Conquer Downhill Running Like a Pro

Good form and leg strength are key to staying healthy as you tackle descents.


Carl Leivers |

Good form and leg strength are key to staying healthy as you tackle descents. – By Carl Leivers

Rob Krar. Photograph by Alex Aristei
Rob Krar. Photograph by Alex Aristei

Proper downhill running technique and strong quads are important to reducing soreness as you take to the trails. Below, the experts weigh in on how to descend without getting hurt.

Focus on Form

While no single downhill running form is a golden ticket to eliminating soreness, you can focus on a few specific areas, says Rob Krar, the ultra runner with an impressive list of runs.

Stay upright

Krar recommends a posture that is perpendicular to the ground, except on the steepest grades. Leaning back and over-striding increases impact, takes away speed, and offers less control.

Look ahead

Choose a line that offers the optimum balance between maintaining momentum and minimising the risk of falling.

Increase cadence

“Think light, quick steps,” Krar says. The goal is to float down the trail.

Focus On Strength

Ian Torrence, an ultra running coach, says lunges and squats can help strengthen your quads, but “they don’t replicate the ballistic nature or the duration of downhill running.”

Torrence recommends:

Practice

Do some downhill repeats. Start with just two or three repeats and build up gradually – these workouts will be hard on the legs.

Know your surroundings

Being a flat lander is no excuse. Torrence suggests using parking-garage ramps, bridges, and exit ramps to run downhill. “Even the man-made hills on a golf course are better than nothing,” he says.

Get universally fit

Don’t neglect core strength and flexibility exercises. “The more fit you are, the easier it’ll be to handle the rigors of steep and technical off-road running,” Torrence says.

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