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Walking Down Hills

kjgeraci

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
first
#1
Does anyone have any resources or tips & tricks for using Trekking Poles ... walking down hills like this?

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 11.02.11 PM.png
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#2
Go slow.
Step short.
Lengthen the poles a bit.
Put a lot of weight onto the poles. I estimate 10-15 kgs at least using my bathroom scales.
Tread lightly.
Wear knee support
Zig zagging can help.


Downhills are a killer. Rather go uphill anytime!
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#3
Yes, that would also be my advice. Very precisely formulated.
However you can also try to run down the hills (if they are not too step). The way to do it is close to the advice already given. But try to lean slightly backwards when doing it, relax in the shoulders and arms and keep the poles ready so you can use them if you stumble. And don't run fast. Run slowly. Like jogging. Short steps. It may sound strange but it may losen up the muscles a bit, at least as long as you run slowly.
For me it works fine, it loosens the weight on the knees since there is a more "flowing movement" and the "bumping down the hill" also loosen up the other muscles in the body. It fells sort of refreshing, but I'm well avare that not everyone likes it. We're all different.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2, El Norte incompleto
#4
Yes, that would also be my advice. Very precisely formulated.
However you can also try to run down the hills (if they are not too step). The way to do it is close to the advice already given. But try to lean slightly backwards when doing it, relax in the shoulders and arms and keep the poles ready so you can use them if you stumble. And don't run fast. Run slowly. Like jogging. Short steps. It may sound strange but it may losen up the muscles a bit, at least as long as you run slowly.
For me it works fine, it loosens the weight on the knees since there is a more "flowing movement" and the "bumping down the hill" also loosen up the other muscles in the body. It fells sort of refreshing, but I'm well avare that not everyone likes it. We're all different.
I have found this sort of downhill "jog" to be very helpful
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPdP May/June, 2018
#5
I like the ideas already expressed and I'll only add a few personal comments about them.

"Running/Jogging" - this is probably not a good idea for someone who has concerns about going downhill. I assume you are asking because you are worried about potential injury to your joints (hips, knees and ankles while walking) or slipping and falling and the injuries sustained from that impact. If your concerns relate to fighting boredom while walking downhill, then by all means, go ahead and try jogging or running downhill (note: face plant hazard - bring a spare set of teeth with you).

Zig Zagging / Slalom / Serpentine - instead of walking straight down in the middle of the path, one walks from edge to edge, traversing as in skiing back and forth to control the speed of descent). It is the least efficient way to get from point A to point B (top of hill to bottom of hill) but maybe the safest and easiest on your body. I just became aware of this while doing the CF this spring. I thought it was amusing but silly the first few times I saw this technique and I assumed it was being done out of boredom. Then I started to think about it and it all made sense. For people who have pain or weakness or get fatigued in their joints; doing the zig zag distributes the stresses in their joints and muscles to areas that normally don't do as much "work" when controlling one's descent down a steep hill. You will use the "straight on" muscles to a lesser degree and will add the muscles that control a left traverse and a right traverse. I am lucky to have good knees that function well without any pain which is why I was unable to understand the utility of this technique when first observed. I would recommend this technique if you have joint issues or need to give your "normal" muscles a reprieve.

Go Slow - YES. don't try to make up time on the downhills, go slowly and carefully.

Small steps - YES you have a much better chance of recovering from a small/short misstep where a foot slides out or an ankle bends than when executing a medium or large misstep.

Tread lightly and wear support devices - YES

Lengthen the Poles - YES if you plan to use the same grip for normal walking. Depending on the situation and what is most stable and comfortable, you may want to switch from having the handle/grip of the pole in your palm to having the end or butt of the pole in your palm where a shorter length might work better.

Lots of Weight on the Poles - I would suggest you only put "a lot of weight" on the poles for the few moments of each descent when you absolutely need them and the rest of the time, have the poles positioned and ready to put " a lot of weight" on them. A little bit of weight to help with balance for most of the descent is a good idea. Ideally you try to walk in a balanced state the whole time without depending on the poles but you have them deployed in position just in case a slip occurs.

