Outdoor Sports Blog gives the skinny on keeping your knees in shape for trail duty. One bullet item:

Use trekking poles, especially when hiking downhill. Trekking or Hiking Poles not only help to avoid or reduce knee pain when hiking but significantly improve you balance and stability and therefore safety.

Speaking of poles, the Outdoor Scotland blog notes that other brands might be just as good as your Leki’s for half the price.

My thoughts on hiking poles: they’re best on long hikes or when carrying heavy loads. They’re also handy for cardio conditioning — if you use them correctly. Most of the time, though, they’re just one more thing to carry or set aside to take a picture/drink/rest. They get tangled in the brush on narrow trails.

I splurged on top-of-the-line Leki poles last year (it was birthday money, so I gave myself a pricey present); they spend most of the time hanging in my closet, but not all the time.

I train without poles because I get more leg-muscle conditioning when my legs are carrying all the weight. After I first got mine, I trained on hills with poles every day for a couple weeks. First thing I noticed when I hiked without them was that my legs felt weaker than they’d been before I started using the poles. It’s almost as if my body was developing a pole dependency.

It’s good for your heart, knees and upper body to spread the work around by using poles; just keep in mind that if you’re training with poles, you might feel overly tired if you try to hike without them.

Poles are a great way to take the suffering out of long weekend hikes and overnighters. Your mileage may vary, of course.