I've rapidly increased my running endurance this year. For the last years I was running max 12 km, in this year I've broken half marathon, and I've started trail running. After one run with 600 meter elevation, I've got some clicking sounds in knees next day (without any pain) which I interpret as warning signal.

Running uphill was perfectly comfortable (thought exhausting), but running downhill was a struggle with gravity that accelerated me to move legs much faster I'm used to. I suppose also it was an overwhelming experience for muscles stabilizing my knees.

What exercises can I use to strenghten that muscles and prepare them for the downhill shock? Interval sprints to make them prepared for higher velocities? Thinks like vew-do?

  • Not an expert here, but consider stretching as well. Sometimes it's only as bad as just stretching out your quads, hamstrings, calves, and all the other smaller leg muscles.
    – Cullub
    Jul 29, 2019 at 14:57
  • If you worry that downhill running is bad for your knees then stop running downhill.
    – Jan
    Jul 30, 2019 at 8:38
  • It is also a matter of running form. While running downhill, take short small steps at a fast cadence. It feels natural to befriend gravity and run down with long strides, but it isn't good for the body, so don't do that.
    – ahron
    Oct 26, 2019 at 3:46

2 Answers 2


There are two main adaptations of the body to downhill effort: that of the muscles and that of the joints.

A downhill effort is made of eccentric muscles contractions (wikipedia link) have a specific impact on muscles. These eccentric contractions result in muscle micro-tears, which are normal. During the rest after the effort, With the repetition of downhill efforts your muscles will be able to recover faster. The fiber will also become more resistant. It’s necessary to take enough time to recover from this efforts. Sleep time and protein intake as an impact on the quality of this recovery.

The joints will strengthen over months and years of practice. Take a minute to warm up knees and ankles before a run is a good thing.

Here is a list of exercises to improve downhill skills.

  • Abdominal muscles strength
  • Balance training
  • Proprioception training (youtube video)
  • Repetitions of 1 or 2 minutes in a downhill section you know well

These exercises will allow you to control more the gravity acceleration and to feel light and comfortable. For muscles strength you can introduce uphill/downhill activities in your training routine. Become a better downhill runner take time, it’s important to go slow and steady to avoid injury.

  • 1
    I've just recently heard about the advantages of balance boards for hikers and runners. It looks like a potential agenda for incoming winter. Aug 8, 2019 at 21:29
  • 1
    Fore sure ! Slackline is also a funny way to improve balance skills. Aug 9, 2019 at 9:34

The rule of thumb is to minimize downhill running to 1% of your uphill running. Thus, if you do hill workouts such as hill repeats or Jack Daniel's type R sessions on hills you are supposed to run up and walk or jog down.

The idea is not that you do not run down the hills, but that instead of sprinting all out you "ease" down the hill. And this is meant for training not for a race. During a longer tempo training on the trail you can plan forward and study the terrain to see on which parts you can to the tempo repeats. And in any case you can ease a bit on the downhills instead of storming them all out. This will actually also help you on race day and you will be able to stay at your pace with less effort saving energy and avoiding sore legs.

You will want to work on your general fitness first (prehab) and then do a few downhill workouts per month to "season" your legs.

Cross-training exercises are strongly recommended

There are a few techniques for downhills in the trail that depend on the footing and the inclination that can't be learned. The iRunfar.com website has a section called "Your Ultra Running Bag of Tricks that covers many techniques that will be vital for your trail running, not only for ultras. Here a whole article spot on:

The Science of Hill Running and How It Impacts Your Race Times

Your Ultra-Training Bag Of Tricks: Don’t Let Downhills Be Your Downfall

See you on the trails ;)

  • 1
    +1 for interesting link. Minimizing downhills is not viable (when I get up, I need to get down), but reducing the speed, and avoiding long steps (jumps) are the 'tricks' I'd have to test. Aug 6, 2019 at 20:22

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