For a long time I’ve scoffed at those recreational hikers/walkers who use trekking poles. Certainly they make sense as a necessary piece of equipment for climbers and heavy-duty backpackers, I reasoned. But for the average woodland hike, they seemed more like a fashion accessory or some kind of affectation.

The combination of a bothersome knee and an Eastern Mountain Sports gift card helped change my mind. The gift was thoughtful, but as I browsed the website to see what I might get, I realized I was pretty well set for gear and clothes. Then I saw trekking poles were on sale. So why not give them a try?

I took them out for a test run a few weeks ago, on an hour-long loop along a rocky, hilly, woodland trail of what I would call moderate difficulty. To my surprise, they were a huge help. They gave my knee the extra support it needed, and they certainly helped my balance as I negotiated my way over exposed roots, rocks, short steep drops and climbs.

I’ve been using them ever since.