What goes up... 10 tips for a safe downhill trek

March 24, 2021

Climbing a steep descent — or conquering an imposing peak — is a fitness achievement in itself. But don’t think the tough stuff is over once it’s all downhill: your descent can be just as tricky as your ascent. Here, 10 tips for making sure you have a safe climb down.

1. Relax your knees

One of the easiest ways to hurt yourself while trekking downhill is to lock your knees — you risk injuring them, as well as your back, this way. Keep your knee joints loose by walking with a slight bend in your legs.

2. Go with the flow

Avoid deliberately setting your pace while walking downhill. Instead, let gravity help dictate how quickly you walk. This will help protect your knees, as well.

3. Don’t walk in a straight line

Make your path longer — but easier — by descending in a criss-cross pattern. Your descent won’t be as steep, and (again) your knees and back will benefit as a result.

4. Tighten those laces

Nothing will risk ankle-injury quite like having a pair of loosely laced shoes or boots. Make sure your laces are tied snugly: not so tight that they restrict blood flow or hurt your feet or ankles, but tightly enough that you feel secure and supported by your footwear.

5. Shorten your stride

You may be tempted to take longer steps as you descend, since gravity is on your side. Don’t; you increase the risk of misstepping and falling. Do the opposite instead!

6. Watch your step

Take in the views too, of course, but be extra cautious to look where each of your footfalls will land. Do this especially if the terrain is uneven; it doesn’t take much to cause a tumble.

7. Heel-toe it…

Consider this another form of watching your step. Walking toes-first will cause strain on your toe box, and could damage toenails (making the rest of your descent especially painful).

8. …or step sideways

Instead of taking steps with your toe forward, place your feet sideways. This is especially helpful when the slope is particularly steep, as it gives you additional stability.

9. Pack poles

Speaking of stability, if you’re concerned about getting some extra support and weight distribution on your descent, nothing is better than a pair of hiking poles. Try them out before your trek to make sure you’re comfortable using them.

10. Go at your own pace

This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Don’t rush to keep up with your trek-mates, or to try to beat someone’s time. Move at a pace that feels safe and comfortable to you. Happy trekking!

Getting there

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