A few comments on the use of trekking poles from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics’ June eNews.
Rather than when to use, I'd like to address the equipment itself. The golfing industry went through a similar dilemma related to shoe spikes. Everyone knew the sharp metal spikes damaged the greens (and the clubhouses). After years of working to improve the product, metal spikes were ultimately completely replaced by less scarring plastic and complete replacement of the single-long spike in favor of a smaller, multi-pronged approach.
Couldn't Leave No Trace and its members have more of an impact by both working on guidelines for pole use and on pole spike design and composition? You need both, as the single spike pole design is not likely to change quickly. Why not have a contest to develop the best composite, "single spike replacement" design? Since it would be plastic, it will wear out and likely need to be replaceable. Perhaps poles could have a number of interchangeable nibs (to borrow some fountain pen terminology) for various terrain. Just a thought.
Leave No Trace Trainer
Most of the trails here consist of soils with high clay content. Hiking on them when they are soft does considerable damage. The public should refrain from hiking on soft muddy trails until they have a chance to dry out and firm up.
Interpretive Specialist for the Bureau of Land Management in Ukiah, CA
Baskets for your trekking poles can prevent the large divot holes made by poles that do not have baskets. As the poles are planted, the basket keeps the poles from sinking into the mud as you stay on the designated trail! Consider using the baskets that your poles came with.
Formerly with trekking pole manufacturer Leki USA