Welcome to our best trail running poles buyer’s guide which features the top lightweight trekking poles for trail runners, ultrarunners, and fastpackers. If you’re training for a mountain race and think you’ll be needing poles on race day too, then you’ve come to the right place.
Looking for hiking poles instead? See our roundup of the best trekking poles for hiking buyer’s guide.
Generally, I would recommend going for the lightest running poles you can afford, which are typically made from carbon (rather than aluminum). Consider folding/collapsible poles too, if you plan to stow them in a running hydration vest while not in use.
If you’re short on time, my top pick all-round favorite trail running poles are the Black Diamond Distance Z and the LEKI Ultratrail FXOne Superlight – both are outstanding lightweight folding poles for running.
All poles in this list are made from carbon and have a foldable/collapsible mechanism because I believe the best running poles should have these features as standard.
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This guide is regularly updated so remember to bookmark this page and check back before buying your next pair of trail running or hiking poles.
What are the benefits of using trail running poles?
Below are some of the main reasons why you may want to consider using poles while running.
- They make light work of uphill climbs on steep (eg mountainous) trails.
- They save your legs on long, hilly races.
- They allow you to get into a rhythm!
- They help with balance on steep descents by allowing you to probe for stable ground.
- They allow for space (and self) preservation during busy races.
RUNNING WITH POLES GUIDE: If you haven’t used trail running poles before, have a read of our Trail Running with Poles advice guide which explains in-depth, how best to use them while running in the mountains, plus their pros and cons.
Also, if you’re fairly new to trail running, you may find our beginner’s guide to trail running a helpful read.
It’s not just trail runners that can benefit from cutting down on the overall weight of their poles and other gear that gets carried over the trails and mountain passes!
If you’ve arrived at this page because you are looking for some new lightweight trekking poles for hikes including thru-hiking and fastpacking, then you’ve come to the right place.
Some lightweight poles that are marketed to, or suitable for trail runners, are referred to by stores and brands as being lightweight hiking poles (or sometimes also ‘lightweight trekking poles’).
This is changing, however, as the sport skyrockets in growth, and you’ll usually find us calling them ‘trail running poles’ most of the time given that we are typically using them for mountain running.
These trail running poles are therefore also great for hiking if keeping the overall weight of your hiking gear is a concern.
For more on hiking, including our full-day hiking gear checklist, read our hiking for beginners guide next (link opens in a new tab).
What to consider when choosing hiking or trail running poles
- Weight – Go for hiking poles that are as lightweight as you can afford.
- Durability – When running with hiking poles, they can get bashed
- Length – As a general guide, while holding the pole with your arm at your side and elbow at a 90-degree angle, your forearm should be parallel the ground. Have your shoes on while measuring.
- Folding or fixed length – this list includes only folding hiking poles, as we consider these to be the best options for trail and ultrarunning.
Now that you know what to look out for in terms of features, you’re ready to learn about what I consider to be the best trail running poles right now.
The best trail running poles for mountain running
1. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
Shop at REI
Shop at Amazon
Weight: 10 oz. (pair)
At less than 10 oz. for a pair, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles are the gold standard for lightweight, collapsible trail running poles which is why they earn the ‘best trail running poles’ title.
Similar to the other best running poles on this list, the Distance Carbon Z poles are made with carbon, which is why they’re so lightweight.
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They are also designed to fold up into 3 small pieces, which is important if you need to store them back in your hydration packwhile not in use.
Black Diamond‘s latest Distance Carbon Z’s joint support has been further improved, making them 30% stiffer, and they’re now more durable with reinforcements around the locking mechanism and upper shaft.
There are also non-scarring rubber tips and a lightweight EVA foam grip. With a reasonable price point too, these are our current top pick for the best lightweight running poles.
These Black Diamond poles are also very popular with backpackers and hikers due to their strength, lightweight, and how easily they store them in a backpack when not in use.
2 new from $189.95
|$139.73 out of stock
Last Amazon price update was: 8th August 2023 11:31 am
2. LEKI Ultratrail FXOne Superlite
Shop at Amazon
Weight: 9.6 oz. (pair)
These Leki trekking poles are specifically designed for trail running, and are great for quick transitions when running long, ultra-distance races or for lightweight hiking trips.
The Ultratrail FXOne also happens to be the lightest pole on this list, weighing in at only 9.6 ounces for a pair.
The push-button breaks down the poles quickly and once you stow them away in your bag they’ll weigh even less than your water.
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The breathable, lightweight mesh in the wrist strap offers support and closes around the hand securely so you can focus more on the terrain and less on your grip as you maneuver on scree and technical steeps.
Whether you’re training for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), or another mountain race of that caliber, or maybe the local steeplechase you don’t want your trekking poles weighing you down, weighing in at under 10 ounces, these certainly won’t!
These are a really popular choice amongst ultra trail runners right now.
2 new from $239.95
Last Amazon price update was: 8th August 2023 11:31 am
3. KOMPERDELL Carbon Ultralite Vario 4
Weight: 12 oz. (pair)
The Komperdell Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 Compact trekking poles have a four-section folding system that minimizes extra material and allows the pole to pack down to just over a foot in length, excellent for storage!
And at just over six ounces per pole, the Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 is Komperdell’s lightest running pole, so it won’t weigh you down on ultramarathons or multi-day treks.
Carbon keeps these hiking poles light, yet extremely stiff for reliable support. Carbon is also corrosion resistant which means these poles, as with the others on this list, won’t stick when you’re trying to adjust them.
The padded straps and extended handles will help you keep a secure, comfortable grip on steep and rocky sections, which is really important when navigating technical terrain.
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The tungsten and carbide tip is also hard enough to use on tough glacier snow and packed dirt trails, while the Ice Flex baskets will prevent your poles from sinking too deep.
UPDATE: – These Komperdell running sticks are not currently widely available, we’ll be updating this post soon when new ultralight folding trail running poles come on the market – if you want to be notified when this post is updated, as well as when new posts are published, subscribe to our newsletter!
4. REI Co-op Flash Carbon
Shop at REI
Weight: 13.6 oz. (pair)
These REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking poles are ideal for quick-moving trips along troublesome trails.
They are lightweight, easily adjustable in length, and have versatile grips that fit a variety of hand positions.
Constructed with a 3-section design that offers just enough sturdiness, these poles collapse down rather than fold which means they don’t go as short in length when collapsed, so check your running hydration pack can carry these before purchasing.
The handle grips are nice and light and are made from breathable EVA foam, while the adjustable wrist straps help you control your poles.
The REI Co-Op Flash Carbon is a great entry-level running pole.
I hope you enjoyed reading this best trail running poles buyer’s guide, if you have any questions, please drop me a comment below.