Good form and leg strength are key to staying healthy as you tackle descents.
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 holder of the fastest known times for the single and double crossings of the Grand Canyon.
Stay upright. Krar recommends a posture that is perpendicular to the ground, except on the steepest grades. Leaning back and over-striding increases impact, adds braking, and offers less control.
Look ahead. Choose a line that offers the optimum balance between maintaining momentum and minimizing 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 ultrarunning coach for McMillan Running, 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 flatlander 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.