I have written this section for several reasons. I am often asked how nordic walking poles differ from ordinary walking/trekking poles. Clients often want to use their existing trekking poles when they first come. I have also had some clients who thought they were purchasing nordic walking poles but actually buying trekking/walking poles. Some vendors unfortunately produce misleading or ambiguous descriptions of products which make it hard for inexperienced nordic walkers to decide whether their poles are suitable.
I am not paid by any manufacturer to use their poles or promote their product, and I have tried out a number of different poles of different types and construction at my own expense. I have no financial interest in any manufacturer of poles. This is my honest opinion of what I have tried so far.
Nordic Walking poles are usually one-piece poles, specially designed for walking. There are a number of manufacturers making Nordic Walking poles, but they all have several characteristics in common:-
- They are very lightweight - much lighter than trekking poles, or poles sold as multi-purpose Nordic/Trekking/Walking poles on E-Bay, in magazines, newspapers or bargain shops. Most poles are made from carbon fibre or carbon fibre composite. Nordic Walking poles, with few exceptions are not made from aluminium, but most trekking/walking poles are.
- They have a special ergonomic glove-strap that is more like a small glove than a strap. Nordic Walking cannot be done correctly with a simple ski-pole like strap that is present on most walking/trekking poles. The design of this glove-strap differs between manufacturers but it will allow the pole to be attached to the hand securely, and allow adjustment to achieve the correct hand position. Without this type of glove-strap, you will not be able to plant, push or extent the arm and release the pole effectively.
- They are usually one-piece construction. Most trekking/walking poles are telescoping and have three or more sections. They are usually locked in place with a friction grip. This type of pole is generally not suitable for Nordic Walking. This is because the action of nordic walking is quite vigorous, unlike the use of trekking poles. This can lead to the friction lock working loose and thus the failure of the pole, causing injury. Also the pole is stressed and potentially weak at the junction points - aluminium is particularly susceptible to fatigue. This has led to pole breakage. Finally, the adjustment mechanism is very heavy, and the weight is distributed low down on the pole. This affects the balance and feel of the pole and makes correct technique difficult.
A one-piece carbon fibre pole will not break, and some manufacturers have a lifetime guarantee on their poles. Some manufacturers make telescopically adjusted poles for nordic walking. In general, these are for occasional use. I have used some and would not recommend them. One manufacturer (Leki) make carbon fibre nordic poles with a small element of adjustment in them, near the handle. These poles are very light, and because the adjustment weight is high up, doesn't affect the feel. The adjustment range is slight, and designed for instructors, who need a lot of poles of different sizes for clients. It might be useful where poles are shared within a family. However these poles are relatively expensive and Leki have had their locking mechanism safety checked and certified - cheap telescoping poles are not suitable for nordic walking.
- They have angled spikes and rubber feet - the nordic walking action results in the poles being held behind you at about 45 degrees. Good poles have both a spike (for soft ground) and rubber feet (for hard ground/tarmac) angled correctly to give good grip at the appropriate angle. Trekking/walking poles do not have angled feet or spikes, as they are designed to be placed in front of the individual for support. Use of trekking poles without angled spikes or feet will result in slipping of the pole when nordic walking is attempted.
- They don't have sprung shock absorbers - nordic walking poles are made of carbon fibre. Because of this, the material itself is intrinsically shock-absorbing and designed to be used for extended periods of time. Trekking poles are often equipped with sprung shock absorbers at or near the tip. These are present because the pole itself is made from unforgiving aluminium. They interfere with the nordic walking action because this relies on a strong pole plant - not possible if the pole is sprung at the end. Also it is very heavy and the weight is distributed towards the end of the pole - again, interfering with correct nordic walking technique.
- They will be described as nordic walking poles. Any pole that is described as a nordic/trekking pole or a nordic/walking/trekking pole will not be a nordic walking pole.
- Proper nordic walking poles will always have availability of spares - spare straps, handles, tips and rubber feet should be available from the shop or vendor from which you purchase them. One pair of rubber feet can last as little as 100 miles, depending on the surface you are using them on, and so if you are offered a kit with one or two spare pairs, but no other source of spares, then the poles will not last you very long.
Nordic walking poles are usually made by ski pole manufacturers - people who make poles for alpine or cross-country skiing will usually have adapted these poles for nordic walking by providing appropriate hard tips, rubber feet, grips and so on. The manufacturers I have found making nordic walking poles are
- Sport-Teijde (German online retailer own brand)
There may be others, but these are the ones I have found to date. All of these manufacturers, with the exception of Sport-Teijde, are manufacturers of ski poles.
