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Top Tips for A Comfortable Downhill Hike |

a man riding a horse on the side of a mountain

Top Tips for A Comfortable Downhill Hike |  

Hiking uphill is completely different than hiking downhill in terms of hiking technique. While hiking uphill certainly comes with challenges and risks, hiking downhill perhaps comes with twice as many since slips and falls are more likely to happen while moving downward.

However, hiking downhill can be rewarding, too, since it requires less energy than uphill hiking. It can also give hikers more time to enjoy their surroundings, a lot like Reese Witherspoon in Wild on Prime Video. You can prevent slips and injuries easily by doing things like checking your hiking equipment and walking properly. Here are more tips to ensure a comfortable downhill hike:

1. Tighten Your Equipment Beforehand

The last thing any hiker wants to do is stop to tie his or her shoes while making a difficult descent. To avoid this, make sure to check your equipment before starting your descent. Not only will you want to tighten your shoes, but you will also want to tighten any hip or shoulder straps if you are using descent ropes.

2. Invest in Good Trek Poles

A hiker’s joints are under at least three times more stress during descents as opposed to ascents. To relieve some of this joint pressure, you can use trek poles, which work by taking some of the weight off of your legs while walking. Trek poles also help hikers maintain their balance because they add two more points of contact with the ground for hikers to rely on. No matter what kind of trek poles you invest in, be sure to adjust them to a comfortable height before you begin walking with them.

3. Hike with Proper Posture

One of the best ways any hiker can avoid falling during descents is by walking with good posture. A good posture for downhill hikes is one that does not lean forward or backward; instead, your back should be as straight as possible in order to keep your balance centered. You may also benefit from using bent knees while walking downhill to help keep yourself centered on your feet.

4. Use Zigzag and Plunge Step Techniques

Two techniques that can help hikers move downward along any type of terrain are zigzagging and plunge stepping. Zigzagging involves a hiker moving downhill in a side-to-side walking path, and this helps the hiker gain the traction needed to descend slowly. Plunge stepping involves a hiker walking straight downhill with the heel leading first and the knees deeply bent. Plunge steps help hikers dig their shoes into slick terrains, such as snow or mud. Plunge steps, however, do not help hikers gain much traction on slick rocks.

5. Hike Distanced from Other Hikers

If you are hiking in a group, it’s important to maintain a good distance between you and others while hiking downhill. If you hike too close to others, one slip can turn into an injury for two or more people. A good rule of thumb to follow is hiking with two body lengths in between each person in a group.

6. Use the Glissading Technique Carefully

Glissading in terms of hiking is known as sliding downhill on one’s bottom. Glissading can be a useful technique to use while descending a steep inclination of snow or sand; however, it should only be used when the end of the path is visible and when there are no rocks or crevices along the path.

To perform a safe glissade downhill, keep your body low to the ground, and let yourself slide slowly along the path you plan to take. You can use trek poles or an ice axe to control your speed by dragging them in the snow or sand as you descend. You should also never perform a glissade while wearing crampons or microspike shoes since they can get caught in the terrain.


While downhill hiking may be the most rewarding part of a hike, it still comes with fall and injury risks. To make your downhill hike easier, be sure to prep your equipment beforehand and use techniques like zigzagging, plunge stepping, and glissading as necessary.