Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Downhill Technique

Downhill trail running at Crater Lake

I love my downhills. Unlike many runners at mountain or trail races, this is the bit that makes it really fun for me and some of the most enjoyable solo moments in running are technical downhills where there's the chance to bounce around on rocks. If you see me at a race on a downhill you may see a lunatic grin on my face which I just can't help when it gets really fun. Uphills just aren't fun in the same way for me personally and are just a suffer-fest.

As a coach one of the most frequent questions I get is tips for running downhill better - more efficiently and in a way that causes less damage to the leg muscles. So this video from Portland-based Dana Katz includes helpful commentary and explanation of things to look for and aim for when downhilling. It was taken at the 2013 Miwok race last weekend and is of me running around 11 miles into the race.

Also, here's her full article showing both good and bad technique.


  1. Great topic, informative links. Thanks Ian!

  2. Good stuff. I think I RACE the downs pretty well- pretty much the way described in your video. However, I am much more interested in how to run the downs slowly- as on training runs where you want to minimize wear and tear. When I run the downs slowly, my stride is a choppy, braking mess that seems to cause me tons of shin problems. Any advice on how to properly run downhill at a slower pace?

  3. When going slower, just relax. If you can run it fast then the slower running is easier, but you don't want to alter your technique much, just brake a little more and avoid accelerating. There's a sweet spot where it's very efficient with minimum damage between going really fast and absorbing a lot of impact no matter how well you do it and slower running which involves more braking to get rid of the momentum. The video above is of that sweet spot - not pushing fast and not braking much and going slow either.

  4. Thanks Ian. Where I live there is a time to brake to avoid serious bodily injury. I just never figured out how to do it in a way that didn't hurt me. I think I figured out why the shins were hurting. A trip to the chiro released and aligned my arches and foot bones and downhilling became a joy again. Hammer time from Baldy to Swinging Bridge...Forresthill to Rucky.