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Try Something New: Nordic Walking for Beginners

Nordic Walking on a trail

Taking a walk is certainly nothing new. And using poles to aid the activity has been going on for quite a while, too! So it’s inevitable that a dedicated sport has evolved from these two ancient activities. Nordic Walking is exactly that: walking with poles. However, it was not formerly defined until 1979 and then later popularised in 1999.

Nordic Walking originated in the early 20th century in Finland and was developed as an off-season ski-training activity. Since then it has evolved into a mainstream fitness technique that is a complete body workout. It can burn up to 46% more calories than walking alone and it works and tones the muscles of both the upper and lower body. Additionally, Nordic Walking is the “fastest growing fitness activity in the world” according to Nordic Walking UK.

So if you’re thinking of trying something new this year then this guide to Nordic Walking for beginners will help you understand how to get started, what to expect from your first session, and basic Nordic Walking technique.

Who is Nordic Walking for?

It is estimated that more than ten million people globally enjoy Nordic Walking all year round. What makes it such a fast growing and popular activity is that it can be enjoyed by all ages and fitness levels. The nature of the movement, though repetitive, actually takes pressure off the joints and knees making it an ideal activity to start in later life.

That’s not to say that it’s not suitable for younger people. True to its roots, many downhill and and cross-country skiers use Nordic Walking as off-season training. And hundreds of social groups across the world have sprung up to encourage people to take up the sport, learn the technique and to offer companionship.

Where can you do Nordic Walking?

One of the best things about Nordic Walking is that it is an extremely accessible sport. It can be done anywhere where there is space to walk! That might be deep in the wilderness, the local park or along the streets. As long as you have poles and sturdy shoes there are no limits as to where you can do it.

The most common place to do it when you first start out, however, is in a park. This allows for space to learn the technique without crowding the pavements. And it is also requires a lot less commitment than doing it out in the wild.

How to get started

The best way to start Nordic Walking is to sign up to a course or taster session with a qualified instructor. They will have poles that you can use during the sessions and they will show you the basic techniques, correcting you as you walk. You local fitness gym may be able to advise about courses that are available. Or a quick internet search will most likely provide the information you are looking for. See the end of the article for more information on this.

Alternatively, you can try to teach yourself! You can pick up a pair of regular hiking poles or ski poles from a second hand store to start with. And then invest in ‘proper’ Nordic Walking poles further down the line.

Check out the video in the next section to learn some basic techniques that you can practice on your own.

How to use Leki poles for Nordic Walking

Leki are a brand that specialise in Nordic Walking poles. The word Leki is synonymous with Nordic Walking and many people think that it is a type of pole, rather than a brand. In short, they know their stuff about the sport! Take a look at their video which shows you how to set up your poles correctly with some basic walking techniques to get you started.

What to expect from your first time Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking is a natural enhancement to walking using specifically designed Nordic Walking poles in a learned technique. It’s a fluid, faster, more dynamic style of walking that uses the entire body to propel the walker.

Your first time trying out this technique may seem a little clunky and unnatural. You may feel like you should be putting lots of effort and force into the poles to propel yourself forward. But in actual fact very little extra effort is needed for the use of the poles to be effective.

Once you’ve gotten used to the action you will probably find that you can’t help but move faster than your usual walking pace. And you’ll also feel like you can walk for longer before you get fatigued.

What to wear Nordic Walking


Wearing clothes that are comfortable to move in is the most important thing to consider. Layered fitness clothing works well, as does anything you would wear hiking. For more information on this read our guide on what to wear hiking.

Avoid cotton as it is slow to dry and can become heavy and uncomfortable when wet, and be sure that your clothing will keep you warm enough if it’s cold out.


Even more important than your clothing is your footwear. Comfortable running shoes with a sturdy sole work well, as do lightweight walking shoes. It’s probably best to avoid heavy hiking boots to start with. If you end up heading into the mountains on Nordic Walking expeditions then you may want to consider boots. But even then sturdy trainers or shoes will be sufficient in most circumstances.

Nordic Walking gear

One of the great appeals with Nordic Walking as a recreational activity is the lack of gear needed. As a beginner it can be very off-putting to start a new activity that requires lots of expensive gear. All you need for Nordic Walking, however, is a pair of poles!

That said, as well as poles, Leki have also developed a couple of accessories that help to make trail time even more efficient and enjoyable:

  • Speed Spin poles

    Nordic Walking poles

    One of LEKI’s most popular Nordic Walking Poles is their unisex Spin Speed Lock – with high strength aluminium shafts, these durable poles are easily adjusted between 100cm to 130cm in length.

  • Pole pad

    End of pole tip/pad

    The new LEKI Smart Tip is a true multi-terrain marvel with a classy design for extra fun while Nordic Walking. The slip-proof pad ensures good traction on pavement surfaces and the integrated, telescopic carbide tip provides steady hold on meadows, mud and snow. It also features an improved pad profile and tool-less pad change.

  • Trigger Shark pole glove

    Glove-integrated strap

    LEKI’s innovative Trigger Shark technology offers a glove-integrated strap with LEKI’s revolutionary ‘Trigger Loop’ added. This enables walkers to quickly and easily click in and out, giving maximum security and power transmission as well as outstanding comfort.

Where to learn more about Nordic Walking

For more information on how to start Nordic Walking then your best option is to chat with your local fitness gym. They may already run a class that is suitable for beginners. And if not then they can probably point you in the right direction.

Otherwise, these websites are really useful to find instructors, groups, classes and information:

You can also take a read of our tips on how to use hiking poles, which uses many of the same principles.

About the author


Joey Holmes is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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