Three Variables that can change everything - steepness and length of hills, surface composition, and weather conditions. You will need to apply and modify your walking techniques based on these variables and you WILL see lots of variety regarding these variables over the course of your walk.

In my opinion, you need to be most cautious when:
1. You are fatigued, tired, ready to quit for the day (also relates to #4 below)
2. Navigating a long and steep downhill with loose rocks that tend to roll or teeter and slide under your foot placements. Round rocks roll and fractured rocks teeter and slide. You will encounter both.
3. Wetness and mud exacerbate already challenging conditions with more frequent slips.
4. Distracted - l think most people fall when stumbling on tree roots or smaller embedded rocks on the flats when distracted and not giving enough attention to what they are doing...walking.
5. Bicyclists behind you coming down the same hill. A long steep hill on a relatively easy surface to walk invites those on bicycles to relax by allowing gravity to delivery a fun breezy ride down the hill they worked so hard to ride up. While descending these hills, keep checking behind you to see if anyone is coming down quickly on a bike. If you see someone (or frequently a group) stay alert and as they get close, move off the path for self preservation. It's just not worth risking the completion of your Camino by being anywhere in the path of one of these bikers.
 
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twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPdP May/June, 2018
#9
When I was about 45 years yonger I used to run down hills. Also 'scree running'.

Now my knees would give out!
Yes, the good old days when we were not old. But we can still do this on a sand dune or a slope with several feet of fresh powder snow...it's a much softer landing if/when we "lose it"....scree...not so much...need lot's of bandages.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - central from Porto (2018 - planned)
#11
I tend to put a lot of weight on the poles with the idea that weight carried by the poles is not carried by the knees. Zigzagging has the effect of reducing the slope. As was said above, it is very inefficient; you are making the distance from point A to point B much longer. By the same token, you are making the descent from altitude A to altitude B cover a longer distance, too. That's a more gradual slope.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#14
Go slow.
Step short.
Lengthen the poles a bit.
Put a lot of weight onto the poles. I estimate 10-15 kgs at least using my bathroom scales.
Tread lightly.
Wear knee support
Zig zagging can help.


Downhills are a killer. Rather go uphill anytime!
I must have good knees because I love the downhills but hate working hard to climb uphill!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
#17
You can practice. Find a level driveway. Lay down an 8 foot piece of plywood and under one end place a 2 by 4 piece of lumber to raise that end up 4 inches. You now have a 4 percent slope, a close approximation to the 4.5 slope shown on the profile diagram.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#18
Check and perhaps tighten boot laces - you don't want to cut off the blood supply but you also don't want your feet sliding forward and your toes hitting the end of the toe box. Look up lacing systems around the ankle.
Hey, Jeff, this is a very serious post, coming from you. ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
#22
All the advice about going downhill is correct and spot on, but the best comment was to really look at the percentage decline over distance. I actually find it easier to take a quick steep descent over a short distance than a prolonged descent over way a kilometer or more. One shorter quick descents, the use of poles provides maximum benefit for me. In longer downhill runs my legs seem to get less of an advantage and tighten up more.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Casino del Norte 2015 in part, Camilo del Norte 2016 finish in 2017.
#24
Also very small steps using your full foot. Turn around and step backwards if necessary.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" camino
Porto to SdC May 2019
#25
Hey, Jeff, this is a very serious post, coming from you. ;)
I am serious quite often, just bored that I can't get out and play for the present. The only footwear I can get into at the moment are flipflops (too cold) or an old pair of Grandad soft slippers - even pulling on socks is a nuisance :( hence spending my time knitting socks for heffalumps!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
#27
What steep hill? Consider it in a different projection and it turns into a gentle stroll in rolling hills. 150 metres of ascent & 250 metres of descent in over 7km is not exactly a mountain climb ;)

