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General How to Hike Downhill question

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Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I have watched several videos about going down slopes. Some say zig zag, some say keep knees bent, some say heel first, others forefoot first
So, how should you do a steep grade, loose rocks or gravel and muddy or rainy conditions.
Thanks for answering.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. Next: Gd St Bernard to Rome
I have watched several videos about going down slopes. Some say zig zag, some say keep knees bent, some say heel first, others forefoot first
So, how should you do a steep grade, loose rocks or gravel and muddy or rainy conditions.
Thanks for answering.
I am no expert but it is VERY steep downhill and my legs are quite tired,(ie I have been walking for quite a while already), I do zig zag. It looks stupid I know but it seems to help - makes the slope less steep and less stressful on the musles.
I learnt that on my first descent to Roncesvalles, through the forest, watching the Korean pilgrims ahead of me doing it and disappearing in the distance.
But again, it works for me but maybe it is all in the head! 😀
If it is slippery (mud, rain, gravel, whatever) the main thing (imo) is to watch every step carefully. Doesn’t matter if it really slows you down.
Do you use sticks? I find it helps.
 
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CWBuff

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
in Planning stage: Frances (SJPdP --> SdC) & Finisterre "2021"
My group leader on the Inca Trail was zig-zagging constantly going up and down the steps (for those who have not done it - Camino Inca is like 90% "steps"). He said it helped him and also suggested this method to everyone because, he contented, it was easier on the knees as well.

I personally tend to turn sideways and lead with my left foot. One step down, right foot come to the left (and obviously somewhat behind since I am now 'crabbing' in a way), left foot down again, etc. It always helped me to have a firm footing using the whole length of my foot plus it also is easier for me to lean my body away from the downhill (by leaning towards my right side of the body instead of doing it with my back).
I guess something like this - walking "towards us"
56025

The use of poles cannot be stressed enough - they are a LIFE SAVER sometimes.
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I am no expert but it is VERY steep downhill and my legs are quite tired,(ie I have been walking for quite a while already), I do zig zag. It looks stupid I know but it seems to help - makes the slope less steep and less stressful on the musles.
I learnt that on my first descent to Roncesvalles, through the forest, watching the Korean pilgrims ahead of me doing it and disappearing in the distance.
But again, it works for me but maybe it is all in the head! 😀
If it is slippery (mud, rain, gravel, whatever) the main thing (imo) is to watch every step carefully. Doesn’t matter if it really slows you down.
Do you use sticks? I find it helps.
Thanks yes it does
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
My group leader on the Inca Trail was zig-zagging constantly going up and down the steps (for those who have not done it - Camino Inca is like 90% "steps"). He said it helped him and also suggested this method to everyone because, he contented, it was easier on the knees as well.

I personally tend to turn sideways and lead with my left foot. One step down, right foot come to the left (and obviously somewhat behind since I am now 'crabbing' in a way), left foot down again, etc. It always helped me to have a firm footing using the whole length of my foot plus it also is easier for me to lean my body away from the downhill (by leaning towards my right side of the body instead of doing it with my back).
I guess something like this - walking "towards us"
View attachment 56025

The use of poles cannot be stressed enough - they are a LIFE SAVER sometimes.
Thanks
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
I have watched several videos about going down slopes. Some say zig zag, some say keep knees bent, some say heel first, others forefoot first
So, how should you do a steep grade, loose rocks or gravel and muddy or rainy conditions.
Thanks for answering.
A few suggestions might help a bit.

1. Do not allow your feet to pound the ground. It hurts the knees. Shortening your stride and reducing your speed, which controls your momentum, is the key.

2. Keep your knees flexible and 'springy' by having them slightly bent. Doing so helps to absorb impact like a shock absorber does, rather than allowing your weight to drive the impact of the step into the knees, like the action of a jarring jack hammer.

3. On looser surfaces like sand and gravel that sit on the surface of a path or trail, I will step down on the outer edge of my heel first. This helps to force the weight of the step into a smaller area of the shoe or boot. This dramatically increases the ability of the footwear to force it's way through the ball-bearing detritus on top of the path to the firmer surface below. Even with a deep treaded, lug-style outersole, I will still step down heel edge first in these kinds of conditions.

The larger surface area of a shoe, like the fore foot and entire heel, coming into contact with the loose top covering of the path, increases the risk of the shoe or boot skating over the looser top covering of the path, which can cause slips and falls.

