Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Deborah Madanayake


BACKGROUND & PURPOSE: Walking poles are becoming popular not only in younger populations, but also with older adults. Manufacturers are promoting the health benefits of walking poles and claim that they facilitate a more normal gait pattern and increase confidence with walking in older adults. There is a lack of evidence to support these claims. The purpose of this double-blinded randomized controlled trial involving community dwelling older adults is twofold: 1) to measure the impact of walking poles on gait speed, stride length, and fear of falling; and 2) to compare the impact of walking pole use between a structured pole training group and an unstructured pole training group. METHODS: Dynamic gait analysis was performed on 12 healthy subjects (mean age 84.5 +/- 9.5 years; 8 female/4 males) using a GAITRite® mat. To determine baseline, subjects performed three walking trials without walking poles. Subjects were then randomly assigned to one of two groups, either structured or unstructured, for training in the use of walking poles. The subjects then repeated three walking trials on the GAITRite® mat utilizing the walking poles. Gait speed, stride length, fear of falling, and global rating of change within and between groups was analyzed using paired t-tests, independent 2 sample t-tests, Spearman correlations and Pearson correlations. RESULTS: When comparing walking with and without walking poles, significant differences (p<0.05) were found within the unstructured training group with gait speed and stride length while no significant differences were found within the structured training group. No significant differences were found between training groups when comparing the amount of change in gait speed and stride length. A moderate inverse correlation was found between change scores of gait speed and fear of falling. CONCLUSION: Results did not support the hypothesis that the use of walking poles would impact gait speed, stride length, and fear of falling differently in subjects who participated in structured training as compared to those who did not participate in structured training. Regardless of the type of training, our research did not support advertisers’ claims that walking poles improve gait speed, stride length, or confidence with walking.