In contrast there are hundreds of branded and unbranded trekking poles available on the market, some at extremely cheap prices.
One slight potential for confusion is that Leki in particular make and sell in the UK both high quality walking/trekking poles and nordic walking poles. This makes it easy to buy Leki poles thinking they are suitable for nordic walking, but actually be buying trekking poles. It is therefore very important to ask at the shop about suitability.
Nordic walking poles are being advertised very widely. Poles described as nordic walking poles, or nordic/trekking/hiking poles are available on the internet, on EBay, from high street stores, from magazines and colour supplements, free from newspapers, from petrol stations, from bargain stores. Prices range from around £15 a pair right up to over £100 a pair. It is very easy to buy what you think is a bargain and end up having wasted your money, so here are my tips to help you avoid pitfalls.
Ask your instructor what to look for when buying poles - but beware! Some instructors are tied into the use of poles by a particular manufacturer, and act as pole resellers for a single manufacturer. If in doubt, ask your instructor whether they are tied in to the use of any particular poles. Nordic Walking UK instructors are free to use and recommend any type of pole.
Buy from a shop that specialises in outdoor equipment sales - look at what the shop you are proposing to use specialises in selling, whether in the high street or online. Do they really know what they are selling, or is it one of many different lines? Can you talk to somebody about what they are selling? In general you will get better advice and product descriptions from people who are experienced in outdoor pursuits, and know about nordic walking than from people who are general sellers.
Talk to somebody at the shop - whether an online retailer or in a shop. Do they know the product and its suitability? Can they explain the difference between nordic and trekking poles? If they can't, you may be led into buying something inappropriate.
Ask about availability of spares - if you can't buy spares from the shop, why not? Is it because they aren't available. Remember, if you wear out all your rubber feet in two months, then your £15 pair of poles doesn't look such a good bargain. Likewise if you break the tip - can it be replaced? Can you replace worn gloves? This may not matter if you are willing to part with a few quid to try it out, but if you want poles that will last you, then think seriously about spares.
Look for the points I've raised above - nordic walking poles should be described only as nordic walking poles, not as nordic/trekking/hiking/walking poles. They should be one-piece construction (or specialist two-piece design as in the Leki Vario poles). They should not be made from aluminium because of the risk of failure, and should not be telescopic. They should have a special glove-strap allowing a tight fit to the handle - a simple ski strap is not sufficient. They should have an ergonomic grip. They should not have a shock absorber. The tip and rubber foot should be angled. Spares should be available. If they don't have these things, then walk away.
Look at the price - UK RRP for most nordic walking poles from reputable manufacturers is usually between £40 and over £100, with basic good quality pairs available at £60 to £70. It is possible to get good quality poles from discount sellers such as Sport-Teijde (in Germany) a bit cheaper than this - around £30 to £100 a pair. Any cheaper than this, and what you are buying is either not a nordic walking pole, or a low quality pole more suitable for having a go - to use a few times to decide whether you want to buy something more expensive. I'd say if it costs £30 or less for a pair it isn't a proper nordic walking pole. You may, however, be asked for more than £30 for something unsuitable, and Sport-Teijde have genuine nordic poles available slightly under £30.
Be very wary on E-Bay and other online multi-purpose non-specialist retailers. There are some genuine nordic walking poles available on EBay, Amazon and so forth, but many poles described as nordic/trekking/hiking poles too - and they aren't suitable for nordic walking. If in doubt, only buy from the reputable manufacturers I mentioned above (Leki, Exel, Fischer, Swix, Sport-Teijde, Komperdell). However, if you use an online retailer who specialises in outdoor equipment and can talk to you on the phone about your requirements, then you should get good, suitable poles.
Look at how many accessories come with it - poles that are not suitable for nordic walking, but sold as multi purpose or nordic/trekking poles usually come with a range of accessories - different feet, clips, straps, baskets, handles, pedometers and so on. A proper nordic walking pole already comes with everything it needs to be used straight out of the packaging. If the seller feels the need to throw in a lot of bits and pieces, then they are not selling proper nordic walking poles.
This is an example of a pole described as a nordic walking pole, but unsuitable for nordic walking. There are many others.