3. Trekking poles. They may help and assist with both issues above, and a lot of folks like them and use them effectively for downhills. I don't. I find that while I really like trekking poles for uphills and even on level terrain, I hate them on the downhill. They tend to interfere and get in the way.

However, even though i do not use them on the downhill, there are descents which are so steep and cluttered with layers of slippery top covering, like sand or gravel, that I will use them, slowly and carefully, to help assist me with controlling downhill momentum. Fortunately, that isn't an issue that happens very often.

So for downhill use, it is important to practice ahead of time to develop the rhythm and placement of the poles for them to be effective, and not a hazard.
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
Thank you
I am finding the poles cumbersome and aggravating but trying
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012) (2019)
Camino Portuguese (2017)
I don’t like trekking poles. I prefer to use the Bastone and when going downhill use it to throw a stride ahead and help me down. Steep grade, knees bent deeply, holding the Bastone crosswise with both hands to help shift center of gravity for balance. Everyone develops their own style of downhilling.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
3. On looser surfaces like sand and gravel that sit on the surface of a path or trail, I will step down on the outer edge of my heel first. This helps to force the weight of the step into a smaller area of the shoe or boot. This dramatically increases the ability of the footwear to force it's way through the ball-bearing detritus on top of the path to the firmer surface below. Even with a deep treaded, lug-style outersole, I will still step down heel edge first in these kinds of conditions.
I do do zig-zags on firmer surfaces but the advice that I was going to give for loose surfaces was what Dave said above (but better than I could.)
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I don’t like trekking poles. I prefer to use the Bastone and when going downhill use it to throw a stride ahead and help me down. Steep grade, knees bent deeply, holding the Bastone crosswise with both hands to help shift center of gravity for balance. Everyone develops their own style of downhilling.
Thank you
 

Yumadons

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Aug 1, 2019)
My group leader on the Inca Trail was zig-zagging constantly going up and down the steps (for those who have not done it - Camino Inca is like 90% "steps").

The use of poles cannot be stressed enough - they are a LIFE SAVER sometimes.
I'll be doing the Inca Trail the month before my first CF and plan to rent poles. It will be my first time ever to try them. Right now I kinda think I won't want the inconvenience of a pole in each hand for the flattish CF. I'd most likely forget em and leave em behind at my first cafe stop anyway. 😔
 

CWBuff

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
in Planning stage: Frances (SJPdP --> SdC) & Finisterre "2021"
@Yumadons
No worries-there are no cafes on Camino Inca :)
I used only 1pole,but it was very helpful, especially on the much talked about (and dreaded) day 2
Good luck with both
Buen Caminos
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I'll be doing the Inca Trail the month before my first CF and plan to rent poles. It will be my first time ever to try them. Right now I kinda think I won't want the inconvenience of a pole in each hand for the flattish CF. I'd most likely forget em and leave em behind at my first cafe stop anyway. 😔
You can always give them away. I am a total newbie and trying to learn. Thanks for your input
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
I'll be doing the Inca Trail the month before my first CF and plan to rent poles. It will be my first time ever to try them. Right now I kinda think I won't want the inconvenience of a pole in each hand for the flattish CF. I'd most likely forget em and leave em behind at my first cafe stop anyway. 😔
I had never used poles before my first Camino, now I can't imagine walking a Camino wearing a backpack without them. I bought Pacer Poles, because they seemed "idiot proof" with their ergonomic handles. I never feel like I can't use my hands when I use them.

http://pacerpole.com/
 

Hilarious

Hilarious
Camino(s) past & future
Planning stage Camino Frances from SJPdP (Sept. 2019)
A few suggestions might help a bit.

1. Do not allow your feet to pound the ground. It hurts the knees. Shortening your stride and reducing your speed, which controls your momentum, is the key.

2. Keep your knees flexible and 'springy' by having them slightly bent. Doing so helps to absorb impact like a shock absorber does, rather than allowing your weight to drive the impact of the step into the knees, like the action of a jarring jack hammer.

3. On looser surfaces like sand and gravel that sit on the surface of a path or trail, I will step down on the outer edge of my heel first. This helps to force the weight of the step into a smaller area of the shoe or boot. This dramatically increases the ability of the footwear to force it's way through the ball-bearing detritus on top of the path to the firmer surface below. Even with a deep treaded, lug-style outersole, I will still step down heel edge first in these kinds of conditions.

