How to Run Downhill on Trails

Coach Jimmy Dean Freeman shares several great insights about downhill running. He talks about technical and non-technical downhills, foot placement, where to look, how to lean your body, arm positioning and more. Enjoy! 

Downhill running on trails could be its own sport. Running on a trail is unique because the footing is really choppy.

Technical vs non-technical. 

A non-technical trail is smooth and even, it's like a path along a park or golf course. A technical trail is something that is a bit more choppy and rocky, rugged with roots. Something that you are going to be more careful about your foot placement. 

foot placement trail running

One of the main points of running downhill is, what do you focus on? When you are thinking about a choppy, technical trail, it's common to look straight down. Whereas what you really want to do, is shift your focus forward, 10 to 12 steps down the trail. 

Running downhill is a little bit like chess, you have to think ahead. You don't want to be thinking about your next step, but about ten steps from now. It's less like running and almost more like dance choreography.

trail running downhill drone

You are going to move your feet side to side. You're not necessarily going to take a straight line down the hill. When things get really steep, you might want to do what a downhill skier does, cut in diagonals down the hill. 

Again, just like uphill running, you want to think about not leaning back. You almost want to lean a bit down the hill. You want to be perpendicular to the horizon. not leaning in, not leaning back. Keeping your hips and shoulders aligned and your body up right. 

trail running using your arms

You are going to use your body for balance. So if you're going to start coming down a hill, you find that your arms start to shift up a bit more to help with your weight distribution. You also want to think about foot speed. Downhills are all about turning over quickly and not overcommitting to any one step. 

trail running downhill

We would love to hear from you. Do you have any other recommendations to runners looking to improve their downhill trail running? Please let us know in the comments below. 

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