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Do Your Knees Hurt When Hiking Downhill?

2020 Camino Guides

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Zig-zagging downhill also helps, if the path is wide enough. BTW, love this typo/autocorrect in it

"Aside from the occasional dream of whiskey to dull the pain, ..." Great article, thanks for posting it and Buen Camino, SY
Yes SY - a dram of good whiskey (12-15 year old single malt!?) would work wonders, improving (lessening?) the knee pain, but only at the end of the day's walking?!
 

Albertinho

ninguém disse que era fácil !
Camino(s) past & future
2013 Lisboa - Sant.
2014 Ferrol -Sant.
2015 Porto -Sant.
2018 Porto -Valença
2019 Valença -Sant.
Yes SY - a dram of good whiskey (12-15 year old single malt!?) would work wonders, improving (lessening?) the knee pain, but only at the end of the day's walking?!
It is a matter of changing the pain zone ! Drink so much boose that you forget the pain in your knees but feel a headache all the time :D
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Or perhaps it just helps to dream of the whiskey (Jura Single Malt anyone?) during the walk, positive thoughts, smiles of anticipation etc. might also help ;-) Buen Camino and Slainte! SY
 

Waka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Some but not all, and other routes too.
Aside from the Malt I thought it was a good article, I do suffer when going down hill, luckily an elastic knee brace solved the problem, but I guess as we get older other things will spring up, so maybe the malt is a good thing.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
I don't suffer from knee problems either climbing or descending (so far, touch wood) but I came across this article and thought you might find it interesting.
https://www.theoutbound.com/jen-weir/do-your-knees-hurt-when-hiking-downhill-here-s-why
In East Africa, in Kiswahili, the polite answer to many questions, like that in the subject line, is bado meaning 'not yet', rather than a stark 'no'. For example you might ask an 80 year old woman if she had children and she would say bado.
That's my answer, but ask me again in 10 years!
In Kenya too I once asked a quite young and very charming orthopaedic surgeon if the pain in my neck would get better. "Oh yes," he said, and with a pause, "when you get younger!" Still the kindest reply I've heard from a doctor! (I'm a doctor myself.)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy (2010; 2016), Norte, Primitivo, Muxia/Fisterra (2010), Mozarabe, Via de la Plata, Sanabres (2011), Arles, Aragones, Frances (2015)
As I don't drink alcohol, I send my pack first. Then, I lay on my side and let myself roll downhill.
Nice when snow, less when mud, not when rocks! :p


 
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy (2010; 2016), Norte, Primitivo, Muxia/Fisterra (2010), Mozarabe, Via de la Plata, Sanabres (2011), Arles, Aragones, Frances (2015)
More seriously, nice article, thanks :)
I found it less painful when I consciously relax my leg muscles. I realized it adds much more tension when I try not to have pain. Then, resting after a big slope (walking on my feet ;) ) and good massages are working too!


 

Jacobus

Pilgrim since 2008
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2008 09 14
Del Norte 2011. Portuguese 2015, 2017Ingles 2015 Fisterre 2015.
Cheers

I was lucky enough to find a set of walking poles that had springs in the tip. They had just enough resistance combined with give to take about 10-15 % of the weight off of my kness while heading downhill. On my second Camino I forgot the poles in Ages and knee pain eventually caught up. I bought a single wooden pole and it also seemed to do the trick. So for me the answer is obvious.

Oooops, forgot to mention Pacharan, which is not a whiskey but numbs just about anything that needs it!

Jim
 

MCFearnley

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Ponferrada to Santiago (September 2016)
To avoid sore knees, I have found that shortening my stride as I go downhill works really well. Also using the poles as a brake to slow down the effects of gravity and the urge to careen down the hill is nice.
 

november_moon

Veteran Member
In addition to the zigzagging, poles, and shortening of stride, I find that bending my knees somewhat helps cushion the knees - so rather than straightening my front leg for each footfall, I keep it somewhat bent - adopting kind of a funky stride, but it works. It makes my thigh muscles tired, of course, but better to have tired muscles than sore joints - muscles recover faster.
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
I have a knee where the whole meniscus has been removed. The most helpful advice I ever got from my physiotherapist is regarding walking technique, both uphill, downhill and on stairs: the moment the gradient gets steep enough that I'm noticing it, I start putting my toes down first, then sort of rock onto my heel, for every step.

