Leki MCT 12 VARIO Carbon Trail-Running Pole Review

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Weight: 14 oz per pair

Length: 110-130 cm/unisex; 100-120 cm/women’s

Collapsed length: 42 cm

If you’re in the market for trekking poles for your spring and summer trail adventures and races, the collapsible, lightweight and adjustable Leki MCT 12 VARIO Carbon poles are a teched-out option worth considering. These babies are the Maseratis of the genre.

Not only does the all-carbon construction allow for light weight, it also provides rigidity for good power transfer. The locking mechanism was easy and quick to work, and locked securely. To assemble the poles from the collapsed position, with the length-locking lever disengaged, you simply hold the top/grip section and pull down on the top section of the lower 3-piece assembly until it clicks into lock mode. Then slide the lower section to the desired length, and engage the locking lever. Conversely, to collapse the poles, disengage the lever and pull down on the lower section until it clicks and fold up the poles.

The beautiful cork grips felt ergonomic in the hand and extend down the pole below your hand over 4 inches for choking down (only possible when the hand strap is disengaged from the pole). What sets the MCT 12 VARIOs apart from other poles is their unique hand-strap system. Other poles employ a simple ski-strap style, where you slide your hand up through the strap from below and then push down on the strap in the web of your hand for leverage.

The Lekis use the company’s Cross Shark grip-Trigger Shark Frame Strap Mesh system, which is similar to modern Nordic-ski-pole grips but are detachable from the pole. The mesh strap has a hole for your thumb and a Velcro cinching strap for solidly locking the fit across the back of your hand. There was enough room to accommodate thin gloves.

On the run, to eat-drink-grab something out of your hydration pack, you may disengage the hand strap by pushing a button on the top of the pole with your thumb and pulling up, an easy maneuver once you’ve practiced it just a few times. To re-engage, just slip the loop on the hand strap into the slot on the grip and push down until it clicks into place.

The low-profile basket avoided catching on brush or between rocks fairly well, and the carbide tip gripped well on a variety of surfaces.


  • Unique grip system provides a locked-in feeling for strong pushing/power transfer.
  • Lightweight, rigid and adjustable
  • Comfortable cork and strap grip
  • Assembly and disassembly is easy on the go


  • With the strap still on your hand, can be difficult to remove close-fitting layers, which can catch on it.
  • Cannot push down on the top of the pole with your hand in the strap

How to Run and Power Hike With Poles

For sizing, most websites offer a chart, but, generally, while holding the pole with your arm at your side and elbow at a 90-degree angle, your forearm should parallel the ground.

As you would a ski pole, insert your hand through the wrist strap from underneath, so that you are pushing down on the loop with the web of your hand.

Ditch the rubber/plastic tips in favor of the grippier carbide tips.

On uphills, most people employ the single-pole technique, where you alternate poling every step, similar to classic Nordic-skiing technique, using your normal running stride.

Alternatively, to gain more power and propulsion, try a rhythmic double-pole plant, similar to that employed by Nordic skate skiers.

Adds 100-mile king Karl Meltzer, “I like to place my hands on the top of them, not in the hand straps. They work like a fulcrum, so you get more propulsion.”

For downhills, poles are not effective at adding propulsion, but can help you keep your balance, especially on steep and rugged terrain.

Beware the potential to stab yourself with a pole in the mid-section on steep downhills should you slip or lose your balance; for this reason, consider taking your hand out of the wrist strap, choking down slightly on the grip and “tick ticking” the poles at your sides for balance, rather than firmly planting and resting weight on them.

On mellow downhills and flats, either run with the poles while holding them in the middle, or break them down and stow them in your hydration pack.

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