The best way to decide this is to ask your instructor. Every manufacturer has a pole-buying guide that differs in the size recommended, and in my experience, poles described as a single length (eg 105cm) actually differ in length by up to 2cm at the point at which the strap joins the handle (i.e. the actual functional length).
Another good way to decide what poles to buy is to stand in your walking shoes with your feet together and elbows tucked in to your waist. Holes your poles by the handles as you would when walking, but with the poles perpendicular to the ground. Your elbow should make an angle of about 90 degrees. If it isn't bent enough, the poles are too short, if it is bend too much, they are too long. My general view is that most people who fall between two lengths of pole are more comfortable and can get better technique if they opt for the shorter of the two lengths. However you may want to go with the longer length if you are doing a lot of uphill work, are very fit, or if they feel more comfortable.
Your instructor should allow you to try out more than one length if you're not sure, to decide which suits you.
If you really do want to buy without first seeking instruction, then have a look at my pole size calculator (xls) . This is based on the handle height on Exel poles and may not be correct for other manufacturers' poles - I have found it OK for Leki poles, but Fischer poles come up a bit shorter so you may need a longer pole than this spreadsheet suggests. Leki themselves tend to recommend slightly shorter poles than this spreadsheet, although I'm not sure why, as I've found their poles to be pretty similar in length and feel to Exel. For this reason, I would not buy poles without trying them first.
If you fall between sizes, and in particular in the height category highlighted on my spreadsheet, I'd strongly recommend trying both shorter and longer poles before buying and if you must buy without trying, go with the shorter pole.
These reviews are based upon my personal opinion only, based upon my own use of these poles in teaching and for my own use. I have no connection with any manufacturer or reseller of poles, and this is based upon my personal impression and on comments of my family and clients who have used them. I was not given any poles to review, and all poles used and reviewed were bought at my own expense.
The Exel Trainer pole is a mid-range pole from Exel, and the lowest priced pole that they offer that comes with a lifetime guarantee for the shaft. Cheaper poles are available, but they are not guaranteed not to break. For this reason, plus the good deal I could get when purchasing instructor poles, I am using Exel Trainer poles for teaching Nordic Walking classes.
Handle - the handle is ergonomic and there is a left and right side. This means that the handle fits into the hand better than any other I have used, adapting to the natural geometry of each hand. It is made of plastic, and in general doesn't feel so nice in the hand as cork (although I believe a cork variant is available). When used on a dusty half-marathon, the dust tended to stick to the handle and I got a blister through abrasion with my thumb. The handle also has a little flange at the bottom, allowing you to push with the medial side of your hand, and this provides security when pushing. It is a very good feature of the handle design. Overall, I think this is the best designed handle, but not the best feeling handle I've used, thanks to the plastic material.
Glove-strap - Exel make a variety of different straps, and the one supplied does not employ a thumb strap. There are pros and cons to the thumb strap design. It does give an excellent feel when pushing back on the pole, and it is generally easier to get your head round how the pole fits on your hand. However, for longer walks it does abrade the skin between thumb and forefinger (at least the ones I've tried out do). The Exel strap is made of coolmax, and is extremely comfortable over very long periods of time. It washes very well. The velcro is a bit fierce and you have to be careful to fasten it fully or it will snag on your clothes. However it is also very secure. It looks like a bit of a cat's cradle when trying to put it on, and this is not so easy for beginners. Adjustment on the model I have is very simple - pull up on the loop to loosen the yellow plug, adjust length, then push the yellow plug back in. You have to be careful to ensure the plug is central, or the strap will slip, but the plug is part of the handle, and so can't drop out and get lost, as on previous versions.
Shaft - the shaft is carbon composite, and of average lightness. I can detect no appreciable difference between the trainer pole and the more expensive Extreme pole in use. The pole is well balanced.
Tip- the tip is angled backwards, and seems extremely durable. I haven't had to replace mine despite very high and hard mileage. The tip grips well in grass and mud, on gravel and on hardpack and tarmac, but is noisy and clattery on gravel, hardpack and tarmac - it is the noisiest pole I have used, unfortunately. The basket usefully has a pointed side and a rounded side, which makes it easy to locate the rubber pad when putting it back on.
Rubber foot - The angle is perfect on this foot, and it provides a large contact area. Unfortunately I have found the quality of the pads to vary from batch to batch. The batch with which the poles were initially supplied provided very poor grip on anything other than perfectly dry tarmac, and also wore down very quickly thanks to the poor grip (which meant it slipped and wore away a lot). Subsequent batches have had much better grip and much better wear. Overall, I'd say this is a good design.
Overall feel and value - a really nice, light pole with a good swing, and a good ergonimic grip and strap arrangement. Positives are the extremely good grippy and durable tip and for the second batch, very good grippy rubber feet. I think this is the best all-round pole at the price that I've used.
Rating Quality:**** Rating Value for Money *****
This pole is identical to the Exel Trainer pole with the exception of the shaft. The shaft is 100% (rather than 45%) carbon fibre, and as such is slightly ligher and slightly more shock-absorbing. In normal use for walks up to 2 hours, I don't think this is noticeable, but on more challenging terrain and for longer walks, it is noticeable, and I would choose the Extreme pole. As such the Extreme pole is better for heavy use than the Trainer pole, but if you aren't doing serious miles (over 100 miles a month) or challenging terrain, then I'd save the money and go with the Trainer pole, as the Extreme pole is pretty pricey. I bought it because it was orange!
Rating Quality:***** Rating Value for Money ***
Leki Traveller Folding
Handle - the handle of this Leki pole is cork, and has a nice feel, but is straight and feels less natural in the hand than the "sided" Exel handles. It is in particular harder to grip fully through the whole push cycle when using stages 5 to 10 of nordic walking fitness technique - you tend to let go earlier in the push and thus lose some of the advantage of the push phase in terms of work and calorie burning. The poles I have are equipped with the 2nd generation trigger mechanism, which allows the glove-strap to completely release from the pole at the push of a button. This is OK, but it means the strap cannot be adjusted as close to the handle as I would like for good nordic walking technique.
Glove-strap - this is completely separable and this is definitely good when you have to take the pole off quickly e.g. to push a pedestrian crossing button, or assist somebody. It isn't made of such a nice coolmax material as the Exel strap, and feels quite hot and clammy when used in hotter weather. It is also quite a tight fit when wearing a glove in winter. It actually feels quite stiff on the hand, and the fact that the strap can't achieve as close a fit as desired to the strap means it moves around a lot. I feel it abrade my hand after a short walk - maybe an hour or more and that is enough. It has a thumb strap design, and this is less comfortable for me, but you can get a very secure push back through the strap.
Shaft - the shaft is three-piece telescoping aluminium. This is one of the few true telescoping nordic walking poles made, and I can see why they aren't used much. It is VERY heavy compared to non-telescoping poles. A carbon fibre version is made, but this is still comparatively heavy. It also feels as if the balance is low down on the pole compared to one-piece poles and in consequence, it isn't easy to get a full nordic walking technique going. Heavy poles are only an advantage in high winds. The locking mechanism is good - one of the best - but I have still had it work loose when pushing with my modest weight. It is also very easy to inadvertently loosen the pole when wiggling the rubber foot to release it.
Tip - the tip on Leki poles is not angled, and although it provides good grip on mud hardpack, gravel and grass, this isn't as secure as the angled tip on Exel poles and it does slip more. It is also quite noisy, although not as noisy as Exel poles, when used on hardpack and tarmac. It doesn't have a directional point, but this is probably because the poles rotate to lock, so it wouldn't be helpful. It is difficult to get the pads properly aligned when removing and replacing them though.
Rubber Foot - the rubber foot on Leki poles is angled, but has a relatively small contact patch. However, it does have deep ridges in the rubber and I have found it to have very good grip on dry and damp tarmac. It is also very shock absorbing, without being too springy. I haven't used it in pouring rain. Overall, I'd say this is the best rubber foot I've used. It seems to wear relatively slowly compared to Exel rubber feet. I wish it had a larger area and then it would be perfect.
Overall feel and value - these poles are very expensive, feel much less good when compared to one piece poles, and I think they represent poor value for money. My main reason for purchasing them was for carrying on a bicycle or motorcycle, where longer poles are impractical. I would also use them for the very occasional very tall client I teach, and the very occasional very short client, thanks to the range of adjustment - it would be uneconomical to buy one piece poles at 100cm or 135cm just for the rare occasion they are needed.
Rating Quality:** Rating Value for Money *
Leki Vario Speed Pacer
Handle - this is slighty different to the Leki Traveller, accommodating the 3rd generation trigger mechanism. It is made of plastic and cork and has a nice feel, but again, is straight and doesn't have a little flange or shelf which aids in the pushing action. The glove-strap is much closer to the handle on this design, which improves the nordic walking action greatly over the previous incarnation. It has a sharp point, probably as a result of being identical to cross country ski poles, where aerodynamics are important. However I think this is a potential hazard, and don't like it, despite the fact it looks pretty.
