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Ultimate Direction FK Ultra running poles review: strong, reliable, sleek-looking… and a bit rattly

Light, fixed-length and durable, Ultimate Direction FK Ultras are carbon running poles for long days out and mountain adventures

Ultimate Direction FK Ultra running poles
(Image: © Ultimate Direction)

Our Verdict

Super-strong, durable poles that will last for miles, but with a strange rattle when folded that does not align with the sleek looks and build quality.

For

  • Very comfortable handle
  • Easy to assemble and re-fold
  • Large & small mud baskets included
  • Replacement carbide tips included

Against

  • Longer folded length may be harder to stow on your pack
  • No protection on inner woven cord
  • Tensioner prone to rattling when folded

Ultimate Direction FK Ultra: first impressions 

The Ultimate Direction FK Ultra is not adjustable, but there is an excellent number of lengths available – seven sizes from 105cm to 135cm / 41in–53in in 5cm / 2inch increments.

They feature a unique tensioning system within each pole, and Ultimate Direction claim these are one of the strongest carbon fiber poles on the market, thanks to the tapered design. 

Collapsed into three sections, they are one of the longest in our best running poles buyer’s guide at 42cm/16.5in long. So take that into account and make sure it’s workable with the way you want to attach the poles to your running backpack or waist belt (if you want to have them horizontally across the back of your pack, they can be a little on the wide side). 

The handle is dreamily smooth, with slight grip grooves that don’t grate against your bare hands. The handle’s also long, so you can use it with both hands for river and snow patch crossings. The strap doesn’t have a hugely long piece of velcro at the wrist loop for adjustment, but should fit most hands fine and the material is also wonderfully smooth. 

They come with an extra large mud basket, and there is also a pair of replacement carbide tips, which is a nice touch for longevity. 

Specifications

• RRP: $190 (USA) / £135 (UK)
• Weight (120cm pair): 330g / 11.6oz
• Colors: Black
• Material: Carbon
• Variable length: No
• Sizes: 105cm-135cm / 41in-53in
• Folded length: 42cm / 16.5in
• Compatibility: Strong and durable for long distance and multi-day ultras

Ultimate Direction FK Ultra: on the trails 

Ultimate Direction FK Ultra

These trekking poles use tapered shaft design (Image credit: Ultimate Direction)

For their high price, sleek looks and obvious attention to detail, it’s strange that when we put the FK Ultras together, the operation felt light but clunky. In use they do feel strong with that tapered pole and there was certainly no issue with their durability over miles of Peak District trails. However, there’s an odd creak when you put the poles together and extend the sections to click the lock button into place. 

Also, when you’re running with them folded up, there’s a rattle, which seems to come from around the area of the tensioner. This tensioner is a black bobbin sticking out of the end of the lower shaft that you can turn to increase or decrease the tension in the cord holding the pole together. It’s a nice touch to be able to make these micro-adjustments as the cord inevitably stretches over time, but when folded the rattle is disconcerting and also annoying. Thankfully, in action, when you’re actually using the poles, there is no rattle. 

When collapsed the connecting woven cord is also revealed, with no protective plastic around it, making you wonder how long it will last compared to other poles with a protective covering over the inner cord. 

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.