Is hill running safe?

Running uphill won't get you injured if you train with cautionEver worried that going up or down hill will make you more likely to get hurt when you run? Former BYU track star Katy Andrews Neves was very concerned about the effect of hill running on the Achilles tendon, so, together with three exercise science professors at BYU, she embarked on a study investigating the connection between hill transitions and heel injuries.

In order to test the effects of hill running on the Achilles tendon, researchers had 20 women run on treadmills at three different grades on three different days, resting at least 48 hours between each run. Ultrasound images were used to see the impact each of the runs had on the Achilles tendon.

Surprisingly, although running on a hill (especially a down-grade) put the most force on the runners’ limbs, the grade changes did not make a significant difference when it came to the thickness and health of the Achilles tendon.

With that observation, the study concludes that running up or downhill doesn’t put you at any greater risk for an Achilles injury—with one caveat, that is; “Even when the forces are higher, if the adaptation process is gradual, the injury risk drops,” Neves says.

Translation? Don’t bomb up or down a hill at full speed on your first day of training. If you gradually build up to hill running, allowing your body enough time to strengthen and adapt, you should not be at any greater-than-normal risk of getting a running injury.

And if you have concerns about other running injuries or want to ensure that you optimize your training regimen in the safest way possible? Schedule an appointment for a consultation with the Houston running doctor as soon as possible!

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.