
  • Protective Devices*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*