Glove-strap - this is lighter than the previous edition although not as light or smooth as the Exel strap. It is also a bit small to wear with a glove. It has a thumb strap, but because this is closer to the handle, is much more comfortable, and I haven't experienced any of the abrasion I have with other thumb straps. I haven't used it in very hot weather. Clients think it is much easier to put on, take off and use than the Exel strap, and overall, I think this is the best strap I've used. The trigger mechanism works very well, and I'd like all poles to have this because of the time wasted in classes with clients taking off and replacing poles to blow their noses etc!
Shaft - the shaft is two piece carbon fibre. There is a small amount of adjustment (105 to 115cm) right under the handle, with a very secure locking mechanism that feels more convincing than on the traveller. The weight of this is high up, and although it does affect the feel of the pole, this is very slight, and wouldn't be noticed in normal use. It is a little heavier than an equivalent one-piece Exel pole. In use, it has good shock absorption and feels nice and well balanced in the hand over a walk of 1-2 hours. I bought this pole because I sometimes run out of poles 105 to 115cm long, and I could either buy one of these as an extra or three single length poles - so I chose the Vario. It has proved a good compromise.
Tip - the tip is the same as the traveller, detailed above.
Rubber foot - the rubber foot is the same as the traveller, detailed above.
Overall feel and value - overall, this pole has a very good feel. I really like the glove-strap and feel of the handle, if only this also had an ergonomic curvature. I think the trigger mechanism in this incarnation is very good. The adjustability of the pole is helpful for an instructor, although for an individual buying their own poles is not necessary and I would go for a single length pole. It is light enough, despite the adjustment, and the weight balance remains good. It is relatively expensive compared to one single length pole, but good value for an instructor looking to have flexibility. It might be good if poles are shared in a family.
Rating Quality:**** Rating Value for Money *** (but would be **** for an instructor)
Handle - The handle is cork, and has a very pleasant feel - the best of the poles I've tried so far. However it is straight, and lacks the flange/shelf to provide impetus to the push. The adjustment mechanism for the strap is poor - pull up on the loop, and a little plug pops out, so you can adjust the strap length. OK, but the little plug is dark brown and often ends up on the floor - not good. It is hard to push in, and I've had the strap slip because it wasn't fully engaged. In winter when people are constantly putting on or taking off gloves and adjusting the strap, this is not helpful, particularly in a class situation. It is probably the least good handle design, but once in place feels as good as the Leki, possibly a bit better.
Glove-strap - the glove strap is a thumb strap design, without the advantage of the trigger mechanism used on the Leki poles. As it is quite wide at the point the hand grips the handle, abrasion could be an issue in the summer or on longer walks, but I've only used this in winter with gloves so far. It is a nice feeling light material, and other than the width between thumb and forefinger is the most comfortable thumb-strap design I've used, with a nice sturdy support for the palm. It is a bit small when used with another glove in winter. The glove-strap is made by Salomon, not Fischer.
Shaft - the shaft is absolutely stunning. This is 100% air carbon and unbelieveably light. It also looks superb in black and silver. Handling is outstanding, and it is very easy to get a really good nordic walking technique right up to stage 10, although the straight handles mean you tend to release a bit early. Nevertheless this is what I think all nordic poles should feel like. It was a revelation to me when I first used it. The only downside is in strong winds it blows about and can trip you up. A small price to pay for what is a truly exceptional pole.
Tip - the tip is angled steel and has a clever design - it is angled appropriately and provides superb grip on all surfaces, and because it is quite slim, isn't as noisy as others when used on tarmac. Even more clever is the way it pokes through the foot - so if you get grip with the rubber, fine, if not, it slips back slightly and the metal tip will grip. In practice this means you can usually leave the foot on, and have reasonable grip on all surfaces without fiddling around removing and replacing pads. I'd only take them off it I were walking for a long distance on gravel or grass. A good, clever design.
