Learn how to beat the fear of downhill hiking

Stef Zisovska
Beat the fear of downhill hiking

If you’re a passionate hiker who likes to climb mountains but has a debilitating fear when it comes to going downhill, don’t worry, because you are not the only one. Sweaty palms and accelerated heartbeat are the most common signs of the condition, but there are many ways that you can fight it. And staying at home on your sofa is not one of them. Nothing should stop you doing the things you want to do. If climbing is your passion, then go out there and do it. If you’re scared of it, here are some useful tips to help you overcome all the doubts and insecurities.

Bring trekking poles

Trekking poles
Trekking poles

Hiking downhill with a heavy backpack can be a challenging task even when you’re not afraid of it. Investing in a pair of trekking poles is always a good idea for people who don’t feel too confident. Trekking poles are really helpful when you’re hiking downhill. They will help you to keep your balance and thus provide more stability. When traveling downhill, set them a bit longer so you can place them in front of you and rely on them as a support.

Wear the right pair of shoes

For downhill hiking, you need hiking boots and not sneakers. When going downhill, you will usually slip and fall, so you need some serious support for your ankles. Good hiking boots will get you halfway to a successful hike. If you feel stable and safe, it’s more probable that you will take firm steps downhill. You’ll never regret spending a couple of extra dollars more for good-quality footwear.

Acclimatize to heights

Acclimatize to the high ground
Acclimatize to the high ground

High mountains can be truly amazing, but this doesn’t mean you should stay at the top of them forever just because you’re afraid to go down. To start dealing with the fear, find a downhill hiking trail near you and practice once or twice a week if possible. Each time will become less scary, and you’ll get used to the heights after a while.

Maintain your center of gravity

Your center of gravity is crucial to keeping you upright and safe. If your backpack is too top heavy, then place some heavy items closer to your center of gravity which should be low and over your legs. Don’t lean too much when walking downhill because the weight of your backpack can push you forward, disrupting your balance. Your leg muscles are the main element when moving downhill. Use them to support the rest of your body together with the extra weight.

Take short steps

Don’t run downhills
Don’t run downhills

Some will tell you that running downhill is a great thing to do, but it can also lead to injury, and even fatal mistakes. Taking smaller steps will help you stay focused on the trail and all the possible points of danger. Traveling downhill is challenging and you must be careful. Watch what’s in front of you and mind where you place your feet. It may take you longer to get down, but at least you’ll arrive safely. Running downhill with a backpack is not a good idea at all. Combat the fear with a calm and meditative mind.

Look ahead


On the way up, we don’t always pay attention to all the sections of the trail. And when we do, there are often surprising elements on the way down that we didn’t see. Keep your eyes open and look at what’s ahead. Be brave and take control of the situation. Don’t let the fear trap you on some mountaintop and get you feeling helpless. Fight it and remember that nothing’s stronger than your will to survive and to reach the bottom of the mountain and safety once again. Good luck and happy hiking!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival