Hiking Downhill on Gravel - 7 Tips and Techniques

Photo By: Adventurous Women

What goes up must come down.. and sometimes not in a good way.

Down hill hiking always sounds good in theory, there are none of those seemingly endless climbs to reach the top only to find yet another rise in front of you, you get to enjoy great views etc. etc. but hiking downhill can really take it's toll on you with the extra pressure on your knees and the very real danger of having a fall on gravel. Fear of taking a tumble can impact our decisions and we have found many people booking on our hikes actually ask if there are downhill gravel sections and will reconsider joining if there is.

Hiking down hill on gravel doesn't have to be scary or risky if you follow a few simple techniques and tips that we've outlined below, mostly learned the hard way. sad

Keep it low and centred

Keeping your weight low and your centre of gravity over your legs at all times will ensure your stable and also helps keep the body agile and able to adjust naturally.

Keep your knees bent

Bent knees are a key part of keeping your centre of gravity low and taking a lot of stress off your joints. Your stride extends slightly as you go downhill so keeping your knees bent helps create a natural "suspension" similar to that of a car. Instead of your knees taking the force of the impact your leg muscles will be able to cushion each step and also allow you to react to small slips without it affecting your centre of gravity.

Take the long way

Try taking a winding path down the hill (or zig zag from side to side especially on steps) to reduce the angle and pressure. It also helps to share the stress between legs on each turn preventing fatigue and soreness.


I'll say that again as it needs repeating..FOCUS. Walking downhill on gravel is THE time to focus on your steps and balance.
Placing each foot intentionally and ensuring it feels secure and grounded before gradually putting your weight on it is probably the most important tip for walking downhill on gravel.

One of the surest ways to take a tumble is to lose that focus and let the body slip into a natural unconscious step while your mind is wandering or you're admiring the gorgeous countryside you're walking through.

Instead take regular breaks and use that time to look around and admire the beauty, then refocus on your steps and how the ground is feeling under your feet.

Walking poles

One is good but two is better. Walking poles can be an excellent way to assist getting down gravelly slopes by giving you the extra contact points you need for stability and helping to distribute your weight. However focus is just as important when placing your pole. Think of it as an extra foot and ensure it feels just as secure before putting your weight on it.

Lengthen those poles

It's easy to just set and forget your walking poles but when heading down hill especially on loose gravel, adjust the height of your poles to match the gradient. A simple way to do this is to:


  1. Loosen off your pole lock
  2. Hold the pole in your normal comfortable position in front of you and allow the tip to slide to ground level
  3. Extend the pole an extra centimetre or so to allow for gravel depth and tighten.
  4. Repeat for each pole, test and adjust as needed till it feels comfortable and repeat if the gradient changes significantly.
Adjusting your poles to the correct length helps to keep your centre of gravity in the most stable position, will give you greater confidence and also prevent uneven weight distribution that can soreness or loss of balance.


Take it slow

Take your time and don't rush to keep up with walking partners, your expectations or the clock.
Everyone's journey is their own, so take your time and walk your own path, they’ll be waiting for you at the bottom (or you just may be helping them up after they take a tumble)

Some extra tips

  1. Check and retighten your shoe laces before heading downhill. This helps you to feel more confident and gives you a better feel for the terrain. It also helps stop your foot slipping forward inside your boot and becoming uncomfortable.. see next tip
  2. Trim your toe nails! There is nothing worse than your nails being jammed repeatedly against the inside of your boot as you walk downhill. At best they will be sore and at worst you’re likely to lose a nail if it continues. Long nails are also the quickest way to wreck your most loved socks and liners.
Editorial Team