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Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby AndyATSmith » Thu Aug 08, 2019 3:23 pm

This is probably going to sound like a silly question but I was just wondering how often folk tend to slip when they're coming down hills? Despite me being very cautious as to where I place my feet, I reckon I slip on average about once every couple of hills I descend. I either wear hiking boots or trail shoes (had slips with both) and I use a couple of poles for extra stability and yet I continue to find myself slipping onto my backside. It's not even though I've been going up particularly difficult hills as I've slipped on Dumgoyne, Ben Lomond and Beinn Narnain for example. I see people running down hills effortlessly without slipping and I'm left wondering how they do it. Is there something wrong with my walking technique or do other folk find themselves slipping as often as I do? I've never done myself a serious injury but considering I often go out alone, it's a worry in case I do. I had a slip on to my back crossing the boulder field on Beinn Narnain, which could have turned out to be particularly nasty - luckily my rucksack cushioned the blow.

Any advice would be most welcome!
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby Caberfeidh » Thu Aug 08, 2019 4:05 pm

Only once every couple of hills?! I often slip and fall, the trick is to learn to fall without hurting yourself. I have learned to go with it rather than fight it. I fold up as soon as I feel myself going, so that takes a lot of the energy out of the equation, and I control where I go and at what speed. So what could be a disastrous, potentially painful and injurious fall becomes just me sitting down abruptly. I also find that walking diagonally, i.e. facing slightly to the side helps, as I do not pitch forward straight onto my face, (imagine the damage to my boyishly handsome good looks! I cannot let down the ladies by allowing that), but slump sideways. Another tip is to walk a fair bit slower than you might want or feel inclined to. This helps you keep in control and prevents breathlessness. It also gives a sense of smug satisfaction when someone has previously raced past you, and then you stroll on past as they lie gasping, totally out of breath in the heather/mud/rocks. Of course, sometimes it's the conditions...
Conic Hill Mud Wallow.jpg
Sometimes it's the conditions ~ the kid on Conic Hill mud-wallow.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby SummitStupid » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:19 pm

Good question. I slip over a lot, usually just after I've overtaken someone. Walking down steep stuff, I find placing your entire foot down at once, rather than rolling heel-toe, helps, as you're spreading your weight over more than half a square inch. I slipped more when I used to wear boots, but I still do now I wear trainers or approach shoes (though you'll never, ever slip on rock in a nice pair of approach shoes).

I also reckon if you're paying attention to where your centre of gravity is, you're less likely to go down. Keep your weight over your feet, not behind them. But then as I said I slip over a lot so perhaps disregard all this.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby jmarkb » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:25 pm

A bit of technique might help: keep your weight forward, knees slightly bent and take short steps. A good, unworn, heel grip also helps, both for boots and trainers/trail shoes.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby Skyelines » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:25 pm

There seems to be a natural tendency to want to lean backwards and walk more on the heels going down hill.

It is better to lean slightly forward and put the weight on the balls of the foot. That way the force goes more directly downwards into the slope.

Leaning back and heel walking puts the force closer to the line of the slope and add that to your downward momentum and you are more likely to slip.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby Lightfoot2017 » Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:42 pm

Like a lot of walkers, I tend to find coming downhill far more arduous than going up the way. I'm quite tall (6'1") so my legs maybe have more work to do? My pal who i sometimes walk with is 5'7" on a good day, and he fairly pelts down hill, always managing to head off way ahead of me.

In going uphill, I try and employ the 'Alpine Plod' method. ...slow, steady, short steps.....so I don't get knackered too easily. Maybe I should adopt this technique for the downhill bit too?

Oh, and poles. Two of. Very handy things to stop your steps turning into a canter, turning into a gallop, turning into a full on uncontrolled sprint.

Slips and falls? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention. :wink:
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby Marty_JG » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:50 pm

I empathise. I don't use poles but it's the descents that are making me reconsider that.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:58 pm

Yeah, lots of slips even after 40 years worth of hillwalking!

A pole definitely helps the recovery of the slip.

I am quite fussy with my choice of sole, preferring ones with a distinct heel or at least aggressive forward facing teeth in that area. As said, foot flat to the hill is better than heel only though. I mostly use boots, the lack of tread on most trail shoes being as much of a reason as my preference for a bit more support.

The one that gets me the most is the damp grass/tussock type stuff normally found once off the higher hills. This usually means wet bum as well as loss of dignity, but at least its often a soft landing. The "tiny marbles on a hard surface" nature of parts of many of our more eroded paths isn't helping me as I get older...
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby Giant Stoneater » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:42 pm

From what I read recently the type of heel on a boot can make a difference,whither it's square or round,depends how worn the heel is also. I tend to place heel and stand tall when going down a steep slope a bit like going down scree and 2 poles.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby KatTai » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:23 pm

I've had a few slips. As someone mentioned above, when going downhill or on stony ground I try and put my whole foot down. It does take some thinking, hopefully it will eventually become a habit! But I think slips are probably just part and parcel of walking. My worst slip though was in town on a pavement with the bumps on to help blind/partially sighted people cross the road, it was slick as a sheet of ice and I went down, damaged my wrist. Walking is dangerous :lol:
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby LaurenAlexandraAgain » Thu Aug 08, 2019 11:30 pm

I can empathize - it always takes me longer to come down a hill than to go up because I'm trying to avoid falling. I have weak ankles, so I'm always very, very careful about my foot placement when coming down slopes. Poles are a help, as is coming down "flat-footed," as other people have said. And if I get to a point where I think I'm likely to slip and fall, I'll just beat gravity to the punch and bum-slither down until I'm comfortable standing up again. :lol:

That being said, the one and only time (touch wood) that I've gone over on my ankle badly enough to break it was at home, taking out the rubbish. :shock:
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby WalkWithWallace » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:40 am

It's quite normal for most of us I guess, there is a technique, i.e. not leaning back as others have mentioned. But some people just have better agility/foot placement than others.

Most accidents happen on descent, we get tired and concentration drops.
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby DavidShepherd » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:24 pm

Depending on the terrain, i find myself walk sort of sideways down hills, with my foot landing somewhat perpendicular to the ground. I certainly find this helps me better on scree and other really loose ground.

When coming down grass i slip and land on my backside all the time. I always find it helps not to go too fast as well - tried the running thing once and fractured my ankle!
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby iain_atkinson_1986 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:04 pm

I tend to not fall for a few trips then fall a dozen times in a single trip. Usually when there's heather and bog. All part of the "fun"...
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Re: Walking technique - perhaps a silly question!

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:28 pm

The number of replies strongly suggests this is far from a silly question. I slip/fall far less now than I used to but I'm not 100% sure why? Certainly going along with it to reduce any impact is a good idea for when it does happen. I used to walk with polls quite a bit but stopped following an incident while descending a wet grassy bank. Somehow the poll got stuck and ended up catapulting through 180 degrees and I ended up on my back with my head downhill staring at the sky :shock: I'd much rather slip on my backside.
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