Running uphill and downhill is an important training for runners. Uphill training helps increase our VO2 Max and cardio strength, but a lot of runners get issues when running downhill, especially downhill on the road. The impact of running downhill can affect our quads, which causes micro tears in the muscle cells, which will cause DOMs (delayed onset of muscle soreness), our knees, or hamstrings, depending on our downhill running form. To avoid getting knee pain, or any other leg muscle pain when running downhill, we just have to focus on our running form and technique.
Running downhill also has some benefits, the best thing about hills is that it engages different muscles, which helps to build up strength and train fatigue. Downhill seems like it should be an easier part of our run, but it’s often the most painful part for many runners because it creates more pressure on the knees and legs with a constant breaking effect. Running downhill shouldn’t create injuries, if we build up our knee strength.
Knee Strength Exercises:
Lateral Squats with Resistance Band
Split Squat on Bench
Feet Jumps/Skips with Soft Landing for Calf Strength
Knee Strength Exercises Video:
What Affects the Downhill Run and Makes it Feel Hard
Leaning back when running which creates heel striking.
Our body sees it as a break signal and tenses all our muscles to slow down.
Long downhill runs require different muscle control than flat or uphill runs.
Running downhill involves more ground force and pressure, we land harder.
If our hips range of motion is low, it can create strain as our legs need to lengthen out on the downhill.
Tips for Downhill Running Form and Technique
First we need to focus on running consistency. Running downhill too often will create some muscle issues. Running steep downhill no more than twice/week, will prevent knee and quad soreness.
1. Forefoot/Midfoot- The most important part of the downhill running form is our stride and how we land. We need to focus on forefoot/midfoot landing. If we land on our heels it will create a braking effect, which impacts the entire body. Running on flat, we need to focus on midfoot landing, running downhill we can focus on landing more forefoot/midfoot instead of the heel.
2. Stride- Running downhill if we have a longer stride we will land on our heel. We need to shorten our stride and increase our cadence, that way we will take lighter steps and land more on our forefoot/midfoot than our heel. Lighter landing will avoid knee and quad muscle soreness, and it will help improve our calf muscle efficiency.
3. Lean Forward- Running downhill we need to engage our core and lean forward slightly from the ankles, aligning our upper body over our lower body, avoiding the natural tendency to lean backward and slow down.
4. Focus on Mental Cue- We need to remind our brain to focus on and optimize our form. We shouldn’t look at our feet, but look at a distance of about 10 meters to keep our posture upright, not looking down and hunch over.
5. Arm Swing- We need to keep our arms lower, 90 degrees bent, and swing a bit faster. Our legs follow the pace of our arms, it will help shorten our stride and increase the cadence. We should also make sure we loosen and relax our chest and arms, to help land more mildly.
6. Relaxing- To support the impact and pressure of downhill running, we need to take good breaths and let it flow. To support good breathing we need to relax and open our chest.
Run Downhill, Strengthen Your Knees, Improve Your Running Form, Run Strong & Feel Great!