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Downhill Techniques for Minimalist Trail Running

posted by Chris Barber

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.

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  1. [...] (minimalist) running shoes 24 09 2010 Chris Barber has a great article describing how running downhill is more difficult in lightly cushioned shoes and recommending how to do [...]