Have you seen a gymnastics team entering the arena before a competition? Or ballet dancers running in ballet shoes? They sort of stretch the foot, pointing their toes before the whole foot softly hits the ground. That's me now, there is no longer any heel-bumping jolting my knees.

It looked a little odd at first, but now I can do it so fast that most people don't notice.

Other good stuff from my physio/GP team: Arthrotec, kinesio-tape, knee/thigh muscle exercise programme (at least three times a week).
 

kelleymac

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
When I got home my knees hurt, a lot. I went to the physical therapist/sports doctor and he told me my knees weren't tracking properly because my core muscles (thigh, and butt) were not strong enough. He gave me specific exercises to do. -- This is what I think happened. In Santiago, my son bought a ton of chocolate and cheese to take home with us. Most of it ended up in my backpack, loaded on the top. I remember putting on the pack and saying "this is too heavy". He replied that we were only walking to the train station (about a mile or so away), so I shrugged and dealt with it. Big mistake! Even though it was only a short walk, and then lugging my pack through various train stations, I should have listened to my body, and repacked. The heavy things should go in the middle -- or my son should have carried more.
 

zrexer

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15,16 & 19 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo
2020 Camino Del Norte
As a few have stated, proper use of poles will mostly eliminate any stress on your knees from down hill descent.
I also shift my weight back, almost like downhill skiing. Slightly bending the knees.
Anyway, if you have knee issues and don't have trekking poles, get them, watch a few You Tube videos and go to a hilly area and practice before setting off on your Camino.
One thing that always surprises me is the number of people with trekking poles strapped to their back pack that seemingly never get used. Very puzzling. My wife and walked with a lady over several days and she never used her poles once.
People remark in my Camino pictures I am holding my poles in 95% of them. My poles are out almost all the time except in larger centres.
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
My poles are more or less permanently attached to my hands as long as I'm carrying a backpack...
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
After coming down from Monte de Gozo and crossing the bridge into the outskirts of Santiago, my brother and I stopped for coffee and second breakfast. We decided at that stage, that as our Camino was nearly at an end, we would fold the poles and put them on our packs, after that it just got weird, I didn't know what to do with my hands all the way to the Cathedral. I didn't feel right until we were back on the road to Finisterre two days later with said poles firmly gripped in my hands.
 

JenCamino

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Primitivo (July 2016)
I used to have severe knee issues, which gave me a lot of pain and weakness, to the point of my knee collapsing if I moved the wrong way. Then my 20s I learned tai chi, which is basically the alignment and muscle-building suggested in the article. That helped quite a bit. I had to train my knee to stay in line with the rest of my leg, and build enough balanced muscle to hold it there. Then, in my 30s I discovered anti-pronating shoes. Wow. That solved 99% of the rest of it! The knee problems return as the shoe foam breaks down (about every 3-4 months at my usual 10-15km per day). So, replacing my shoes often is important. For my Camino this summer (yes, at 40-- this process to knee health took me a long time!!) I learned a little trick for hills: "sit back" when descending steep inclines or stairs. Imagine your posture of sitting in a hard-backed chair (ie "sitting," not "crouching"): the shins/calves/knees stay directly above the ankles--not in front of the feet--and your "behind" hangs out, well, behind...(not above your feet as in crouching). This takes the pressure off the knees and puts it into the quads and glutes, which are much bigger stronger muscles. Try it out, moving very slowly at the start, paying close attention to your body. It may feel like you are leaning back "too far" at first, but you want to be able to feel the strain shift away from your knees and towards your thighs/butt, as you assume the position. Once you find the right position, you can move at normal speed. Another related tip: take many very short steps, instead of long strides. This will help you hold your posture more easily, and ironically, give you more speed.

Buen Camino!
 

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