Although the shaft of the pole is often most important in terms of how well it helps you decrease pressure on your knees and legs, the shaft of the pole is irrelevant if the tip of the pole cannot hold onto the terrain below it. Hiking pole tips are not created equally, and if the tips are not designed for the terrain you are walking, the tip itself may lose its grip on the ground, and you could slip or cause injury.
Tips are generally made with one of the following materials:
Carbide tips are the preferred over aluminum tips because they are considerably more durable over the course of a long trip. Since a broken tip can be dangerous for you and your hike, the using a carbide tip is a better decision unless aluminum is the only type available. While some hiking poles use rubber tips, most of the time the rubber tip is something that is purchased separately and can go on top of the tip that comes with the pole. This allows it to be easily replaced, as well as taken on and off when necessary (since rubber tips are not designed for some types of terrain.
Shapes of the Tips
Beyond those three materials, the tips generally come in 3 specific styles, each one designed for its own specific hiking pole purpose.
· Single Point Tips
Single point tips are common, but not always effective. They are most often found on poles designed to be used almost exclusively on ice for balance, and though they do come on a variety of walking poles, they are not always great if you are looking to ensure you remain balanced on different types of terrain. Rain on a flat area, for instance, can make single point tips have some problems. Still, they generally get the job done.
· Rubber Tips
The rubber tips that people often add to their poles are designed for hard, dry terrain. Rubber tips are the best for power walking with your walking/hiking poles, and any dry, hard areas with a great deal of friction. They can lose their effectiveness in wet conditions and are not great for snow, but that is also why they are often purchased separately and only added/removed from the tips when eneded.
· Chiseled Tips
Chiseled tips are tips with small notches on the bottom. This is the best multi-environment tip, as it is designed to work well on dry, wet, snowy, icy and hard conditions. Generally you want to have a chiseled tip (with a rubber tip on hand) unless you expect icy conditions to be your primary mode of transfer, since the single tip does a better job cutting into ice.
Depending on the purpose of these poles, most tips will work overall. Anyone that is simply using a pole to ensure they do not tire out on a long hike will find that almost every tip works. But for those that are avid hikers that expect to experience rough conditions and place a lot of weight on the poles, a chiseled carbide tip with rubber tips on hand is most likely what you need.