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Posts Tagged ‘downhill’

Downhill Techniques for Minimalist Trail Running

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

downhill-trail-running-techniquesInjury has led me to take part in the minimalist running movement.  I’ve been concentrating on my minimalist running technique but have found it very difficult to keep form when running down hills.  If you are new to minimalist running I suggest starting on flat or uphill terrain to hammer down your technique.  This may be difficult, where I run what goes up must come down.  Gravity, always making running difficult.  Here are some tips I learned on how to stay safe, injury free, and able to maintain proper form when gravity is pulling you downhills in minimalist running shoes.

Running downhill puts more stress on your ant-gravity muscles like the hips, legs, and ankles that running on flat or incline surfaces does not.  The “braking” muscles absorb most of the impact, which leads to more injuries, primarily on the quadriceps, hip extensors, and knees for minimalist trail runners.  Practice specifically on running downhills in your minimalist running shoes, this is the hardest part about learning minimalist running techniques; then hit the trails for increased difficulty.  When downhill trail running, don’t brake, grip and rip baby.  That’s how you live your life.

Proper technique when running downhill in minimalist running shoes is even more important because your legs don’t get the cushioning that traditional running shoes provide.  First, you want to make sure you continue to keep your foot directly under your center of gravity so you don’t begin heel striking on downhills.  This is difficult because gravity is pushing your feet forward, fight the urge, remain landing on your forefoot.  You also want to make sure you keep your cadence, 1,2,3,4.  You may have to increase the speed of your cadence on downhills, but make sure you continue to keep it consistent.  When trail running downhill try to plant your foot in rhythm by stretching or contracting your stride.  Overall though, you want to to glide down the hill with shorter strides.  Make quick and light steps as if you were running in the mud.  If you need extra help, consider taking ballet lessons.

Sometimes the minimalist movement runs downhill, don’t fall behind the pack.

Trail Running Ascending and Descending

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Trail Running is like a roller coaster, you go up and down.  How’s that for clever?  Seriously though, there are a lot of techniques for trail running, but how you run up and down hills determines how you finish the race.  You want to view your trail running like mountain biking, changing your gears depending on the grade of incline, maintaining a consistent pace, effort, and rhythm through out.  If you need to get in rhythm with the trail and “rhythm is the dancer” then shouldn’t Trail Running really be called Trail Dancing?  Very interesting.


Whatever you want to call it, you can still think of the trail as a dancing partner.  Run with it, not on it or through it.  Like golf being about you as the player against the golf course, trail running is about you versus the trail; and the best way to get the trail to “eat out of your hands” is to seduce her with your dance.  Ok, enough with the metaphors, but you just need to know how to switch your gears for the uphills and downhills.  Man, that was another metaphor.  At least the golf comment was a simile.  I took 8th grade English.

When running uphills you want to shorten your stride, turning it into a lower gear.  The reason for this is because the amount of consistent effort you need to exert on the uphill gets you less distance than running on the flat.  When running on a long hill try to set a cadence at the beginning of the hill that will last you until you reach the top…barely able to breathe.  This will give you consistency up the hill.  In order to keep moving you need to have light feet running up the hill.  This allows you to bounce to the next step without getting bogged down on the incline.  Make sure you have good posture and lean forward a bit.  If you get tired, pump your arms harder to give more drive to your step, much like a mountain biker when he/she stands up off the seat for extra power on uphills.

After you get to the top of the hill you are going to have to run down it; unless you live at the top of a humongous mountain looking down on everyone else like I do.  I do have to run down my driveway sometimes to get the mail and when I do, I make sure I put the center of my body weight over my knees.  This helps for balance as well as gives my legs greater ability to slow down my pace if needed.  You want to strike on the balls of your feet in order to keep your balance and be able to react to any missteps you may have to take.  Obstacles can come at you quickly when you are trail running down hill.  You want to relax, look ahead and try to grip and rip without pounding the ground.  Pounding the ground not only hurts your joints but its like slamming on the brakes with each step.  Run lightly by keeping your feet close together.  If you must slow yourself down put your elbows out like you are flying.  This will keep you from pumping your arms which increases your speed and will give you more wind resistance, all while giving you more balance on the downhill.  It’s like taking your foot off of the gas on the highway instead of hitting the brake pedals…I’m not sure many people know what I’m talking about here.

Life is like a roller coaster, you’re trail running doesn’t have to be the same way.  Although you are running up and down hills take it even, Steven.  Slow and steady wins the race.  At least that’s what my grandfather always told me and I could never beat him no matter how old he got!

Trail Running Downhill Tips

Monday, March 30th, 2009


Downhills are your place to catch up on other runners.  Well, maybe, but I view downhills as a place to rest a bit, but not lose any momentum or waste energy slowing yourself down.  That’s just counterproductive.  You want to increase productivity.  It’s trailrunning-conomics.

When running downhill on a trail you want to have quick feet, a trained eyes, balance, and reflexes.  All of these items together will give you a relaxed and fluid running form.  You want to try to keep your body weight centered over your knees so you strike the ball of your feet on the ground instead of your heels.  Striking on your heels makes for a leaned back running posture that can lead to injury and creates less efficient running.  You want to be leaning slightly forward to maximize your foot movement and minimize injury.  Keep your elbows relaxed and slightly raised so they are poised to help you maintain your balance and steer.  Imagine you are a fighter plane and your elbows are your wings. Soon you’ll be ‘flying’ through the trails.  That’s right!  Ice…man.  I am dangerous.  Who wants to go play some volleyball?

You also want to make sure you are looking ahead.  Many new trail runners look at their feet when running downhill but this is not the most efficient way to run.  It is a lot of like driving a car, when you first start you look directly in front of you but the more you drive the more you look forward to see what is ahead of you so you can plan your next move.  If you know what is coming you can adjust your body movements before you get to an obstacle.  Likewise, if the trail turns suddenly you can adjust you movements accordingly as you come to it.  Grab on to a tree and swing yourself around the curve if you really want to look extreme.  Extremeness is what it’s all about anyways right?

You want to be light on your feet.  I know, you’re a 250 pounds and you are never light on your feet, not even when crawling into bed or easing yourself into a warm bath.  Why are you taking baths anyways?  When running on the trail, listen to see if you are being light on your feet.  If you hear youself stomping down the trail, then lighten up.  Man, you’re feet can be so serious sometimes.  It’s cool, we like serious feet around here.  Try to increase the number of steps you take to lighten up the load on each step.  It’s like putting a car in a lower gear instead of slamming on the breaks.  When you slam on the breaks you are putting more strain on your body and quickly stopping away momentum that gravity is giving you running on the downhill.  Put gravity to work for you.  Gravity just hangs around not doing anything anyways.  It’s about time gravity got a real job instead of always putting objects down.  Gravity is such a negative Nancy.