Improve your trail running with these tips for running downhill. When most people look at a courses elevation they tend to focus on the total amount of gain (or vert), then train accordingly. Putting in a lot of uphill work on the treadmill and stairmill. What many fail to realize is that while the downhill sections present the best chance to make up time, the downhill is also the part of the race that tears your body up the most. Because of this it’s important to focus on your downhill running technique and form.
Tips for Running Downhill
Let Gravity Do the Work
Keep your hips leaned forward rather than your head and shoulders. Your eyes should be focused down the hill, not on your feet. That doesn’t mean not to pay attention to where you are stepping. Just keep your feet in your lower peripheral vision.
Run With Quick Feet
Act like your running on hot coals keeping your feet on the ground for as little time as possible. Going downhill requires less knee drive to keep momentum. You may need to shorten your stride and run with a bit more of a circular motion picking up your cadence.
Keep Off Your Heels
People tend to naturally put on the brakes when running downhill. They’ll do this leaning back and landing with a heel strike. This planting of the heel into the ground is what causes most of the joint pain downhill running. You want to keep a proper forestrike or mid strike which will help with the quick feet.
Use Your Arms for Stabilization & Balance
With gravity doing the work your arms don’t have to be. Instead use them to stabilize yourself as you run downhill. You will actually see a lot of the top skyrunners in the world keeping their arms out to their sides on steep descents.
Keep a Stiff Core
Running downhill creates a lot of impact on the entire body. The best way to take this constant abuse is by keeping yourself ready for it. Running loose in the core will create a lot of excess body movement opening yourself up to injury and wasted energy.