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Title image:  Getting ready for expeditions, resources and tips

Expedtion Training Series

What Can I Do About Knee Pain When I Hike Downhill?

Knee pain on descents and resulting soreness for several days afterward can be due to any number of reasons, including but in no way limited to:

  1. Too much pack weight, too soon, before muscles are conditioned adequately
  2. Muscle imbalance in the thighs (quad-hamstring ratio, lack of quadriceps strength, or insufficient use of gluteals)
  3. Trail running downhill with a pack (placing more than 4x bodyweight through the joints with each high-impact step)
  4. Going too slowly or bracing against gravity with each step
  5. Lack of proper warm-up before or adequate stretching afterward
  6. Structural issues unique to your physiology

When in doubt, the first step is to seek medical advice to rule out any causes due to #6. Then try adding an exercise to strengthen the quadriceps muscles (front of the thighs) that are directly involved in descending stairs and hills. The Reverse Step-Up exercise (description, video below) has proven to be very beneficial for anyone who needs to build functional strength in the legs.

Select a step height of anywhere from 6-12 inches. Start in front of the step, on the floor, facing away from the step, with toes that are up on the step turned out about 5-10 degrees. Slowly step backward and onto the step, lifting up on the toes of the working leg and allowing heel to lower onto the step, making sure the leg on the step is doing the lifting without pushing off of the floor. Reverse the movement and slowly lower back to the floor. Perform this exercise 2-3 times a week, 2-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions, taking 2 seconds to lift and 2 seconds to slowly lower.

This tip brought to you by Berg Adventures conditioning partner, Body Results. For more conditioning information, products and services and special pricing for Berg Adventures members go to