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Ataxia UK
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Walking poles

Dear all

I have an idiopathic cerebellar ataxia. I am looking to purchase some walking poles. I was thinking about Leki Nordic Walking poles but there is so much choice, I am a little confused and overwhelmed! Any advice would be very much appreciated...

Thank you in anticipation.


14 Replies

Good Morning Harriet :)

They do look good. Having never used walking poles myself, I can't give you any first-hand advice. But there are a few things to consider that might influence your decision.

I've been thinking about walking poles, as a next step (before proper elbow crutches). Having used a solid stick for a while, a few things came to mind:

Are they telescopic (fold/collapse)?

One of the biggest inconveniences I have using a stick is what to do with it when I need my hands free.

As I always need one hand free for support, I need the other hand to do whatever it is I have to do. So that means putting the stick somewhere. And it is a real annoyance sometimes. I've even thought about drilling holes in it for handle straps that I can put round my wrists - and just let the stick hang - leaving that hand free. But the stick is not mine - and I doubt it would be appreciated.

The other thing to consider is weight.

A stick doesn't weigh much it's true. But when you have to carry it for any length of time, every ounce counts.


Iain :)


Hi Iain

the poles are light and have wrist straps attached as they are an integral part of using them. I think they are a great training aid for learning how to wlk with ataxia. they are all telescopic, even my cheap ones, and go quite small when fully telescoped in.

Wobbliness comes from two places, the inner ear and the hips/pelvis. Using the poles helped me lengthen my stride and supported me in also widening it slightly. This gives the hips and pelvis a good work out and builds strength.

I found it quite tiring at first, but with persistence it means I mostly don't use them for walking into town.


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I've tried using walking poles, but just around the garden. Posture and gait were better😊 I did feel more confident having support in both hands.

For most outings I use either a walking stick or a rollator, depending on how I feel on that particular occasion.

Using a rollator does free the mind but it can be one of those things that you feel lost

without😏 xB


Hi Harriet

I bought some poles from Go outdoors. They were about £3.00 each! The real nordic ones are a lot more expensive.

My cheap purchase was an experiment to see if they would help. They changed my gait by lengthening my stride and gave me some steadying influnce in their own right. If we go out for a walk with the dog I take them. Otherwise I remember to lengthen my stride and keep my gait hip distance wide at least. They certainly helped me to adjust my gait to suit my wobbliness.

There are lots of youtube videos on how to use nordic poles, worth watching to get the idea as they are not used how I would have expected.



Are they not in danger of breaking when, because of ballance loss, you lean on one of them whith all your weight?


Hi. Harriet

I tried sticks sometime ago and broke two sets so tried elbow crutches which I find much better. I try to go out twice a day and the crutches have saved many a fall. I walk in some woods (slowly!!) and obviously there are tree roots etc which I have to watch out for

Hope you find the right thing

Best wishes. Ted


Anyone else singing the praises of quad sticks, the stick with four feet at the bottom? They come in various size 'feet' so some are more cumbersome than others, it's really about trial and error.

I used one for about 3 years, maybe longer, and it gave me confidence to keep my balance much more than a regular stick does. Conveniently, they stand alone and don't ever need propping up for others to trip over...

Mine is pink with a super ergonomic handle, got it from Amazon.com straight from the States for around £25 all in.

Time has moved on for my condition and I found that I was leaning too heavily into the stick to maintain balance, so much so that my shoulder became damaged , the stick took all the strain no problem. The bonus while using it was that I could get to the local shop and buy a bag of groceries unaided, using my free hand to carry the shopping.

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Leki are brand leader and the best. Trekking poles are for balance only not support. After use split the pole apart and air dry it. This is crucial and must be done or pole will lock solid.

Do not lubricate anywhere.

Trekking poles might be more acceptable in public. Crutches or a walker say something about you.

Over time locking expander will become covered in aluminium oxide. This is okay. A quality pole is not anodised inside, bare metal inside.

Use the strap correctly like a XC skier. Rather than grip the handle, use the strap. When not in use, let them hang from my wrists. Numpties do not extend the bottom section fully. Feel free to ridicule them.

The main weight of a Leki trekking pole is the handle. Therefore the swinging moment is minimal. A rubber ferrule is just a silencer, for when walking stealthily, and not needed. Leki tungsten carbide tip is replaceable.

Leki come in 3 diameters to suit different weight people. Heavy taller people use original diameters which extend to greater length, lighter shorter people with smaller hands use Leki Ultralite range. Carbon fibre poles are lighter but get correct length.

Baskets are necessary to stop tip going too deep.

The original Leki locking mechanism (much copied) involves you gripping and rotating pole sections. An alternative locking mechanism uses a thumb lock. Try both.

Leki sell spare parts. The only part not replaceable is the handle attached to top section.

Buy a pair rather one, as you will never get another one to match. And have several in the house and more in the car. All mine have been found. People seam to abandon them in weird places! One pole is made from bits found.

To assess length needed, measure distance from elbow to ground, with forearm (elbow to wrist) horizontal. This is minimum. The tip will sink in soft ground up to 3 centimetres and pole section will fill to top of handle, so these can be ignored with initial purchase.

If you have big hands and are over 6 feet tall, use Leki originals with standard handles which extend to over 140 cms.

Can you tell I used to sell Leki trekking poles. We used to spend 30 minutes fitting poles to customer.

In use have forearm horizontal to avoid shoulder ache and inefficiency. Unlike XC skier and Nordic walking, poles hang vertical for stability. Diagonal gives propulsion.

Leki will out live other makes.

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Hi Harriet

I would try poles first to see if they suit you.I used them with my CA but only for a short while.I found with my Ataxia my balance deteriorated very quickly but everyone is different;many are still walking and use sticks,poles and canes.A lot seems to depend on how Ataxia affects you,what sort it is and what stage. I would consider these thins before reaching a decision or shelling out any dosh.I went to a walker which I used for about three years. I use aids to fit MY purpose which was outdoor walking and gardening. Now I have to adapt/find more sedentary pursuits.


I met someone at the Conference last week, sorry I didn't get his name, Hwe was enthusing about his Leki poles. He made the point strongly that one shuld have a brief training session or two with the people who run classes. He said it made all the difference. He found someone on the internet, They let him try some poles out and gave him instruction. He bought the poles from them and is delighted with the resultant mobility improvement. Good luck


Just joined and seen this, my only comment on metal walking poles is that they can transmit the impact of striking the ground straight to your elbows (especially if you're using them more for support than most). I'd use wood or heavy duty rubber ferrules.



Did you land up buying Leki or any walking poles? In health, N


Hi neta

I haven't got any poles yet. Since I wrote the post I have lost over stone in weight (intentionally) and started Pilates. Although I have not really noticed any difference in my balance, I am feeling much better in myself but walking poles must be next on the list. I just use one walking stick in my right hand at the moment which is not good for my posture and I am sure is not good for my right hip or right shoulder, both of which I get quite a lot of pain in.



I see. Good luck. I am dying to lose weight, N


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