Uphill And Downhill Running Techniques

Nailing good form for ascending or descending hills can not only help you to run faster, it can also help to break your opponents and stave off injuries too. Here’s how to master the techniques of uphill and downhill running.

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Uphill running 

Here is some advice for running uphill:

Watch your form

In order to ascend a hill as quickly and efficiently as possible you need to ‘attack’ it. Lean forwards slightly and look ahead.  Try to stay ‘tall’. Many runners have a natural tendency to lean too far forward and bend at the waist. This is counter-productive as it inhibits hip flexion and hip extension which limits your ability to generate power and biomechanical efficiency.

Drive your arms

Your leg speed will naturally slow as you hit the gradient so try to counteract this by driving your arms powerfully. Your leg speed is determined by your arm speed, so quicker arms mean quicker legs!

Adjust your stride

The steeper the gradient, the more you’ll need to shorten your stride to maintain efficiency and leg turnover.

Run off the top!

Hills provide a great opportunity to break your opponents in a race and one of the biggest mistakes that runners make is that they ease off the throttle when they hit the crest. Try to push on and ‘run off the top’ of a hill as this is the quickest way to regain your momentum and can be psychologically damaging for your rivals!

Downhill running 

Here is some advice for running downhill:

It’s all in the lean

Our natural instinct when running downhill is to brake and lean backwards. However, downhill running shifts your footstrike more towards the heel, making the eccentric braking forces even greater. This not only slows you down further but can also result in increased muscle soreness.

Running downhill essentially gives you additional speed for free so use the momentum to your advantage. Leaning forward slightly will shift your centre of gravity forwards so you’ll be able to generate force faster.

Watch your feet

When running downhill it’s easy to get carried away with the thrill of ‘free speed’ and forget what you’re doing with your feet. In order to maintain good control, try to keep your feet low to the ground. Don’t reach out with your feet and aim to land as lightly as you can. Many runners slap their feet down when running downhill which is often a sign of lack of strength and control in the muscles in the lower leg, foot and ankle.

Stay in control

With the assistance of gravity it can be easy to lose control when running downhill, which will cost you energy and will increase your risk of injury. Aim to shorten your stride slightly and gradually allow your leg turnover to increase.

Maintain good posture

Maintaining good posture is very important in terms of injury prevention. If you are prone to sacroiliac joint or lower back problems then downhill running can be an aggravating factor.

Many runners have a tendency to lose control of their core muscles and allow their pelvis to tilt forwards. However this position, together with the additional impact from running downhill can be enough to jam up the sacroiliac and lumbar joints. Ensure that you maintain good posture by keeping your pelvis in neutral, use your core muscles to pull your belly button towards your spine and tuck your bottom underneath you.