Rubber foot - the rubber foot is small, hard and has poor grip compared with the other manufacturers' feet. The clever design somewhat compensates for this, but it isn't nearly as good as the other designs on dry tarmac. Unfortuantely I spend a fair bit of time walking on tarmac. Nevertheless, it is OK, and the spike will retrieve a slip. I haven't had it long, but think it will wear out quickly because of the slippage, and the supplier now say they can't get spares, although they were available when I ordered the poles. I hope this will be remedied. Better rubber would make this a much better all round pole. For off-tarmac it is still very good.
Overall feel and value - this pole is beautiful to use. It would be perfect if it had an ergonomic handle and a better rubber foot. I'd still choose this above any other I've used so far for off-road or variable terrain walks, purely for the superb spike tip and the sublime balance and feel. It is not widely available in the UK, but was pretty good value considering the exceptional quality of the shaft through Sport-Teijde in Germany.
Rating Quality:***** Rating Value for Money **** (would be ***** if spares available)
Leki Silent Spike Pad
This is an attempt to make an all-round rubber pad for a pole that removes the need to remove and replace rubber pads when changing terrain. It consists of a standard Leki rubber pad with smaller metal spikes mounted on the bottom. My impression is that it is a compromise. If making a noise on gravel or hardpack bothers you, or other people in the countryside, then this is the quietest method of getting a moderate grip you can get. It isn't silent, but you can talk to the person next to you without hearing the poles clatter. It doesn't provide great grip, just OK grip - better than a rubber pad on hardpack but not as good as a spike. It also doesn't provide good grip on wet grass (it slips - it simply isn't beefy enough), or on dry tarmac (again, it slips - you need a proper rubber pad here). If you are pushing hard, using vigorous technique, I couldn't find any surface on which it provided enough grip. For most health/lower level fitness walking it provides OK grip on all surfaces without making much noise. As such it is a useful compromise. It is best on hardpack and wet tarmac (where little else works).
This is a little gizmo that fits onto the shaft of a nordic walking pole, onto which you can fix your rubber pads when you take them off. It fits all makes of pad, although I haven't used it with the Fischer pads, and I suspect they are a bit small to fit properly. The manufacturer suggest you mount it with the holding spike facing towards you on the shaft. However doing this means the pad sometimes hooks in your clothing and falls off. The alternative front-facing mountin means if your pad isn't really securely pushed onto the padhalter it will also fall off, and can still snag on your clothes if you are really going for it. I've lose a few pads from the padhalters, but this is probably cancelled out by not having clients go home with them in their pockets at the end of the walk. It cuts down on the time taken to put pads on and take them off in a class, and for that reason they are probably a good buy.
Knog Frog Lights
Walking in the winter gloom through tunnels, gloomy forests, on shared cycle tracks, I felt the need for a light on my pole, even in daytime. I couldn't find anything small or light enough until I spied the Knog Frog light at the Cycle Show. These are tiny LED lights, red or white, that have continuous or flashing mode, and use a CR2032 battery. They have a silicon rubber case that merges into a band with a hook that fits round the shaft of the poles. To make them secure I used cable ties, but you may not have to do this. Being light, they don't affect the balance of the poles if mounted near the handle. Clients seemed to like them, and they provide enough light to be seen by, but not really to see, so are better on lit paths, or just to ensure you are seen by approaching cyclists and horses. They are usually around £5 to £6, but look around. They come in a lot of funky colours. Fun and functional.
These are links to suppliers I have used and found to be knowledgeable, helpful and offer a good price or good service, or both.
Sport-Teijde - a German online sports megastore that supplies the best price on nordic walking poles I have been able to find. Stockists of Exel, Leki, Swix, Fischer and their own brand poles. Be careful to pick the correct model, as they also clear previous years' models where the handle or strap design may differ. Really helpful and friendly. The web site sometimes reverts to German, but you can usually get by, and pick up the phone if you need to talk to them. You cannot use a credit card, and therefore have to pay by phone or using bank transfer.
Barefoot Studio - very helpful and knowledgeable stockists of Leki and Exel poles in the UK. Pay full UK RRP but benefit from their expertise. Also do lots of other accessories including shoes, bags and clothing.
Sheactive - a great site for female-specific sports clothing, and stockists of Exel poles, but a tad pricey. However very knowledgeable and helpful.
Wiggle.co.uk - an online cycling and sports superstore. I've used them extensively for cycling related stuff, and they sell the Knog Frog lights. They also do shoes and clothing and sell Leki nordic walking poles, but only the aluminium or part aluminium ones. Very online oriented and hard to speak to anybody, but if you know what you want...then they are good and so are their prices.