The top 10 techniques and tips to running uphill
1. Run tall
When it comes to mastering the mountain run, many of the same principles as running flat still apply. Chief amongst these rules that people often forget once on the slope is to have a straight body alignment and to “run tall,” that being; eyes forward (not down), shoulders back, hips and knees aligned. Elbows should be bent but allowed to remain neutral as they will be working harder than normal along with your biceps and shoulders/lats. With your body straight, your knees will naturally lift higher to allow for you to climb upwards, and your feet will be doing the angled work that gets you moving in the right direction.
2. Forefoot forward
This is why you see so many sprinters head to the hills for their training. When it comes to running uphill, the greater the incline, the more use of your forefoot for the climb. One of the greatest benefits of running hills is that this is where speed is built for tackling faster flats. Of course, it’s not just sprinters and track runners who benefit from forced forefoot running. Heel strikers - said to be in the majority when it comes to professional long distance runners – need to balance their forefoot training to prevent foot cramping, and so in a long distance trail race, the hills are a welcomed respite from pounding repetition of the pavement.
3. “Quick and light”
Whilst going uphill, naturally, stride rate and length both shorten. The way to best think of how you should stride when heading uphill is “quick and light” – small steps more often. Increasing foot speed isn’t the same as increasing overall speed, and many amateur runners make the mistake to increase their pace right before they hit the incline (a running start up the hill). The problem with this technique is it changes your breathing and shifts running momentum, meaning you tire yourself out even before the real uphill battling begins.
4. Start slow and on the stairs
There is an important differentiation to make between stair running and uphill running. Both are valuable, especially when it comes to versatile training plans, however they each serve slightly different purposes. Stair running tends to be done on a greater incline (around 30degrees of angle) compared to natural hill running. The main benefit of stair running is to promote the “quick and light” steps technique. Here, focus on hitting every stair in training while maintaining a normal breathing rate. With this mastered, you naturally promote the right technique for hill running needed to conquer the climb.
5. The right shoe stuff
The best shoes for uphill running are those that pack plenty of forefoot cushioning whilst still remaining light. Any help with energy transfer from the touch-down momentum is a bonus when it comes to uphill running shoes, but overall weight is one of the main things to consider when comparing uphill running shoes.
Of course, one thing to remember about hill sprints and uphill training is that what goes up must come down.
This is where too much cushioning can hinder down-hill momentum, so an important balance is needed for the best uphill running shoe to work downhill. See what Australian Xterra Champion trail runner Ben Allen says about finding the perfect uphill/downhill shoe here.
The lightweight trail running shoe with dynamic cushioning - made for both demanding ascents and wild descents