IMHO poles have their place in many but not all situations. They are certainly a blessing for people with chronic injuries as they take stress off the feet, knees, hips and to some extent the back. They have probably saved my bacon in a few stream crossings. And they make such good tent poles.......

But they do have a downside. Some will argue that they damage trails but my main concern is this: For healthy people, overuse of poles can be counterproductive in the long run. They take away the job of many accessory muscles that stabilize the lower extremities and contribute to balance. Their use is not part of a natural gait. Yes, they take the load off the quads and the gluteals (thigh and butt muscles) on long hills, but those same groups need to stressed in order to develop.

I don't believe that heavy use of poles by beginners, especially those who are not in shape, is a good thing. Not to imply that the O.P. is necessarily out of shape <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> But I do believe that a good sense of balance and accessory muscle development can be hampered by the use of poles.

The more you use poles, the more you will depend on them. And then what happens if you lose them or they break? When I used to work in physical therapy, a good doctor would always get patients off crutches, walkers or canes as soon as possible. Why? Read the above.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-pole. Personally, I usually take them along (see my av) but actually use them only on long climbs, unstable terrain, stream crossings or when my legs are absolutely shot.