The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles ($190) are fixed-length folding carbon-fiber unisex trail running poles made for moving fast and light — perfect for trail runners and ultrarunners. The iRunFar team has used these poles since 2015, and they have remained our go-to poles for much of our mountain running and ultrarunning despite an onslaught of competitors entering the market.
The poles feature 100% carbon fiber shafts that keep the poles light, stiff, and responsive.
They are offered in 110- to 130-centimeter lengths in five-centimeter increments in the unisex version. The women’s model, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles – Women’s ($190), comes in 100- to 120-centimeter lengths. According to Black Diamond’s sizing guide, together, these two pole models should fit runners from four feet 10 inches tall all the way up to six feet four inches.
Aside from availability in shorter lengths and an alternate colorway, the women’s poles are functionally the same.
When not powering you up steep climbs, they fold easily into three sections for compact carrying. Their simple and effective design works reliably time after time in all conditions, one of the most important traits a piece of running gear can have. These poles are good enough, that they’re a top pick in our best trekking poles guide!
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles Materials and Features
As is the case with many pieces of gear, the general structure and function of all trail running poles are largely the same. What sets the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles and the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles – Women’s apart from the rest are the little details that enhance their durability and function. From grip to tip, we break down the features of these poles that landed them at the top of our best trail running poles guide.
First up is the grip. Black Diamond uses an EVA foam that is just the right length to accommodate different grip positions during use. Small notches in the material serve a dual purpose by reducing weight and improving grip traction, a detail that is especially appreciated in wet conditions. The attached nylon strap is lightweight, wicking, and quick-drying, with an almost mesh-like center panel with reinforced edges.
A simple pull on either side adjusts the length of the loop, and there is a small sleeve to tuck the end of the adjustment strap into so that it doesn’t flop around. This strap is just wide enough to be comfortable and durable without adding unnecessary padding and weight. The simple nylon loop is easy to get in and out of when you need your hands for other on-trail activities like eating, retrieving gear from your pack, or scrambling.
The “Z” in the name refers to its three-section foldable design. The poles are made of three hollow 100% carbon-fiber shafts that fold up quickly and easily. Each section lays parallel without tension between them, allowing the poles to stay folded well for stowing in or on your pack.
The folded length varies from 13 to 17 inches depending on the overall pole length. Running the length of the pole inside the hollow carbon shaft is a Kevlar cord covered with flexible rubber tubing that stretches into place to provide the tension needed to keep the sections locked into place when the pole is extended.
The poles deploy using what Black Diamond refers to as its speed cone technology — simply pull the foam grip up from the upper carbon shaft of the pole until the other shaft sections extend into place, and the push-button release clicks to lock everything together. A rubber cone at the end of each section guides the joints together as the sections extend and provides added security and stiffness to the joint when the pole is extended. The push button release is small but manageable, even with cold or gloved hands.
These poles come with interchangeable carbide and rubber tips, though in most trail running settings, the carbide tips are preferred. These are more durable and provide better grip on rock, dirt, and ice, but they are hard and have an audible click when they contact hard surfaces. Rubber tips are quieter and gentler on delicate environmental areas, and they won’t scratch or scar rock surfaces or puncture your pack’s fabric. For winter running adventures, the poles can be outfitted with separately purchased snow baskets that replace the smaller baskets that they come with.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles Performance
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles and Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles – Women’s have proven themselves to be a durable and reliable choice for our trail and mountain pursuits. We have used them in some seriously tough terrain all over the world, and they have held up well, with the exception of one broken pole on one of iRunFar Managing Editor Meghan Hicks’s Nolan’s 14 attempts. Given the terrain and conditions we have put these through over the years, we are impressed with this track record! The poles are lightweight and stiff, and they offer excellent energy return on steep climbs.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles Overall Impressions
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles and Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Running Poles – Women’s are a great choice for mountain running, ultramarathons, and lightweight hiking or fastpacking. They are light, durable, and easy to use, no matter the weather or conditions. All of the features improve function and simplify use with no excess materials or overdone and unnecessary technology.
Our main complaint with these poles, and it’s a minor one, is their weight. While they are very lightweight, there are several newer carbon fiber fixed-length folding poles that are lighter with similar construction.
Overall, we have enjoyed the use of these poles for many years. While innovation and new technology are great, Black Diamond’s subtle improvements on a tried-and-true design have kept them at the top of our list.
If you’d like to learn more about how we compare these poles to other top running poles on the market today, check out our best trekking poles guide.
Call for Comments
- What are your favorite trail running poles on the market today?
- Do you use poles regularly in your running?
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