View attachment 46063
Yeah, that's always been one of my pet peeves -- the distortion of reality created by the elevation profiles. Even your example is distorted by a factor of roughly 2.5 to 1. I realize that it's impossible to portray an actual distance-to-elevation graph for a typical 25-30km guidebook stage, but pilgrims must recognize that, like you say, those "mountains" on the graphs are really just molehills. On a related note, I've heard it said that the earth as a whole is as smooth as billiard ball at real scale.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
#28
Several responders have suggested running, trotting, or jogging downhill. That's fine if you're wearing running shorts and a tee shirt, but remember, on the Camino you're wearing a 7 or 8kg (or more) backpack, which means your center of gravity is not where your body expects it to be -- the slightest stumble can lead to a nasty face plant or worse.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2017
#29
Just finished day 6 from SJPDP to Villatuerta. The down hill trails were steep and covered with rubble and uneven surfaces. I find a side to side pattern to avoid the rocks and work around obstacles and prevents sliding. Poles also help for stability and because, surprisingly, I seem to trip less.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#30
Take your time on downhills, lean back a bit, weight more towards the heels of your foot. Be aware of slippery gravel or small stones, which you will encounter. That is when good grippy footwear helps. If you do feel as though you are going to slip and fall, try and come down on your butt. Sort of allowing yourself to simply sit down, and then maybe roll to your side. Keep from injuring your hands and head. Don't fight it and end up pitching forward head first. Get up, dust off and keep walking.
Most importantly, carry a light pack. As light as you can.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#31
Thought Kanga was a Roo not an Eeyore?
Hmmm, I'm not very familiar with the facial anatomy of a kangaroo as we have none in the US. You could be correct. I thought it should of been a kangaroo, but thought "she" resembled more of a donkey, but without the ears...I wasn't really sure! ;)
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ) ,Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )
Camino Portugese (2018 )
#32
I have found this sort of downhill "jog" to be very helpful
I've seen many try to run down the hills and I would not recommend this if the trails have lots of pilgrims on them or if they are make of shale/slate. This is exactly how I broke a bone in my foot in 2014 ! A crazy inconsiderate female pilgrim decided she was going to jog down the hill and could not control her momentum or stop. She plowed right into me, taking out both my feet from under me and sending me sliding down the hill on sharp sliced stones. I only came to a stop when my foot jarred into the side of a large stone. I heard an immediate crack and I began vomiting almost immediately. My foot almost instantly started swelling over my hikers and I knew not to remove my shoe. ( had I not had my backpack on, I would have hit my head or injured my spine ) I limped and crawled and cried and vomited all the way to the next village as there was no help available anywhere.

That stupid running hiker? Never stopped... not even offering an apology or assistance.
I wouldn't recommend running unless someone is already skilled at doing so and there are cleared paths without other walkers.

True story.
 

davebugg

"When I Have Your Wounded" - Dustoff Motto
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#33
A lot of good tips have been posted. Two of mine:

1. Let your knees respond like shock absorbers, not battering rams. In other words, don't just slam your weight down onto your knees with each step. Knees should slightly flex with each downward step to absorb the shock.

2. On the downhill when there is a covering of loose debris on top of a hard trail surface, you have conditions right for a ball bearing like experience of your feet shooting out from underneath you. This can happen with even the most aggressive tread on a shoe (although aggressive tread helps rather than hurts). You plant your foot as you step down and as you begin to step off, BAM... your foot breaks loose and you start to fall.

The technique that works best for this, even with trekking poles, is to plant the back edge of your heel down first, leaving your forefoot barely elevated. The idea is that you are able to concentrate a significant force into and through the top debris which helps push aside that loose top layer to allow the back heel to have firmer contact with the ground underneath.

This works for loose gravel and for sand --- again, this is for a thinner top covering, not a deep layer, although the heel drop technique will help there too, but for other reasons.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#35
Walking down a steep decline, I lengthen my poles a bit (5 cm) and place the pole in front of me before coming down with the opposite side foot (i.e. right pole placed just prior to coming down with my left foot). I make sure that the pole is securely placed first. I then basically walk my poles out in front of me, making sure that before each foot comes down, the opposite pole is securely placed in front of me. In this manner, my poles serve as a shock absorber for my legs and they also give me added security against falls. All I can say is it takes lots of practice to get it right and natural.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#37
Several responders have suggested running, trotting, or jogging downhill. That's fine if you're wearing running shorts and a tee shirt, but remember, on the Camino you're wearing a 7 or 8kg (or more) backpack, which means your center of gravity is not where your body expects it to be -- the slightest stumble can lead to a nasty face plant or worse.
Yes, that is why I recommend leaning slightly backwards. It takes a bit of practicing, depending on your agility etc, but trust me. It's rewarding and loosen up the sore muscles.
But as I also said not everybody likes it. We're all different (thank Good)....
 
