Going downhill...need advice

Hello C25k crew. I'm in need of some of your advice.

I've started to add some new routes to my running, and some have steeper hills than my usual course. I'm getting better at running up them - assassin style as someone mentioned in a post several weeks back. But the downhills are killing me - the steeper they are, the worse they are. Particularly for my knees. And strangely, not all of the time, only sometimes.

I try to run down them very slowly and not slap my feet down on the pavement. But I'm in need of some other downhill tips. It feels very awkward and wrong running downhill the way I'm doing it.

I'm also planning to buy new shoes which I'm hoping will help.

So any and all help is welcome. Call me crazy, but I thought the downhills (not the uphills) are supposed to be the part we look forward to to in a run.

10 Replies

  • It's a good question. I tend to put the brakes on, but as you say, that presents a knee problem. I did read a blog once that said you should embrace them and run them as fast as you can - basically to use them to improve your time - but that seems a little scary to me. I have no answer, but I'm interested in what others think.

  • Have you read a book called 'feet in the clouds' ? It's about fell running and it explains basically what Rob said, instead of leaning back and braking downhill, you should lean forwards and go as fast as your momentum takes you. Scary but maybe easier on the knees.

  • Can you zigzag as you go down? Takes the sting out of the gradient.

  • Julian Goater in "the art of running faster" book says, as you've found out yourself, that you need MORE strength in your quads to run downhill than up hill. If you can find a shallow enough gradient where you can really let yourself go and fly down, then as you get fitter and stronger you should be able to do that on steeper gradients.

  • If going down hill hurts your knees it could be a problem with your kneecaps (either the tracking or the back of the kneecap) - either way an osteopath or physio could set you on the right track. Stretching of the quads should help a bit. Trying the zigzag method like skiing is worth a try too.

    hope you get it sorted as after all that effort getting up the hill you deserve the good bit!

  • I have a route that has a steep decline and often slow down to a brisk walk as I don't want to be found at the bottom looking like roadkill.

    Unfortunately I didn't have the benefits of talkingrhubarb's advice and found out too late that running downhill puts more of a strain on your quads. Few painful recovery days before I worked that one out. Ouch!

  • Oh do please take this seriously! I now have arthritis in my knees and running down hills is apparently part of the cause. Mind you I did not have proper trainers, being young and foolish back then. I heard one famous athlete's father used to get him to run up hills then meet him in the car and drive him back down! I try to use downhills for "recovery"- walking if its really steep, but definitely only jogging extremely gently, and plan my routes accordingly. Not that I'm running at the moment- graduated but then had to stop for a while because of arthritis. take care.

  • I have found that it helps to shorten your stride (this helps avoid the "foot slapping", lean into (ie down) the hill (or at least don't lean back!), keep your head up, use your arms just as much as going uphill (it seems to really improve my balance) and move your legs fast! I keep my knees bent (so the stride is shortened from the back of the step, if you see what I mean) and don't straighten my back leg as much as I do on the flat. It sounds horribly complicated - but practice on the flat first (I run strides like this). The small steps make for less impact and not finishing the push off with the back leg (by keeping the knee bent) means you can make faster steps, so you feel less like falling.

    I do hill sprints, too where I take half as long again to jog down the hill as run up it. This gives me time to practice slowly to find a method that feels comfortable.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks for the advice everyone. I'll certainly try out everything and let you guys know how it goes.

  • There is a little used and oft overlooked method of going up and down hill when it gets really steep, and it is called walking. Fell and trail runners use it all the time ~ but they are running Gods.

    Try alternating between 'letting go' and leaning into the hill so you are perpendicular to it; and holdding back and leaning back, and see which feels best for you.

    Personally, I love hills, but it scares the do-dah out of me if i just let go.

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