As many runners know running downhill can take a toll on your knees because of the immense amount of stress it puts on them. To better understand why they hurt, it is important to know the difference in body position when running downhill versus running uphill or on flat terrain. When running uphill or on flat terrain you land with a flexed knee and on the middle of your foot, which takes some of the pressure off the knee. However, when running downhill your knee is fairly straight and most of your weight lands on your heel, putting tremendous strain on your knees (fig. 1).
So how do you reduce knee pain running downhill? Your instinct is to lean backward, which is ok in cases of steep hills because it is necessary to slow you down. However, when running on a hilly course the lean backward body position puts more strain on your knees (fig. 1). Next time you are running downhill try leaning forward slightly, using your hips not your shoulders, this will help distribute the weight of your body more equally and put less stress on your knee (fig. 2). It is also important to continually engage your core to keep your body in control when running downhill and ensure proper body alignment.
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