Having watched a number of beginners, tightly gripping the poles, let me offer the following drill and suggestions:
Before we even start, let me emphasize that gripping the pole should be compared to holding a little, live bird in your hand. In other words: don’t let it escape, but do not squeeze the life out of it!
Strap your poles on and let them hang from your wrist, without even touching the grips. Start walking, dragging the poles along the ground behind you. Let your arms swing naturally.
This is also a great way for a beginner to get used to co-ordinating the arm and leg movement, meaning: when the left arm is forward, the right leg is in the the rear and so forth.
As your arm swings down and back, simply push down on the wrist strap, without even holding the grips. The harder you push down on the straps the harder the pole’s tip will bite the ground and consequently the more you will engage and work the muscles of your upper body and the more stress will be taken off your knees, hips and ankles. In addition, the harder you push down, the more you will propel yourself forward and the faster you will walk.
After you figure out the “pole dragging” technique, try to walk without dragging the poles.
Just like in cross-country skiing, release the grip almost completely, when the pole is in the rearmost position. Grip it lightly with your fingers, just enough to control the pole’s position, during its return forward. Remember that the hands and the finger are really there only to control the position of the pole and that practically all of the force and the weight should be borne by the straps.
Nordic walking straps don’t force you to grip the poles all of the time. Even when you do hold them, usually you only need to use a very loose grip. You can literally use just your thumbs and forefingers, while the remaining fingers cradle the grip in its lower part.