How To Run Barefoot Downhill Correctly
Running downhill can be tricky at the best of times. It is a skill that needs to be acquired. So a well thought out approach before you begin will help you enormously.
To get this skill will require patience and practice but here’s how.
How To Run Barefoot Downhill Correctly? This requires a combination of slightly altered forefoot striking patterns, relaxed gait, balance, the use of gravity during the descent and loads of practice to be successful. Running downhill even in suboptimal weather or varying terrain will become a thing of joy. Use some of the pointers I have laid out.
Now let’s get you through all that is required to equip you with these skills to get it on the way. During the walkthrough, we will step through all of the specific techniques for running downhill so that you can get maximum enjoyment from your barefoot running.
As I have said in several of my other posts a lot of re-learning and patience is required to add downhill running to your barefoot running toolkit.
Modified forefoot strike
When running downhill your foot strike pattern will need to change slightly to accommodate the steep angle of your descent. For Downhill running, your foot striking should remain under your centre of mass keeping your feet as flat as possible. There needs to be less emphasis on landing on your toes and more of a flatter footstrike.
It is important not to get the striking forces running through the quads and hips as you descend. You should ensure that your strike pattern remains short and choppy but under your centre of mass. Slightly behind you is even better.
After I had modified my running I quickly had to think through a variation needed to adapt to the downhill gradient. It took a while but I got there in the end and if I can do it so can you
Do not overstride
Keep you motion fluid and short. you will feel compelled to overstride as gravity carries you barreling downhill. Your stride needs to cycle over as quickly as possible. Imagine pedalling a bicycle with a quick turnover to keep you moving forward. Longer strides at this point are definitely not the way to go.
I know from bitter experience having almost gone head first into a thicket because I was overstriding. Luckily I was running in the forest so I was able to grab onto the tree to stop me from going head first. So try your best to resist the temptation to overstride.
Do not Heel strike
Running barefoot and heel striking is difficult (painful too) in the first place. Resist the urge to jam your heels into the ground as you head downhill. Instinctively we will want to throw out the anchors, lean back and heel strike your way down the hill. It will play havoc with your joints, quads, and hips in the process. Avoid doing this at all costs.
Use Your Arms To Keep Your Balance
Using your arms is an excellent way for you to keep your balance and remain steady as you descend downhill. It is important to remain loose and comfortable in the upright position as you negotiate your descent. Your arms play a big role in making sure that you feel safe and comfortable especially if it is on a steeper descent. Flailing are allowed.
Practice On Differing Hill Gradients
Practice running down hills with less steep gradients, in the beginning, to get accustomed to the sensation of running downhill. Alternate the gradient angles so that you can get used to it. This will help you to overcome if you add to perfecting your form when you’re running down the hills with a steeper gradient. It’ll be a bad idea to go for the steepest gradient you can find in the very beginning. Start with the gentle gradients first as the aim is to do so with little or no injury and as safely as possible.
Practice On Various Surfaces
Some of the joys of barefoot running include running on different surfaces. Running on tarmac only will very quickly become extremely boring. I encourage you to run on different surfaces downhill, tarmac being one of them, to begin with, but also seek out the off-road terrain. Run on grass or find a path through the country.
You can also find a mountain bike track to run down to get some practice. This will help you to to get used to the sensation and to challenge of the different surfaces. It will be a good drill to test yourself and build confidence and strength
Practice In Different Weather Conditions
Many times I’m sure you have set off on a run and the weather changed on you. What was once a sunny day can very quickly become overcast and subsequently rain. Don’t let that deter your practice sessions Running downhill in different weather conditions, as well as different terrain, adds to the enjoyment of the run.
Tap Into Your Inner Child
What has been made clear in my other writings is the need to tap into our inner child in different scenarios. I mentioned it when I spoke about with the deep barefoot squat in my other article.
The same applies to your barefoot run downhill, there is an inner child in all of us in my mind that wants to come out and play. As Long as you have the right tools, if you follow the steps in the rest of the article I really do think that you will enjoy the experience
I know it can be difficult to relax enough to actually cycle through as quickly as you can with short choppy movements running downhill with the exhilaration of running barefoot to throw out the emergency brake and heel strike break form and try to slow yourself down
So again I encourage you to tap into your inner child and relax.
Override Your Brains Fear
This is a big one. You will be engulfed with the huge desire to heel strike and over-stride as you begin your descent. Your body will tell you to slow down.
Your brain will kick into high gear to make you do all kinds of survival action to negotiate the descent by overstriding putting on the brakes.
“do not succumb to the temptation to do this as you very quickly come unstuck”
Your instructions to your brain should be to take short choppy strides under your centre of mass. These will ensure that you make it to the bottom and do not die.
I know it sounds funny but you really must override your brain.
Try and stay as relaxed as possible through all of this and your brain will comply once it realises that all is well. You will soon be more comfortable with the shorter choppy strides realising that they are actually working to add to your enjoyment of running downhill. This will get better the more you practice telling your brain what to do.
Gravity Is Your Friend
As a runner even on flat surfaces we aim to use gravity to our advantage. There is no better place than we’re running downhill to harness nature’s free gift of gravity. Allow gravity to do the work for you.
Relax on the run in addition to the previous elements I have mentioned, short choppy foot strikes with your feet almost flat, relaxed Arms for balance you can allowing gravity to do the rest. If you make your descent this way it’s all mean that you will be burning a lot less energy and if you do this properly can also be used as a recovery phase on a longer barefoot run.
Running Downhill Is A Skill
Running downhill is a skill that needs to be built up and is acquired with patient practice. If you combine the elements we have just discussed and apply them consistently and frequently in different weather conditions. i.e dry weather, wet weather or even snow and rain.
Using these pointers above will:
- Reduce the impact on your bones and joints
- Help to reduce your chances of injury
- You have fewer shin splints
- Use a lot less energy during the run
It will feel uncomfortable in the beginning because of the gradient but you will get quicker with practice.
Approach it with childlike enthusiasm and fearlessness using the principles that I have described and it will definitely add to increasing your enjoyment of running barefoot downhill.
Downhill Running Summary:
- Running with the modified foot strike
- do not overstride
- don’t heel strike
- practice on different Hill gradients
- Practice in different to different terrain
- Practice in different weather
- tap into your inner child
- override your brain fear
- let gravity be your friend
- remember downhill running is a skill
- practice practice practice
As I have said learning to run downhill is a fun skill and good technique to acquire. Put in the practice it needs and off you go.
Have fun as you practice