The larger surface area of a shoe, like the fore foot and entire heel, coming into contact with the loose top covering of the path, increases the risk of the shoe or boot skating over the looser top covering of the path, which can cause slips and falls.

3. Trekking poles. They may help and assist with both issues above, and a lot of folks like them and use them effectively for downhills. I don't. I find that while I really like trekking poles for uphills and even on level terrain, I hate them on the downhill. They tend to interfere and get in the way.

However, even though i do not use them on the downhill, there are descents which are so steep and cluttered with layers of slippery top covering, like sand or gravel, that I will use them, slowly and carefully, to help assist me with controlling downhill momentum. Fortunately, that isn't an issue that happens very often.

So for downhill use, it is important to practice ahead of time to develop the rhythm and placement of the poles for them to be effective, and not a hazard.
Thanks Dave. I will certainly try these techniques. I have poles to use but the foot placement really makes sense to me. I can go through clumsy phases and a training walk I did recently on Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, Australia where there were high steps plus lots of loose stones where I slipped and slid a couple of times made me think that there could be a better way than just planting my feet so that the whole area of my foot (shoe) was pointing straight down. Just didn't know what that could be - I did bend my knees to absorb shock though!
 

Magbyahe

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
June(2019)
I am thinking of buying a used trekking pole in Pamplona this June instead of flying with them since I only want to use one. Where are places I can purchase a used one in Pamplona?
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking.
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I'll be doing the Inca Trail the month before my first CF and plan to rent poles. It will be my first time ever to try them. Right now I kinda think I won't want the inconvenience of a pole in each hand for the flattish CF. I'd most likely forget em and leave em behind at my first cafe stop anyway. 😔
I usually only use one pole which seems to work well for me...and yes I have often left it in a cafe and had to turn back. But then, when growing up, my dad always said "if your head weren't attached, you'd lose it, too"!😂
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
I sometimes run in zig zag and use a pole to equilibrate.
If you can do it is better for your knees.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
Try a few things out to see what works for you.

I tend to:

Slow down and take shorter steps.
If very steep I zig zag.
I use poles! Extend them a bit and puts lots of weight on them.
(In tests with the bathroom scales I reckon I'm putting about 15kgs of weight at least, through my poles going downhill)
Knees slightly bent.
I'm almost 'creeping' downhill sometimes............

Just avoid heavy steps and jarring the joints.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
The larger surface area of a shoe, like the fore foot and entire heel, coming into contact with the loose top covering of the path, increases the risk of the shoe or boot skating over the looser top covering of the path, which can cause slips and falls.
I think I would distinguish between two situations here, perhaps distinguished by what @davebugg means by a loose top surface and looser top covering. Where there is the option to walk on a clear section of a track which has a mineral surface (sand or rock) I get good results from getting as much contact area on the track before letting that foot take my weight. This is the same going up and downhill, but in the case of going downhill it requires walking with slightly bent knees and foot pointed downwards. Trying to make contact with a straightened leg would need a quite high level of ankle flexion - it might be possible but I am not sure I see why one would try. Loose sand is pretty rare on these steeper slopes - it gets washed away pretty quickly. Some might collect in corrugated sections of track, but not on relatively flat tracks.

On less steep slopes, some loose vegetable matter (leaves and twigs) might collect along a track and no clear central section remain. I find it rare that this happens on steeper slopes, but it might. I certainly cannot remember any of the really steep slopes on the CF and CI where this happened. Here I think the approach @davebugg describes might be useful.
 

Dorpie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015, July 2017, October 2019
I don’t like trekking poles. I prefer to use the Bastone and when going downhill use it to throw a stride ahead and help me down. Steep grade, knees bent deeply, holding the Bastone crosswise with both hands to help shift center of gravity for balance. Everyone develops their own style of downhilling.
Forgive my ignorance, what's a Bastone?
 

Dorpie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015, July 2017, October 2019
An italian stick! They might have special properties. I don't know why the person who used it made it a proper noun, but they did.
Thank-you @dougfitz! Given the speed many Italians seem to walk at I certainly wouldn't rule out any special properties.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
An italian stick! They might have special properties. I don't know why the person who used it made it a proper noun, but they did.
In Spanish, the term 'bastones' means hiking sticks (plural). The singular would be 'bastone." but to me using one stick or longer pole is merely a staff.
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I can only add the following thoughts to the excellent suggestions above:

Question: How do I walk downhill?