Camino(s) past & future
First timer, leaving April 3rd from SJPDP
#38
Keep knees bent and stay forward (ie skiing). Use poles to your advantage.
Buen Camino
Excellent!!! Someone else also found it. My wife was having lots of trouble going downhill. We lengthened poles which increased arm load, which helped somewhat, but she was still in pain. In desperation , I said 'bend you knees a little like skiing downhill" It worked! It took her a little while to get accustomed to this gait, but she finished the Camino doing her downhills with knees slightly bent.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#39
I found several hills challenging to climb down on the Camino Frances. Some were steep hills littered with stones which functioned like ball bearings, eg. downhill from the Alto del Perdon. Others, like the forest climb down to Roncesvalles, were challenging because of steepness combined with a lack of any surface on which I could find traction. I could never manage that climb in wet weather, with the steep hillside turned to slick mud. I remember one downhill which was hard on my knees because of steepness alone: the walk down from the Alto de Mostelares opposite Castrojeriz. The route was paved. The pavement was quite rough and would provide traction in wet weather. But it was steep. I soon decided to shorten my steps and cross back and forth across the road, moving downward gradually to minimize the strain on my knees. A young man coming up behind me imitated my walk. Fortunately, there were no mad runners approaching to threaten my safety and I made it to the bottom slowly, with little strain on the knees. Any steep down climb, especially on a challenging surface, requires an alert response to conditions.
 

Havnen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
First Camino, St. Frances (October, 2016)
#40
All great information! I want to put an exclamation point on the zig zag approach. The steep descent to the valley floor before Zubiri was a killer for three of us. One of us (me) had a a bone contusion and tendonitis in one foot, one had knee issues and all three of us had hamburger feet from walking so far on stones. It was the first time we tried the zig-zagging and it helped tremendously to ease the discomfort, save my friend’s knees, and get us down. We told a couple groups who were inching their way down the path and they followed suit probably tripling their time. Yeah, it was a longer distance and I sometimes wonder how much of that 18 mile day was from zig-zagging.

Word of caution: Do not, four weeks before walking the Camino, sit on your sofa and stand up without remembering your fairly heavy iPhone 6+ is on your lap. When it hits your bare foot hard you may be initially greatly relieved the thing didn’t break a toe but you may end up with a bruise on the bone and tendonitis that will have you limp into every town grateful to give the poor foot a rest. Given this dire warning, lol, know that the body has an amazing capacity to heal overnight and you will walk with gusto every morning pain free for as long as you do...before you limp into town again and repeat the cycle the entire Camino. The zig-zagging helps with all sorts of pain, even your iPhone injuries.
 

Havnen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
First Camino, St. Frances (October, 2016)
#41
I found several hills challenging to climb down on the Camino Frances. Some were steep hills littered with stones which functioned like ball bearings, eg. downhill from the Alto del Perdon. Others, like the forest climb down to Roncesvalles, were challenging because of steepness combined with a lack of any surface on which I could find traction. I could never manage that climb in wet weather, with the steep hillside turned to slick mud. I remember one downhill which was hard on my knees because of steepness alone: the walk down from the Alto de Mostelares opposite Castrojeriz. The route was paved. The pavement was quite rough and would provide traction in wet weather. But it was steep. I soon decided to shorten my steps and cross back and forth across the road, moving downward gradually to minimize the strain on my knees. A young man coming up behind me imitated my walk. Fortunately, there were no mad runners approaching to threaten my safety and I made it to the bottom slowly, with little strain on the knees. Any steep down climb, especially on a challenging surface, requires an alert response to conditions.
When I groused in my Instagram post about those stones you call ball bearings my brother-in-law commented, “Mountain bikers call those rocks “babyheads.”
 

