Image of the September 2018 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more articles from the
September 2018 Issue
Home / Articles / Skills

Avoiding pain going downhill

Adapt your movement to the terrain to avoid painful descents. Photo: Tony Gazley
Reduce the load on your legs when you descend by following these simple tips.

Many trampers struggle on downhill sections because their joints and muscles work harder to control the impact of stepping down. We can also feel pain from old injuries, imbalanced muscles and wear and tear on the joints or arthritis. Many of those things you can’t change, but you can learn to manage them. Stronger legs and walking poles can help, but ultimately you have to adapt the way you move.

If you get pain in your knees, thighs, calves or feet when going downhill, try these tips:

  • Turn sideways to step down
  • Downclimb or step down backwards
  • Use hands and arms to lower your body down 
  • Take several steps instead of one giant step or jumping down
  • Try different ways of placing your foot
    (turn to the side, put toe or heel down first)
  • Slow your pace

Every time you tramp, pay attention to your body and make adjustments – think of your movement like your gear, it has to be fit for purpose.

Get unlimited access

Browse all articles, trips, gear reviews and buyer’s guides for as little as $6.50/month.

Subscribe now

Already a subscriber? Login Now