Answers:

1. VERY carefully...

2. Always watch where you place your feet.

On level or undulating ground you have the luxury of looking around at your surroundings. But on a downhill, CONCENTRATE on where you place your feet.

3. Move your hands on the hiking sticks to place the flat of your hand over the TOP of the stick. This way you have maximum DOWN FORCE. Use this as a brake to prevent falling. When doing this remove your hands from the loops at the top of the sticks. Return your hands to the normal, in the loop, position once you are down the hill.

4. Remember, GRAVITY SUCKS. Physical forces constantly try to hurl you down that slope or hill. Respect gravity. It will win every time.

5. Walk slowly and deliberately, especially on loose, gravelly or stojny surfaces, or if there is mud. I HATE MUD!

Hope this helps.
 
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Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious. Rep stravaiging offender
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
In Spanish, the term 'bastones' mens hiking sticks (plural). The singular would be 'bastone." but to me using one stick por longer pole is merely a staff.
- buty then you´re staff yourself.
Pun intended !
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
3. Move your hands on the hiking sticks to place the flat of your hand over the TOP of the stick. This way you have maximum DOWN FORCE. Use this as a brake to prevent falling. When doing this remove your hands from the loops at the top of the sticks. Return your hands to the normal, in the loop, position once you are down the hill.
I would never recommend this technique. It is too easy to lose control of the stick, and it won't help at all if you do that when you begin to fall forward. If you are using the straps properly, the only thing that needs to be done is to lengthen the pole enough so the when it is planted ahead of you, you are still in a relatively upright position and not having to lean to far forward to be stable.

I know some people claim that you are more likely to injure your wrists doing this. The only reports that I have been able to find about this are downhill skiing accidents when speed is a more significant factor. I rather think that the balance is at walking speeds, people who use the straps properly will be overall better protected from injury.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I understand your position on this, and I do not disagree. But, in my experience, falling with one's hands in the loops is much more hazardous than being able to allow the sticks to fall free if you are falling. Breaking a wrist, in addition to whatever else is going to get bruised or broken is not a good idea.

When I walk down a slope, unless it is on a paved surface, like a road, I never leave my hands in the loops. I either grasp the poles not using the loops. or use the palm on top method I mentioned above to provide added downforce.

My intent is to sacrifice possession of one or both walking sticks, versus injuring a wrist. Admittedly, I am top heavy when I walk and more than a little clumsy. So, slipping and sliding on scree, or loose or muddy surfaces is a regular thing with me. That is why I became sensitized to finding another method.

I agree that using straps, in general is the best method. I just happened to have developed this technique. It works for me. Others should research, experiment and decide for themselves.

Hope this clarifies.
 
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Shades of Narnia

Sandi, Shades of Narnia
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis, 2014
Camino Portuguese 2015
Camino Francis, 2016 & Hospitalera in Viana Spain
(etc)
Agreeing with so much shared here. One thing not yet mentioned; as a steep descent approaches, I loosen my pack's top straps to allow the top of the pack to hang away from my back.....a counter-balance, so to speak. Conversely, on assending hills, I make sure to tighten same straps to hug my back tightly. Allows the weight of the pack to work with me......I am a lightweight and every bit helps ;) LOL
 

Chris Gi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Did April through June 2018 from Pamplona to Santiago. 2020 May or end of September.
I don’t like trekking poles. I prefer to use the Bastone and when going downhill use it to throw a stride ahead and help me down. Steep grade, knees bent deeply, holding the Bastone crosswise with both hands to help shift center of gravity for balance. Everyone develops their own style of downhilling.
Excuse my ignorance but what is the “Bastogne”?
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Many albergue have signs at the entry telling you to leave your botas (boots) and bastones (sticks) outside the facility, in a common place provided.

Of course, doing so makes it easier for someone to "accidentally" take your stuff instead of theirs. It does happen.

In this instance I recommend attaching your poles to your boots and tying the boots together. It makes an 'accidental" removal much more difficult, noisy and prone to third party observation.

Hope this helps.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
I either grasp the poles not using the loops. or use the palm on top method I mentioned above to provide added downforce..
It seems to me unlikely that when you have to both grip the handle and push down on the pole you will be able to generate more force on the pole than if you only have to push down using the strap. Although, even if you are using the pole strap correctly, you are likely to tighten your grip on the pole handle as a natural reflex. Except that you will not be dependent on your grip being strong enough to stop the handle slipping through your clenched hand if the strap is bearing the weight.