Gcmacrae

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
#43
Apart from poles and their use, you might want to tighten your boot strings so your toes don’t slide forward an get injured, blisters an bruised toes aren’t fun.
 

davebugg

"When I Have Your Wounded" - Dustoff Motto
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#44
Apart from poles and their use, you might want to tighten your boot strings so your toes don’t slide forward an get injured, blisters an bruised toes aren’t fun.
That will certainly help. I would add that footwear tied at normal tension should not allow the toes to bang the front of the shoe if the footwear is the proper length. Tightening shoe laces can help with shoes that are not the proper length, though, and is a stop gap measure worth trying. :)
 

Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Seven Compostelas in Three years and counting......
#45
Apart from poles and their use, you might want to tighten your boot strings so your toes don’t slide forward an get injured, blisters an bruised toes aren’t fun.
There is a proper 'downhill lacing technique' that I share with other pilgrims designed to stop your feet moving forward on steep downhills. Just do a search on you tube, it is not something I can describe by typing.

Buen (safe downhill) camino!

Davey
 
Camino(s) past & future
Future (2019) Portuguese.
#47
Maybe I am being ridiculous but if you are walking with others perhaps someone more adept at downhill can simply help you down slowly? My wife can not do down very well at all and I am often times (on local hikes, not the camino) just a step or two ahead and standing sideways I offer her my arm or hand in support. Having a firm body to lean on instead of a pole may give you more security and make the whole thing easier?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#48
Maybe I am being ridiculous but if you are walking with others perhaps someone more adept at downhill can simply help you down slowly? My wife can not do down very well at all and I am often times (on local hikes, not the camino) just a step or two ahead and standing sideways I offer her my arm or hand in support. Having a firm body to lean on instead of a pole may give you more security and make the whole thing easier?
I think it's a nice idea, and could work some of the time, but some of those downhills are very long. One that comes quickly to mind at the moment is heading down to Embalse de Salime on the Primitivo...it goes on and on and on. Hard to help someone for that duration. The Le Puy route has plenty of them, too, going straight down over many rocks for quite a way.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo,2017,Argonne and salvador,sept.2019
#49
Go slow.
Step short.
Lengthen the poles a bit.
Put a lot of weight onto the poles. I estimate 10-15 kgs at least using my bathroom scales.
Tread lightly.
Wear knee support
Zig zagging can help.


Downhills are a killer. Rather go uphill anytime!
Actually walking the Primitivo last fall, I jogged down the hill to the dam that everyone complains about,with no problems. I am 74 and found jogging slowly down steep hills easier that trying to hold myself back. Everyone is different but I never dread the downhill that many hate. Give it a try and Buen Camino.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#50
Thought Kanga was a Roo not an Eeyore?
It's the new photo/avatar. I thought, after the death threat on my blog, being a four legged quadruped was a cunning disguise for a Kanga. Besides, leaping downhill is definitely out. My knees have lost the "bounce" factor. I am quite content to be an old donkey.

I don't think it matters how we get downhill - as long as it works!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#52
Actually walking the Primitivo last fall, I jogged down the hill to the dam that everyone complains about,with no problems. I am 74 and found jogging slowly down steep hills easier that trying to hold myself back. Everyone is different but I never dread the downhill that many hate. Give it a try and Buen Camino.
How heavy are you ? ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#53
It has nothing to do with weight. I'm 108 kilo or 239 pounds with backpack on. And believe me, my knees are well worn....slow jogging downhill is great. For me. That's why I emphasise that you can try and see if it works for you too. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But it's worth a try, because if it does, it's really a help and your knees and muscles will love you for it...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (October 3-18, 2015)
Frances w/2 Daughters (Sept 22 - Oct 20)
#54
Make it into switchbacks when possible or "zigzags" as some call it! On a day with lots of downs I resort to a little jog sometimes to switch it up.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#55
It has nothing to do with weight. I'm 108 kilo or 239 pounds with backpack on. And believe me, my knees are well worn....slow jogging downhill is great. For me. That's why I emphasise that you can try and see if it works for you too. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But it's worth a try, because if it does, it's really a help and your knees and muscles will love you for it...
After suffering a complete rupture of my right quad tendon seven years ago, I won’t run down any surface unless I am absolutely sure of my footing. Slipping and falling while going downhill or down steps is one of the most common ways to rupture a quad tendon. I suffered my injury playing American football in the backyard on Thanksgiving Day.
 

