Distance Running Tips: How To Tackle Downhill Running

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We were probably all there once – five years old, running downhill with no pain. All we knew was that it felt a lot easier to run down the hill than it did up it. As adult runners, we know it’s not that simple anymore. Read on for some awesome distance running tips, guaranteed to help you tackle downhill running, pain-free!

Downhill Workouts: Downhill Running Doesn’t Mean Autopilot

Elevation change on your run course can be a blessing and a curse. Downhill sections can help break up a monotonous run, and can even help build strength in your lower legs. 

Sure, the uphills are harder to breathe on…but for many of us, the downhills are WAY more painful.

Downhills require us to run faster and pick up our cadence, all at the mercy of gravity.

Often times, these downhills can be over a mile long, at least.

The result? A brutal pounding on your lower body, including your quads, knees, and hamstrings–resulting in painful soreness and increasing your injury risk. 

So let’s figure out how to best tackle these guys, with the least amount of wear and tear on your body.

Distance Running Tips: There Are Two Ways To Approach Downhill Training

There’s “getting” down the hill, and there’s running down the hill.

We’ve all done it…we lean on the downhills (quite literally) as our rest periods. A place to catch our breath.

Downhills are NOT your rest periods! In fact, you’ll want to be even more turned on here than you are on the flats!

Getting down the hill:

distance running tips

  • We call this the “skip hop” method.
  • Short little steps, perhaps, skips–and braking when you feel out of control.
  • Arms tend to flail out to the side, almost like wings.
  • You’re essentially gliding down the hill, to the best of your abilities.
  • Every step is your attempt at fighting gravity, obstacles, slick surfaces, etc.

 


Proper running form down the hill:

distance running tips

  • Drive your hips forward.
  • Lean forward slightly and drive each step with a high, quick heel pull.
  • Turnover should be VERY high.
  • As soon as your foot hits the ground, it’s coming off of it again.
  • Running should feel light and quick, but full and “complete” in form.

So how do you determine your approach?

Distance Running Tips: There Are Two Types of Downhills

For the purpose of easier explanation, we’ll use the terms “runnable” and “unrunnable”.

Bear with us and our made-up words 🙂

Runnable Downhills: 

  • Not dauntingly steep
  • Requiring a pace not more than 1 min/mile faster than your flat pace
  • Fairly clear of obstacles
  • Fairly dry (little to no mud, snow, ice, etc)

Running Technique for Approaching These:

Run down them! Use that high heel pull, quick steps, and a strong hip drive to run fast with great form.

Unrunnable Downhills:

  • A very steep hill
  • Requiring a pace that’s 1-2+ mins/mile faster than your flat pace
  • Maybe cluttered with obstacles: tree roots, rocks, gaps, puddles
  • Maybe wet, muddy, snowy or icy

Running Technique for Approaching These:

Our good old “skip hop” method. Feel controlled in your footing as you get down this dicier type of hill.

The beauty of running outdoors is that more often than not, the terrain is ever-changing.

Incorporating these distance running tips will help you to consciously approach these changes with great form…all resulting in injury-free running!

For sticking with us to the end, check out our exclusive running training plan! Running, strength & mobility workouts designed JUST FOR YOU! No gym required.