Fitness walking poles, nordic walking poles and exerstriding poles can be useful in two ways. First, using poles you take strain off of knees and ankles and give yourself more balance. Second, you work the upper body to burn more calories per mile, while actually feeling like you are exerting yourself less. Burn more, feel less. Using the right technique is essential, and these poles come with instructions specific to their technique for use, and are not necessarily interchangeable.
These poles have one-piece lightweight aluminum alloy shafts, which dampen vibration. Exerstrider poles have patented, ergonomic "reflex" grips to fit the hand. The high-carbon rubber tips and tip retainer collar provide shock absorption, grip the pavements and have long wear. They come with a manual and a video. They are designed for the exerstrider walking technique, not for the nordic walking technique.
These two-piece carbon fitness walking poles are semi-adjustable. You order them to size, but are able to adjust the length within a 10 centimeter range. They have a trigger-release half-glove strap for ease of use. Just a click and you remove the glove from the pole, another click to reattach it. They come with both a carbide flex tip for soft trail and a rubber fitness tip for pavement. Designed for the nordic walking technique. These are very lightweight and, at the price, are for those committed to nordic walking.
Exel Nordic Walker poles have taken Europe by storm and are designed for the nordic walking technique. The technique requires the poles to have a half-glove strap so you can release the pole on the backstroke and it snaps back into you hand as you move your arm forward. These lightweight carbon fiber 1-piece poles have a paw for walking on streets and sidewalks and a spiketip for trails. This site is in German and lists all of their different models. A site in America, ExelNordicWalking.com sells a smaller selection of models.
The Boomyah Tone 'n Trek Poles are designed to be used either for Nordic walking or for trekking. They have a cushioned handle for comfort. The handle flares into a knob, which is useful for trekking, but they also have glove straps for Nordic walking. Their flip lock system to adjust the length of the poles keeps the rubber foot aligned correctly.
Some people simply prefer wood. Brazos Walking Sticks has a FitnessWalker design in ash. The curved handles can work for the push off, and they have a cord strap to help retain the poles. However, without a half glove, these are only suited for the exerstriding or trekking techniques rather than the nordic walking technique. They come in only three lengths and are non-adjustable, but they can make custom lengths to your request. For the natural feel of wood, these will be the right fit for many people.
It's hard to beat the price of these adjustable aluminum poles sold at mass marketers. That may make them a great buy if you want to get started with fitness walking poles. At first inspection, they seem more designed for trekking than for nordic walking. It's not clear whether you can adjust the strap tight enough for nordic walking, and the handles are more in line with a trekking pole. The rubber tip isn't shaped for nordic walking, either, but more for general stability. They come with baskets to use for snow or sand. As a spare pair to keep on hand or for beginners, these are probably worth the small price.