Breaking a wrist, in addition to whatever else is going to get bruised or broken is not a good idea.
I addressed this earlier. When I looked for incidents of broken wrists for people using the straps a couple of years ago, those I could find were all related to downhill skiing accidents that involved higher speed collisions with stationary objects like trees and rocks. None occurred walking. If someone is able to produce evidence that walkers have sustained broken wrists when using the straps correctly, I would be interested to know that. At present, I haven't seen any evidence that such an event has ever occurred.

Additionally those attached poles would be flying all over with you in a fall and could injure someone else.
My experience is that if you are using the straps properly, the only way to fall is if the pole tips themselves slip, in which case, they only ever go in one direction, forward. Further, if you are using the straps, and the pole tips slip, you will be continuing to apply downward pressure with the clear prospect that they will grip and arrest any incipient fall. I think you would get a similar effect if you were gripping the pole without the strap, but with a somewhat greater chance that your hand will slip as well because you cannot increase your grip pressure quickly enough, and the pole handle will slip through your hand.

I suspect holding the top of the pole is the worst of these circumstances. Any variation in the direction of the downwards pressure because your palm is not perfectly centrally placed could result in the pole moving in any direction. Any movement lateral to your overall direction of movement will, presumably, see the walker try to correct that movement, requiring a combination of inputs, one's in line with the direction one is walking, and the other across it. It appears that this method is intrinsically more likely to result in one's arms, and also one's poles, flailing around.

My experience is that pole tips will slip, more so as the strike angle moves further from being vertical with the track surface. That means that this gets more likely on steep downward slopes. I remove the rubber tips in these conditions so the metal tip can dig into the track surface and provide the extra traction that I need, but that alone won't stop the occasional slip from happening, but so far, in over 15 years of consistent pole use, continued downward pressure through the straps has resulted in the tip gripping further down the slope. Could this just be luck? Of course it is impossible to prove it isn't, but I have had enough initial slips over the years that have never progressed to my poles slipping away from underneath me completely to think that my technique is working here.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
Lots of responses. I do the zig zag route (I am 65 now) The steeper the hill the wider the zig and zags. I have often been passed by younger pilgrims who are zooming straight down the hill and usually with some obnoxious, but of course born from love, comment as the laugh going by me; Love those kids. I do lean back a little and have a pole planted in front of me to keep my weight from shifting too far forward. When it is a rainy and rocky path, I really take it easy and look, if possible, to find larger to rocks that are pointing uphill. This gives me a little extra support.. I do much wider turns and I point my feet in the direction of the zig zag and never downhill. I think it gives me more resistance against slippage and more stability.
 

owms2323

Credential question
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Frances (2014) Camino Frances (2016) Camino Finisterre/Muxia (2017)
I don’t like trekking poles. I prefer to use the Bastone and when going downhill use it to throw a stride ahead and help me down. Steep grade, knees bent deeply, holding the Bastone crosswise with both hands to help shift center of gravity for balance. Everyone develops their own style of downhilling.
What is the Bastone?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
@dougfitz, thank you for your reasonable reply a few posts above. I confess that my reasons actually came from my experiences back home in my usual backpacking and hiking territory that has lots of slippery glacier polished granite slabs and big rocks and narrow trails confined by growth. Not camino walking at all and I should have considered that.

In those areas Peg and I are one pole hikers leaving one hand to grab trees and such. On our Camino Frances I gave my pole to Peg on day two and thats the way we walked for the rest of the way (even though early on I could have picked up a fantastic set of poles for free).

When I do go down those nasty spots at home my pole doesn't have the rubber tip. I need it to rest on bumps (which it could do with the rubber) but also fit into pits and cracks (which it can't do with the rubber tips). I flex my ankles to get all of my sole onto the rock and stand up straight to get as much friction and take small steps so if I need to I can get my foot down again quick to get that friction (Peg does a butt slide).

But, as for holding the pole, @t2andreo said to experiment for yourself and 60 years of that has told me to hold the pole outside the strap.
 

ouroboros

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012) (2019)
Camino Portuguese (2017)
In Spanish, the term 'bastones' means hiking sticks (plural). The singular would be 'bastone." but to me using one stick or longer pole is merely a staff.
I always called my staff my bastone most affectionately because I heard it called that at some point and it stuck!
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I can only add the following thoughts to the excellent suggestions above:

Question: How do I walk downhill?

