Tips for Climbing and Descending Hills


Walking uphill uses the muscles in the front of your thigh and in your buttocks, burning an extra 3-5 calories per minute over walking on the level.

One step at a time

As in many other challenges, your attitude in approaching a hill-climb is nearly as important as your technique. Always keep insight where you are heading, but don't keep looking at that seemingly way-off summit. Give yourself lots of smaller destination points along the route - and reward yourself when you reach each one. This may also be a good opportunity to practise your singing (in your head?!), chant Italian verb conjugations (definitely in your head), count your paces - or whatever else helps you maintain your walking rhythm.

Pace Yourself

Don't be tempted to go screaming into things. You want to choose a steady pace that you can sustain over a longish period. Whatever you do, don't push yourself until you become breathless and your legs are burning as you'll be asking for trouble later. What happens then is that you use hard-to-replace glycogen reserves and build up lactate chemicals in your muscles that will make you less efficient for the rest of the walk. Better to stop and have a quick breather than push yourself into the physiological death zone

Shorten Your Steps: When going uphill, shorten your steps but try to keep the rhythm the same as you were using before the hill; with shorter steps, it’s easier to maintain your rate; it will take a bit longer because of the hill but as your fitness increases your climbing  will get quicker.

Leaning: It is natural to lean into the hill a bit. Try to keep that lean to a minimum, keep your torso over your hips; if you lean too much you put yourself off balance and can strain your lower back.

Zig-Zag: Walking in a Zig-Zag pattern up steep hills lessens the stress on your leg muscles; however, you will walk further.

Consider walking poles

Walking poles can be a great help when going uphill - they allow you transfer some of the 'load' to your arms and allow you to set a rhythm for your walking. You will need to shorten your poles for up-hill sections.

It may be worthwhile considering poles that allow the anti-shock system to be turned off for uphill use.

Hills will raise your heart rate, breathing, and exertion level as more muscles are used to carry you both up and along. Keep your exertion at an intensity level where you can still speak in sentences rather than just gasping out single words.



Walking down steep hills can be quite challenging and if approached in the wrong way can increase the risk of joint damage in your knees and ankles.


Your posture is very important. Don't lean back as this will send you out of balance. Your weight should be over your hips and knees which should be slightly bent particularly as you put your foot down.

Bend your knees, to make yourself more stable, if you should fall you’re more likely to fall  backwards rather than falling forward.

Your stride will lengthen automatically - to control your speed, shorten it.


If at all possible, pick out a zig-zag route downwards - this will reduce the overall impact on your joints and enable you to better control your speed and provide a greater sense of security.

Crab walking

Crab-walking, is particularly useful when your faced with a very steep set of downhill steps and or hill;  edg down the trail with your feet pointing across the steps/ trail instead of straight up and down.

Walking Poles

Many people find walking poles very useful when going downhill. Try to buy poles with a good shock-absorbing system. When using them, place the pole slightly in front and to the side before each step so that it takes some of the weight.