Uphill/ Downhill Running


Uphill/ downhill running is more challenging than running on a straight path. In case uphill/ downhill running is performed in off road conditions, there are some aspects to take into consideration such as altitude, slope of the hill, ground surface, and shoe selection. These aspects are demanding upon the human body and as a runner of any level you should monitor them carefully. Ignoring these aspects can definitely affect negatively your performance.

Some general guidelines, for uphill/ downhill running are:
• You must always aim for the path of least resistance.
• The feet need to stay at all times parallel to the ground.
• Uphill/ downhill biomechanics involve side stepping with one foot supination and other pronation.
• Ankle mobility is key, especially for uphill circumstances. You should aim for 10 to 15 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion.
• Practice running with high cadence.
• In case you are competing in such conditions, its best to get comfortable and train in similar running course conditions prior any race.

Uphill running, it's more demanding towards your aerobic capacity than downhill running. Leaning into the hill with fast short steps and pumping the arms should be your running technique as you climb up the hill. Sometimes even walking the hills that are steep is a great alternate that even some experienced runners are utilizing. If the hill is over 10 degrees of incline, there is zero dorsiflexion of the ankle joint. In this particular case, the forefoot is stressed through the foot's plantar fascia, whereas the dosiflexion of the 1st metaphalageal joint is crucial.
Furthermore, accelerating fast any type of hill can cause leg fatigue and increase heart rate very quickly which can cause problems over the long haul. As with beginner runners, injuries can occur due to the fact that the feet are facing more out. The medial structures are stressed resulting increases in torque on the knee joint that pulls the knee off the sagittal plane.

On the other hand, your body should be slightly backwards and perpendicular as the hill accelerates when you are running downhill. More control must be gained when the body lean forwards, yet the speed increases. As the slope increases, the body should decelerate. Eccentric strength is required on the anterior foot compartment that results into forefoot stress. Plantar flexion is the dominant ankle movement. Attacking the downhill path on angles going zig zag is a great solution. In addition, downhill running has catabolic effects on muscle mass, so it's best to allow full recovery at all times.

In summary, running in off road conditions several elements such as altitude, slope of the hill, ground surface, and shoe selection must be monitored. Practice uphill/ downhill running prior a competition, pay attention to you technique at all times, and recover adequately are some tips for success.

This post is derived from personal running experience and communications through The Gait Guys Podcast and Strengthcoach forum.