davebugg

"When I Have Your Wounded" - Dustoff Motto
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#56
It has nothing to do with weight. I'm 108 kilo or 239 pounds with backpack on. And believe me, my knees are well worn....slow jogging downhill is great. For me. That's why I emphasise that you can try and see if it works for you too. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But it's worth a try, because if it does, it's really a help and your knees and muscles will love you for it...
Yeah.... no. There have been several times I have had to provide first aid to those who have just done a slow jog downhill. I doesn't take much to have one's momentum get away from them, or to face plant after hitting a loose patch which would have been avoided with walking downhill. Those who are older, with joint and feet issues do not have the same level of control as those who do not, and who are practiced with a faster downhill pace, much less jogging.

So, for those who want to jog, run or speed downhill, feel free to do so...... but it is not something that should be espoused as a public recommendation.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015); February/March (2019)
#57
How about the walking backwards approach when on pavement, any thoughts about the effectiveness of that? When I first saw people doing it I did a double take. I tried it but never got comfortable with it.
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#58
I have had to provide first aid to those who have just done a slow jog downhill.
I tried a slow jog downhill into Portomarin once, a bit of a bouncy step. It was not my normal pace, and by the bottom I was in a state that required that I hobble along for four days into Santiago.

Don't try new things on the camino (except food);. Even a fifteen minute change in body mechanics can be disastrous.
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPdP May/June, 2018
#59
The “Good Thing” that happens with “Running”…downhill…maybe?

The OP asks for “tips & tricks for using Trekking Poles ... walking down hills like this (picture/graph - very steep)”

I don’t support the advice to try running down hill to someone who is already concerned about his ability to navigate down a steep hill and the moment you introduce running or jogging you can forget about trying to use your poles. They will only hinder you and probably trip you. You may end up stabbing yourself and many others as you are rolling/cart wheeling down that steep hill shown in the graph.

Speed (running or jogging) by itself does not make things easier on joints/muscles. If you introduce speed going downhill; in order to maintain control, you must bend your knees more with each longer and jarring step to protect the knee joint. As Dave mentioned earlier, the deeper knee bend acts as a shock absorber for the joint and thus can aid in better protecting the joint from injury. You can get the same protection and control with a deeper knee bend while walking slowly. This eliminates all the obvious risks associated with loss of control during a descent that could be induced by running/jogging downhill with a higher than normal center of gravity. So I think the beneficial motion that Torben is advocating is really more about a deeper knee bend with each step (required when running or jogging) and not about the speed one travels over the surface when running/jogging.

I am generalizing here but I think most people who post this kind of a question here as the OP did are not experienced trail hikers. Experience is valuable when reading the trail surface and making good decisions about potential hazards. At walking pace, most of us can make fairly good decisions reading those hazards and if we make a bad decision we have a chance to recover and minimize injury. At jogging speed, you have no chance of recovery with a slip or misstep going downhill…you WILL fall down and maybe take others with you. If you have concerns about the steep downhill sections, follow your head and gut and slow down.

My comments relate primarily to the steeper downhill surfaces composed of dirt and rock on the CF. There are a couple of short but very steep asphalt sections that require some special attention, otherwise the asphalt on a downhill is pretty safe if you want to run/jog. Just keep in mind it’s the first time you are jogging on THIS asphalt so there could be small loose ball bearing type stones in a area you don’t notice or a slick spot of oil or diesel fuel on the road surface.
 
Last edited:

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPdP May/June, 2018
#60
How about the walking backwards approach when on pavement, any thoughts about the effectiveness of that? When I first saw people doing it I did a double take. I tried it but never got comfortable with i
Walking backwards has two temporary benefits, it feels strange and it uses some different propulsion muscles.

