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nanny-rosy
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Author Topic: Knee pain while hiking downhill...am I doing something wrong?  (Read 2240 times)
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skye97
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« on: March 11, 2012, 01:00:10 AM »

I went for a very steep hike today - nearly 3000 feet of elevation gain in a little over 3 miles.  It was also quite slippery due to mud and snow (I broke out the Ice Trekkers about 3/4 of a mile from the top, which work surprisingly well on Stems, in case anyone is looking for good traction options Smiley ), and on the way down my knees started killing me below the patellas.  I'm guessing it's just tight quads since it felt superficial, but even stopping to stretch didn't get rid of it completely, and then it came right back.  So, my question is, am I doing something wrong?  There's a lot of info on running in minimalist shoes, but what about hiking, and especially going down steep hills?  Is this pain inevitable?  Interestingly, I tried applying some principles that I've learned in tai chi, such as tucking my tailbone and keeping knees slightly bent and center of gravity low, and this seemed to help, but in the really steep parts I wasn't able to keep it up.
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« on: March 11, 2012, 01:00:10 AM »

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jmijares
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2012, 11:00:09 AM »

I ran into the same problem while doing a half marathon on New Years Eve Day.  We had a steep downhill section and probably descended 300 feet in about 1/4th of a mile.  I tried bending my knees as I went down, but just the jarring motion of going downhill was enough to mess with my knees and I had some minor knee pain for about three days while going down stairs.  What made things even worse for me was that when going downhill, my toes where smashing into the end of the toe pockets in my Bikila LSs, so I had to try to concentrate on avoiding that as well.

The steeper the downhill grade, the more you have to try to maintain good form.  It's really hard though, especially if you're hiking and a lot of people are behind you, or if you're racing.
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2012, 11:45:47 AM »

Pain in the knees is fairly common in downhill hiking - though I couldnt give you an explanation as to why - and the steeper the worse it is.  I tend to get at the back end of a long hike - particularly if Ive planned the hike to finsh on a descent towards the pub/car.  One of the solutions is using walking poles which help to transfer some of the weight/strain away from your knees
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The Yeti
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 02:27:58 PM »

I had a bit of a knee injury on a 55k hike wearing a 40lb pack in my treks. The terrain was severe, with a number of 1000m descents followed by steep climbs. It was a brutal hike. I think my problem was that I was trying to slow myself down too much and taking strides that were too long. By the end of the hike my knee was a mess, even though I had a pair of old sneakers with me that I switched into for the final leg of the journey.

I think if you focus on short strides while hiking downhill, and try to 'float' down the hill it should help. Try and minimise how much 'braking' you do with your upper legs. Poles are good tools as well. I had some and they helped take some of the strain, but it was still a rough go.
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 02:27:58 PM »

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gryllus
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 06:30:58 AM »

I suspect that occassional knee pain on long downhill hikes is there to remind me that I am, unfortunately, in the category of 45+ ...
My (self-) observations suggest that
- it has nothing to do with minimalist footwear (happens in boots, too)
- trekking poles indeed help
- it happens/becomes worse in cold conditions (rain - and thus wet knees or pants - is a sure starter)
- stopping and stretching/relaxing at the first sign of discomfort helps
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paulr
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2012, 06:42:22 AM »

People laugh at me when if we reach a very steep descent (and space allows) I start to traverse across the slope  & also go slightly downwards at the same time, then turning the opposite way and repeat x times - almost like skiing down.  Sure I travel more distance, sometimes take a bit longer than the others but it tends to be easier on the old joints
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skye97
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2012, 01:40:22 PM »

Thanks for all the feedback!  It sounds like trekking poles are the way to go for sustained steep hiking.  That, and not pushing myself too hard...the hike was on Saturday and it's still a bit of a challenge to get down stairs. Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 01:21:51 AM »

People laugh at me when if we reach a very steep descent (and space allows) I start to traverse across the slope  & also go slightly downwards at the same time, then turning the opposite way and repeat x times - almost like skiing down.  Sure I travel more distance, sometimes take a bit longer than the others but it tends to be easier on the old joints
I grew up in the mountains and that was what we did ALL the time, it seemed to come naturally. It keeps me from gathering up too much speed on the decent, much easier to keep control and balance and I agree that it's WAY easier on the joints.
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skye97
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 03:39:45 PM »

People laugh at me when if we reach a very steep descent (and space allows) I start to traverse across the slope  & also go slightly downwards at the same time, then turning the opposite way and repeat x times - almost like skiing down.  Sure I travel more distance, sometimes take a bit longer than the others but it tends to be easier on the old joints
I grew up in the mountains and that was what we did ALL the time, it seemed to come naturally. It keeps me from gathering up too much speed on the decent, much easier to keep control and balance and I agree that it's WAY easier on the joints.

I agree, it totally makes sense.  Unfortunately, the parts of the trail where my knees really took a pounding were narrow and rocky, so there wasn't much leeway.
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« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2012, 01:01:53 PM »

Just turn around and walk down the hill backwards - PROBLEM SOLVED!  Grin I'm just kidding of course. What has worked for me in the past is leaning back just far enough to get my general center of mass behind my point of support. This gets gravity to help you out a little bit. Of course you can't lean back too far or you could slip or lose balance. In addition I do something very similar to what Paulr described. However, I don't travel as far. I just turn my body to about 45 to 50 degrees and gallop step a few times and then turn my body the other direction for another few gallop steps. It does take the pressure off the front of the knee, but if your MCL and ACL are questionable I would not advise it. Not that it can destroy them; itís just that you need normal lateral strength in your knees to do it well.
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skye97
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« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2012, 12:30:30 AM »

Just turn around and walk down the hill backwards - PROBLEM SOLVED!  Grin

Well, some problems would be solved...maybe my knees would feel better, as long as I don't mind a broken tailbone instead. Smiley

I actually tried the traversing thing today and it was fantastic!  Now if all the trails I went on were five feet wide, I'd be all set.  The galloping method sounds interesting, too, and might be more useful on narrower trails.
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2012, 08:03:35 PM »

People laugh at me when if we reach a very steep descent (and space allows) I start to traverse across the slope  & also go slightly downwards at the same time, then turning the opposite way and repeat x times - almost like skiing down.  Sure I travel more distance, sometimes take a bit longer than the others but it tends to be easier on the old joints
I grew up in the mountains and that was what we did ALL the time, it seemed to come naturally. It keeps me from gathering up too much speed on the decent, much easier to keep control and balance and I agree that it's WAY easier on the joints.

Thanks for the tip.  I'm going to try/do this whilst backpacking this year in my vffs.
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