Answers:

1. VERY carefully...

2. Always watch where you place your feet.

On level or undulating ground you have the luxury of looking around at your surroundings. But on a downhill, CONCENTRATE on where you place your feet.

3. Move your hands on the hiking sticks to place the flat of your hand over the TOP of the stick. This way you have maximum DOWN FORCE. Use this as a brake to prevent falling. When doing this remove your hands from the loops at the top of the sticks. Return your hands to the normal, in the loop, position once you are down the hill.

4. Remember, GRAVITY SUCKS. Physical forces constantly try to hurl you down that slope or hill. Respect gravity. It will win every time.

5. Walk slowly and deliberately, especially on loose, gravelly or stojny surfaces, or if there is mud. I HATE MUD!

Hope this helps.
Thank you for your input. Very informative
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
Lots of responses. I do the zig zag route (I am 65 now) The steeper the hill the wider the zig and zags. I have often been passed by younger pilgrims who are zooming straight down the hill and usually with some obnoxious, but of course born from love, comment as the laugh going by me; Love those kids. I do lean back a little and have a pole planted in front of me to keep my weight from shifting too far forward. When it is a rainy and rocky path, I really take it easy and look, if possible, to find larger to rocks that are pointing uphill. This gives me a little extra support.. I do much wider turns and I point my feet in the direction of the zig zag and never downhill. I think it gives me more resistance against slippage and more stability.
Sounds like great advice
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
@dougfitz, thank you for your reasonable reply a few posts above. I confess that my reasons actually came from my experiences back home in my usual backpacking and hiking territory that has lots of slippery glacier polished granite slabs and big rocks and narrow trails confined by growth. Not camino walking at all and I should have considered that.
You raise an interesting point, and that is for many of us, our routine walking at home is in conditions that don't exist on the Camino routes. I think generally we are careful about ensuring we factor this into the advice we provide, but it does pay to remind ourselves about that from time to time. Thank you for doing it this time.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I am not going to debate the pros and cons of how one should hold hiking poles when walking down a slope. What I will offer is this:

De gustibus non est disputandum, or de gustibus non disputandum est, is a Latin maxim meaning "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes" (literally "about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed..”)

Hope this helps.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
De gustibus non est disputandum, or de gustibus non disputandum est, is a Latin maxim meaning "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes" (literally "about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed..”)
Good walking pole use is a matter of technique in the first instance. If, and only if, two techniques were functional equivalents and offered the same performance would it ever become a matter of taste. That clearly hasn't happened here, and until it has, I am happy to offer advice on better, and safer, techniques of pole use.

Do I expect that forum members will adopt that advice? It would be nice if they did, but it would be unrealistically optimistic to expect that they might. People have their own favourite ways of doing things for all sorts of reasons, and in the absence of a compelling reason to change, probably won't.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Doug - I always welcome and value your many contributions, always have... On this issue, I am of the belief that there are appropriate methods for using hiking poles / sticks both on flat terrain, as well as on slopes.

Similarly, there are a variety of methods for using poles for mechanical advantage. In my experience, I have adopted those procedures that work for me. As they work for me, I shared them as recommendations. People are welcome to try them, adopt them, or not.

This said, I also believe that using poles, as with so many aspects of gear and clothing, personal preferences, walking styles, and experience are huge determinants of what works for the individual.

So, instead of arguing one point or the other, I just offer the statement that, concerning matters of personal taste, there can be no dispute.

We can always just agree to disagree...;)
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
Good walking pole use is a matter of technique in the first instance. If, and only if, two techniques were functional equivalents and offered the same performance would it ever become a matter of taste. That clearly hasn't happened here, and until it has, I am happy to offer advice on better, and safer, techniques of pole use.

Do I expect that forum members will adopt that advice? It would be nice if they did, but it would be unrealistically optimistic to expect that they might. People have their own favourite ways of doing things for all sorts of reasons, and in the absence of a compelling reason to change, probably won't.
Good walking pole use is a matter of technique in the first instance. If, and only if, two techniques were functional equivalents and offered the same performance would it ever become a matter of taste. That clearly hasn't happened here, and until it has, I am happy to offer advice on better, and safer, techniques of pole use.

