Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

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 entirely different from walking downhill in terms of hiking technique. While trekking 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 easily prevent slips and injuries by correctly checking your hiking equipment and walking. 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 their shoes while making a tricky descent. To avoid this, check your equipment before starting your descent. Not only will you want to tighten your boots, but you will also want to tighten any hip or shoulder straps if you use descent ropes.

2. Invest in Good Trek Poles

A hiker’s joints are under at least three times more stress during descents than ascents. To relieve some of this joint pressure, you can use trek poles, which take some of the weight off your legs while walking. Trek poles also help hikers maintain their balance by adding two more points of contact with the ground for them to rely on. No matter what kind of trek poles you invest in, 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 does not lean forward or backwards; your back should be as straight as possible to keep your balance centred. You may also benefit from using bent knees while walking downhill to help keep yourself centred on your feet.

4. Use Zigzag and Plunge Step Techniques

Zigzagging and plunge stepping are two techniques that can help hikers move downward along any terrain. Zigzagging involves a hiker moving downhill in a side-to-side walking path, and this allows the hiker to gain the traction needed to descend slowly. Plunge stepping consists of 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 like 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 essential to maintain a reasonable distance between you and others while hiking downhill. If you walk too close to others, one slip can injure two or more people. A good rule of thumb is walking with two body lengths between each person in a group.

6. Use the Glissading Technique Carefully

Glissading in hiking is known as sliding downhill on one’s bottom. Glissading can be helpful when 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 trail.

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, it comes with fall and injury risks. To make your downhill hike easier, prep your equipment beforehand and use techniques like zigzagging, plunge stepping, and glissading as necessary.