Running downhill is risky business if you don’t implement the proper forefoot running mechanics. This is especially true if you are running barefoot. If you run downhill while not utilizing a proper forefoot strike, this increases the vertical impact peak force. This peak is further intensified if you run barefoot downhill without a proper forefoot strike landing.
Be Careful When Running Barefoot Downhill
A study by An et al. 2015 compared the different types of vertical impact forces in shod and barefoot runners in uphill, level, and downhill running surface conditons. The barefoot runners in the study had no previous experience with barefoot running and were not given proper instruction regarding forefoot strike running mechanics. The study found that the vertical impact peak was the highest during running downhill in the barefoot runners as compared with the shod runners, suggesting that downhill running may cause injury when you are doing so barefoot, but again, this is only true if you execute the wrong barefoot running mechanics (i.e. landing with a heel strike instead of a forefoot strike).
This is where Pose Running comes in handy. When you run barefoot downhill, be sure to significantly shorten your stride and avoid straightening your knee and extending your leg out in front of you where your foot lands in front of your hips –this is the last thing you want to do!
To minimize the vertical impact force, you need to brake less when running barefoot downhill; this is where you apply Pose Running in that you want to take shorter strides by picking up your knee and pulling your foot up directly under your hips as shown below:
To make your forefoot strike landings lighter when running barefoot downhill, don’t think of stepping down with your foot, but rather think of picking up your foot as quick as you can. Don’t forget to run tall, avoid slouching and avoid leaning too far forward as this will put too much strain on your hamstrings.
More From Run Forefoot:
An, W., Rainbow MJ and Cheung RTH. Effects of Surface Inclination on the Vertical Loading Rates and Landing Pattern during the First Attempt of Barefoot Running in Habitual Shod Runners. Biomed Res Intern, 2015;1-7.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.