Okay, this is not going to be a happy review. How could it be? I just broke my second pair of Leki running poles and I didn’t do anything crazy. I just used them for what they meant to be used for; trail running.
For the first pair of Leki running poles, I’m happy to take the blame for breaking them. I was running the Trail des Fantomes, had the poles in my hand, stepped on a rock and slipped. I landed on my bum, while trying to break my fall with my hands. Not the most handy thing, when you are holding both running poles in your hands. I landed full on the side of the running poles and the carbon snapped.
Taking the blame
I understand, the job of the running pole is to support my weight, when I keep it up right, not to support it, when I land my weight on the side. So I am happy to take the blame. Fort this one.
However, the second pair of poles I broke, I used them the way every trail runner will use them; to slow down my descent. See, they are great to power hike, they are great to climb up steep hills, but they are also very handy to go down hills. And that’s what I did; planting the poles in front of me for some extra grip on a steep downhill in the Austrian alps.
Leki Neotrail FX.One
I bought a new pair of poles especially for this training holiday. The Neotrail FX.One Superlite, as I didn’t like the gloves that normally come with the Leki running poles. (More on that later.)
It was day 3 of our holiday and with that only the third time I was using my new poles. On a steep descent, with a big deep abyss in front of me and lots of little loose stones on the path, I put my pole a little in front of me to have some extra grip. When I stepped down, it just snapped in two. The cord inside cut straight through the carbon outer layer, making me almost tumble into the abyss.
Just like with the Trail des Fantomes, I wasn’t too happy with the poles letting me down. At the race in Belgium, I still had more than 40 kilometres to go. This time I wasn’t even halfway through my 25 kilometres long training run. Running poles make trail running a lot easier. But only when they stay in one piece.
Back in town I bought a new pair. But you can probably guess that they are not Leki. They are Komperdell, the Carbon Approach FXP. They lasted me the rest of the holiday and they are still doing their job. Even on the downhills, when I put some of my weight on them.
More troubles with Leki
It’s not just me, breaking my Leki poles. The Dutch runner Daan Coenen – known for the Fastest Known Time on the Dutch mountain trail – broke a pair, just like ultra runner Jeff Pelletier, during his Bob Graham Round.
After our holidays I went back to the shop where I bought my Leki running poles. I know the owner pretty well, as I buy most of my running gear in his shop. He confided in me that he had more people coming back with broken poles, while he didn’t have any people complaining about Black Diamond, the other brand he was selling.
He took my broken pole, studied it, concluded it shouldn’t be able to break that way and promised me to take it up with Leki. That’s now almost 4 months ago. I haven’t heard anything since. Now this doesn’t have to be Leki’s fault. I know the owner, he forgets things sometimes. I will pop by soon to check if he has heard anything.
When I bought the Leki Neotrail FX.One Superlite I specifically asked for that version, as I didn’t like the gloves on the Ultratrail FX.One, which I had before. If I run for a long time with the gloves start to cut in my hand, in the part between my thumb and index finger. Besides, clicking the poles in and out doesn’t go very smoothly; especially when it’s wet.
Leki writes on their website: The slim shape of the Shark mandrel allows the strap to be clicked in and off, even with eyes closed! Believe me, it doesn’t. Often, as soon as you reach the top of a hill, you want to start charging down, but where all the people around you do, you’re still standing there, trying to get that damn mandrel out of your glove.
Pros and cons
So is everything terrible about the Leki running poles. No, it’s never black and white, is it? For starters they are super lightweight. The Ultratrail FX.One only weighs 175 grams (per pole), without the gloves, for the longest version. The Neotrail FX.One Superlite only weighs 137 grams, per pole, for the longest version.
In comparison, my Komperdell running poles weigh 250 grams per pole. Although, Komperdell has leighter versions. Which come, interestingly enough, with a 3 year guaranteed repair service. That’s something Leki isn’t offering on their website. Probably not for nothing.
As I said before, I didn’t like the Trail Shark system, as Leki calls it. The gloves aren’t comfortable. When it’s hot, I don’t like to wear gloves, when it’s cold I do, but proper gloves, not fingerless ones. During my last ultra, the Houffa Trail, I saw other runners trying to put on their Leki gloves over a normal pair of running gloves. But what if your hands are getting warm after a while? You have to take off your Leki gloves, your normal gloves and put on your Lekis again? Too much hassle.
I like the grip on the Neotrail FX.One Superlite, but I have to say that the grip on the Komperdell Carbon Approach FXP is better, as it has an extra bump for my hand to rest on. Also the top part is a little bit wider, making it feel stable in my hands.
The strap on the Komperdell Carbon Approach FXP is thicker and rougher than on the Leki, which makes it cut less into the pinky side of my hand during long runs. The strap is also longer on the Komperdell, making it easier to adjust.
Leki is one size fits all. Yes, there are different sizes in length, but as soon as you’ve chosen a size, vor example the 130 centimetres long version, that’s it. The Komperdell gives you more options to finetune the height of your running poles. The extra advantage of that, is that you can make them a little shorter for the uphills, and a little longer for the flats.
Folding and unfolding
Folding and unfolding of the Leki running poles goes easy. Part of the shafts slides out and you just click it in place. Having said that, my wife had problems pressing the little button that keeps the shaft in place when her poles were still new. She either had to ask another runner, or keep on running with her poles in full length.
The Komperdell poles, in comparison, don’t work with a retractable shaft. They fold and are held together in folded position with velcro. Putting them together goes quicker, yet if you want to keep your velcro clean, it does take some time rolling it around the pole, but we are talking seconds here.
So if you want to save on every gram you’re carrying, the Leki running poles might be the ones for you. But except to race at least parts of your race without, as they break very quickly. If you want something more durable you’re better off finding a more sturdy and reliable brand.