Do I expect that forum members will adopt that advice? It would be nice if they did, but it would be unrealistically optimistic to expect that they might. People have their own favourite ways of doing things for all sorts of reasons, and in the absence of a compelling reason to change, probably won't.
Dougfitz, Can you clarify for me, the correct use of poles?
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2012, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011
Dougfitz, Can you clarify for me, the correct use of poles?
I have raised the correct use of pole straps in previous posts. This is one area of pole use that is genuinely black and white.

Otherwise there are technique variations, some of which might be better than others. The US outdoors outfitter, REI, has a reasonable FAQ page on pole use that demonstrates the major variations of pole use techniques, as does LEKI. I think both demonstrate variations of the downhill techniques discussed in this thread.

Remember that there are three things that distinguish a technical pole that might cost $100 or more from a simple stick:
a. a strap that moves the major support for the pole to your wrist, and removes the requirement to grip the pole tightly with your hand. This allows the pole to be used relatively effortlessly for far longer periods.
b. adjustable length that allows the user to make adjustments for more significant slopes, including side slopes - although I have found little need to use this on the Spanish routes that I have walked.
c. a range of tip accessories, most importantly different rubber tips that can be used to better match the tip to the ground conditions and your own walking activity.

The easiest way of turning your $100 pole into a simple stick is not using the strap. It is that simple. Any technique where you don't use the strap for one reason or another does this. Some people clearly feel more comfortable with this than I do. Aside from taking my poles off to take a break or remove my gloves, I haven't found a circumstance where the straps need to be removed.
 

marylynn

Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
2011-12-14-15-16-17-18-(19) CF
2013 Arles/Aragones
2015 & 2017 HærvejenDK
Be sure to lace your shoes correctly before the descent. If the laces are too loose, your foot will slip to the toe or sideways in your shoe. This can cause ankle and toe problems.
AND if the laces are too tight, you could get a stress fracture in your foot that may take two months to heal with rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
(CF Fall 2018)
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
I have raised the correct use of pole straps in previous posts. This is one area of pole use that is genuinely black and white.

Otherwise there are technique variations, some of which might be better than others. The US outdoors outfitter, REI, has a reasonable FAQ page on pole use that demonstrates the major variations of pole use techniques, as does LEKI. I think both demonstrate variations of the downhill techniques discussed in this thread.

Remember that there are three things that distinguish a technical pole that might cost $100 or more from a simple stick:
a. a strap that moves the major support for the pole to your wrist, and removes the requirement to grip the pole tightly with your hand. This allows the pole to be used relatively effortlessly for far longer periods.
b. adjustable length that allows the user to make adjustments for more significant slopes, including side slopes - although I have found little need to use this on the Spanish routes that I have walked.
c. a range of tip accessories, most importantly different rubber tips that can be used to better match the tip to the ground conditions and your own walking activity.

The easiest way of turning your $100 pole into a simple stick is not using the strap. It is that simple. Any technique where you don't use the strap for one reason or another does this. Some people clearly feel more comfortable with this than I do. Aside from taking my poles off to take a break or remove my gloves, I haven't found a circumstance where the straps need to be removed.
I will look for your other posts but thanks for replying. I have Mountain Cascade Aluminum poles and dislike the straps. They rub my wrists and cause redness. Granted, I don't know much so it could be my fault. However, everything I have learned thus far by asking varies from person to person. Everything learned is a help.
 

Rex

Pilgrim Trekker
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to Santiago (2013)
Lisboa to Santiago (2018)
DaveBugg's advice is what 60 years of marathons, mountain trail running and hiking has taught me.
On downhills, shorten your stride, land on the mid-foot to fore-foot and keep a slight bend in your knees. Try to avoid landing with a straight leg or on your heels, as this transmits the force of the impact directly up your shin bones to your knee joint... and that's when bad things happen.
Never had a knee or ankle problem in 60 years and over 25000 miles of running... knock on wood.
Buen Camino
 

Nana6

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
France ( 2020)
DaveBugg's advice is what 60 years of marathons, mountain trail running and hiking has taught me.
On downhills, shorten your stride, land on the mid-foot to fore-foot and keep a slight bend in your knees. Try to avoid landing with a straight leg or on your heels, as this transmits the force of the impact directly up your shin bones to your knee joint... and that's when bad things happen.
Never had a knee or ankle problem in 60 years and over 25000 miles of running... knock on wood.
Buen Camino
Thank you for the help.
Buen Camino
 

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