I picked up these fantastic new trail running poles a mere 48hrs before the Ouray 100 and promptly won the race - my very first 100 Mile win, which I owe in part to the poles' innovative technology that helped save my legs over the course of more than forty hours of steep, steep mountain running. What poles am I talking about? Why, the sleek LEKI Micro Trail (Vario).
My criteria for trail running and trekking poles are straightforward: I want them to be light but sturdy, comfortable on my hands and wrists, and collapse down small so I can carry them on technical sections and alpine rock climbs. LEKI's Micro Trail poles don't just meet those criteria - they excel.
With a weight of anywhere between 180 and 235 grams per pole (depending on the length of your pole and whether you choose the fixed-length or adjustable version) the Micro Trails are wonderfully light without feeling flimsy. The sleek cork grips handle well and are supremely comfortable. And when you want to stash the poles for vertical sections or front-country travel, they collapse down to just 38cm (<15") for ultimate packability. The real game changer for me, though, is the innovative active wrist strap technology that LEKI has dubbed Trigger Shark.
The concept behind the Trigger Shark technology is simple: rather than relying on a wrist strap that's attached to the pole itself, you wear it on your hands - either as a simple strap that also doubles as a scuff guard, or in the form of any number of gloves with built-in Trigger Shark attachment points - and clip into or out of the poles' attachment points as desired.
Thanks to the ergonomic design of the Trigger Shark straps, transferring weight from your legs to your upper body requires less effort and is much more comfortable than with any other pole I've used in the past. The attachment mechanism itself is intuitive and, with minimal practice, easily operable by feel and even in cold conditions with limited dexterity.
LEKI calls the Micro Trail Varios 'a marvel' and, after extensive trail tests, I fully agree with that statement. The sole disadvantage that I was able to spot in the poles' design is the fact that they need to be adjusted to their shortest length in order to be collapsed. As a minimalist runner who is used to fixed length poles, this design element (as well as the added grams for adjustability) will be the reason that I am going to choose the equivalent fixed-length LEKI Micro Trail Pro as my go-to running pole going forward.
My ~45 hour mission on the trails around Ouray was an excellent chance to put the new LEKI trail running poles to the test; I doubt that I could have preserved my legs sufficiently throughout the race's 83,000ft (!) of vertical change to bring home the win had I used poles with traditional wrist loops. After having experienced how amazingly well LEKI's Trigger Shark technology works, I know I won't be changing back to traditional poles anytime soon!
Verdict: these poles are pricey but they are WELL worth the money.