Have you acquired a good technique and endurance for running uphill? Climbing up and up, have you reached the summit ? You are going to have to think about coming back down again. That's one of the joys of trail running ! Here's our advice for knowing how to run downhill, while taking advantage of the terrain.
TRY FOREFOOT RUNNING
When you go down stairs, you always put your toes down first. This is easy to do on an urban trail ! It's the same when you're running downhill in the heart of nature or the mountains.
Cushion the impact better
Landing on the forefoot, combined with the work of your leg, will enable you to cushion the impact. Even a good pair of trail running shoes will not replace the absorption generated by a good foot strike.
Avoid hurting yourself
A heel strike downhill is very unstable and increases the risk of injuring yourself. Many sprained ankles when trail running are due to landing on the heel when running downhill.
Less impact also means reduced muscle tension and soreness during recovery. With a good warm-up and stretching, you will get off on the right foot.
How do you improve your foot strikes?
Lower your center of gravity and move it slightly forward.
This little exercise will help you come to terms with the slope:
- open your arms for balance
- let yourself fall forward
- run when your center of gravity is far forward
- try to land on your forefoot.
How to manage your effort in trail running
When you begin trail running, you can include a few downhill technique sessions in your training program. You are going to make fast progress and, with practice, you will be more relaxed.
AND THE UPPER BODY?
The upper body should help you keep your balance. To do so, open your arms and use them. For example, turn with your arms first in bends. The rest of the body will follow.
Building a strong core during muscle-strengthening sessions will help you gain stability. Don't forget to also stretch your arm and back muscles, because the whole body gets a workout during trail running !
MAKE BIG STRIDES
Making big strides will give you time to better analyze the terrain and anticipate your foot strikes. You will therefore be more precise. Thinking ahead, lightness, and balance are the key to running more quickly downhill.
ADAPT TO THE TERRAIN
When running in the mountains, you will be faced with a highly varied terrain. For example, on the Mont Blanc Ultra-Trail, the runners cross dry terrain with stones, as well as grass, asphalt, snow, and mud if there is a storm. All this in one race!
Running in mud
Stay in the mud if it is not too deep. Avoid stones and roots, which are slippery.
Running downhill on dry terrain
On dry terrain, put your weight on stones anchored into the ground. Avoid slippery traps, such as areas of gravel or pebbles.
Alternate fast walking and running
As when going uphill, adapt your pace to the terrain. Remain confident by walking in the steepest sections. Even with a race number, have fun and run full out downhill over rolling terrain. Always bear in mind that when trail running it is better to take care and feel good than to run too quickly!
When you have mastered the technique correctly, you will know how to manage both foot strike and balance. Getting used to running downhill also enables you to analyze the terrain better. Relax, remember to breathe correctly, and enjoy running downhill!
Learn more on our Stories & Guides running page.