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Black Diamond Distance Z aluminum running poles review: rugged poles for long distances

Good quality, robust aluminum running poles, Black Diamond Distance Z offer great features at a very reasonable price

Black Diamond Distance Z aluminum poles
(Image: © Black Diamond)

Our Verdict

Great value, relatively light poles for running long distances in remote mountain locations.

For

  • • Robust aluminum
  • • Available in many sizes
  • • Small folded length
  • • Easy to assemble
  • • Interchangeable rubber or carbide tips

Against

  • • A little heavy
  • • Non adjustable (bad for sharing)
  • • Only small mud baskets included
  • • Hand-strap size not very adjustable

Black Diamond Distance Z: first impressions 

Black Diamond Distance Zs are sturdy aluminum poles that aren’t adjustable, but come in plenty of different lengths (be sure to purchase the right size for you). 

They’re easy to put together and re-folding them is equally simple once you know how (initially it’s a little tricky – see below). Inside, the Distance Zs are held together by a strong cord protected by robust plastic, and a groove in the mud basket clips on to the other pole nice and tidily for easy stowing. 

At the sharp end, the carbide tips bite into the ground nicely, and it’s good to have a small mud guard to stop your poles sinking into boggy ground (you can attach the larger Z-Pole Snow Basket, available separately for £7.50 / $10).

But how did they fare on test for our best running poles buying guide? Read on…

Specifications

• RRP: 130 (US) / £100 (UK)
• Weight (per 120cm pair): 344g / 12oz
• Colors: Black & Blue
• Material: Aluminum
• Variable length: No
• Sizes: 100cm / 105cm / 110cm / 115cm / 120cm / 125cm / 130cm (39in-51in)
• Folded length: 33cm-43cm / 13in-17in
• Compatibility: Running long distances in remote mountains

Black Diamond Distance Z: on the trails 

Black Diamond Distance Z aluminum poles

You may need to watch an instructional video to get your Black Diamond Distance Z aluminum poles folded away like this (Image credit: Black Diamond)

As a long-term shirker of instructions, it did embarrass me somewhat to have to watch a film on how to fold the Black Diamond Distance Zs! I just couldn’t get them to fold away – but actually, it’s very simple once you know how, plus Black Diamond use an ingenious trick to stop you catching your fingers. 

You simply ease back the top collar and slide the top shaft of the pole toward the handle, which creates the slack for the middle and lower sections. This is good – it means your thumb never gets bitten by pressing an external lock button. But it took me a while to work this out even though there is a clear icon of an unlocked lock and an arrow on the collar! Putting the pole together is much easier: simply hold the handle and extend the top shaft until you hear a click. 

On the trails both in the UK and further afield they performed excellently. They’re not the lightest but being made of aluminum they’d be more inclined to bend rather than break and completely fail like a carbon pole. So if you’re heading for remote mountains with no chance of repair or replacements, this is the best material for you. 

Black Diamond Distance Z aluminum poles

Aluminum is more likely to bend rather than break (Image credit: Black Diamond)

The strap is comfortable over longer distances (if you’re ultra running or fastpacking, for example) with a good swing action from the cord connecting it to the top of the handle. There isn’t much room for adjustment, with only a short strip of velcro, but the standard-sized loop is fine for most hand sizes, male and female.

The handle foam is also extended so you can grip one pole with both hands to cross a river or a snow patch. Deep horizontal grooves improve the grip, but do make them slightly less comfortable with bare hands over longer distances than a handle made of smooth foam all the way up.

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.