downhill runner

HOW TO RUN DOWNHILL

Your strategy depends on the size and angle of the descent.

THE GIST
When you’re racing, you want to keep your effort steady throughout the course, which means slowing down as you climb a hill and speeding up on your way down. 

But on too steep a hill, that strategy will tear up your knees and increase your risk of injury, says David Siik, Los Angeles-based creator of Equinox’s Precision Running program. 
EXPERT INSIGHT
When you’re on the decline, the feet and femur (the thigh bone) are at odds with each other, explains Michael Olzinski, CSCS, a Precision Running coach at Equinox locations in San Francisco. Your foot is essentially acting as a brake, which means the tibia (the shinbone) is stationary while the femur wants to follow gravity. “That puts a lot of stress on the knee joint,” Olzinski says.
THE BOTTOM LINE
You should never sprint on the descent, Siik says, but you can still benefit from gravity without barreling down. On a small, short downhill, maintain your flat pace or pick it up a little bit. If it’s a long or moderate drop, maintain your speed or slow down. And when you’re going down a steep hill, take it more slowly than you would a flat road to stay safe and efficient. 

You can also use your form to hold the right pace. Stay upright and shorten your strides, Siik says, which will shift your center of gravity back and keep you from leaning forward, speeding up, and stressing the knees.