Feels strange - if you can't clear your mind from a distracting thought or you are not dealing well with some pain, walking backwards is a great temporary distraction from those other things competing for front row space in your consciousness.

Different Muscles - it does give some relief to leg, knee, foot and back muscles while continuing to walk towards your destination....a good tool for Type A's who don't want to stop for anything unnecessary. It also can changes pressure points between your feet and shoes which might result in some relief without stopping.

Obviously, you don't want to do this with a lot of people around you or in a city with traffic and curbs etc...or downhill, or on rocky surfaces....use common sense. It feels weird because you are not accustomed to it and because it is inefficient. Each step backward is just a little over a half step forward. It's great for some temporary relief. I think it would be difficult to do for more than a couple of minutes at a time. It does work well on mild uphills. It works well if your walking partner stops for a picture, to get something out of their pack or a bathroom stop etc... and you want to keep going but don't want to get too far ahead... so they can catch up.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo,2017,Argonne and salvador,sept.2019
#61
The “Good Thing” that happens with “Running”…downhill…maybe?

The OP asks for “tips & tricks for using Trekking Poles ... walking down hills like this (picture/graph - very steep)”

I don’t support the advice to try running down hill to someone who is already concerned about his ability to navigate down a steep hill and the moment you introduce running or jogging you can forget about trying to use your poles. They will only hinder you and probably trip you. You may end up stabbing yourself and many others as you are rolling/cart wheeling down that steep hill shown in the graph.

Speed (running or jogging) by itself does not make things easier on joints/muscles. If you introduce speed going downhill; in order to maintain control, you must bend your knees more with each longer and jarring step to protect the knee joint. As Dave mentioned earlier, the deeper knee bend acts as a shock absorber for the joint and thus can aid in better protecting the joint from injury. You can get the same protection and control with a deeper knee bend while walking slowly. This eliminates all the obvious risks associated with loss of control during a descent that could be induced by running/jogging downhill with a higher than normal center of gravity. So I think the beneficial motion that Torben is advocating is really more about a deeper knee bend with each step (required when running or jogging) and not about the speed one travels over the surface when running/jogging.

I am generalizing here but I think most people who post this kind of a question here as the OP did are not experienced trail hikers. Experience is valuable when reading the trail surface and making good decisions about potential hazards. At walking pace, most of us can make fairly good decisions reading those hazards and if we make a bad decision we have a chance to recover and minimize injury. At jogging speed, you have no chance of recovery with a slip or misstep going downhill…you WILL fall down and maybe take others with you. If you have concerns about the steep downhill sections, follow your head and gut and slow down.

My comments relate primarily to the steeper downhill surfaces composed of dirt and rock on the CF. There are a couple of short but very steep asphalt sections that require some special attention, otherwise the asphalt on a downhill is pretty safe if you want to run/jog. Just keep in mind it’s the first time you are jogging on THIS asphalt so there could be small loose ball bearing type stones in a area you don’t notice or a slick spot of oil or diesel fuel on the road surface.
Actually when I walk down hills,I tend to overstride,much in the same way you overstride when running down hills,which causes all kinds of problems. I actually shorten my stride and find it very comfortable. I learned a long time ago not to overstride going downhills,and found that I could pass many runners who were overstriding and taking fewer steps. All I am suggesting is for any interested,give it a try. I am not wanting to step on any sacred issues! AS ALWAYS,BUEN CAMINO.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#62
Well, it has turned out to be a an issue many have an opinion on. Though I'll stick to my advice I've learned a lot about the diversity of problems with knees, feet etc (I'm not ironic here!) And I enjoy the good tone and the good debate. That's why I like this forum so much. Thank you for that.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Future (2019) Portuguese.
#63
In addition to "heel lock" lacing which is an awesome technique came the tip to add some closed cell foam to the tongue to help keep toes back and nails safe. Well I found an easy solution. I took my old (bad habit of refusing to toss old shoes saved for things like painting or gardening in mud) boots and cut the tongue out and will now insert to the inside of my new hikers being broken in for future Camino. The material is already the correct shape and texture. This, along with heel lock lacing, will hold my toes safely back on all downhills and keep all ten little piggies intact and happy.
 

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