How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking

This post about how to avoid knee pain while hiking was sponsored by DePuy Synthes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central, however, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Many years ago, during my college days in New Hampshire, I joined the university outing club. Basically, it was a group of outdoor enthusiasts who got together several times a year to plan backwoods adventures and explore the nearby White Mountains. From cross country skiing to back country camping, I learned a lot about nature during those trips. I also learned a lot about my own physical and emotional limitations.

I learned that I love cross country skiing but I am terrified of the high speeds involved in downhill skiing. I learned that bears snuffling around outside my tent scare the daylights out of me, even if I am in a tent with 5 other people. I also learned that while uphill hiking is physically challenging, hiking DOWN the hills is really hard on my knees.

Posts feature partner companies & may be sponsored. Post contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking

Don’t Let Knee Pain Ruin Your Hiking Trips

After a 7 mile downhill hike out of the mountains when I was 20, I was left with a new appreciation for nature and a knee that still bothers me to this day. If you are wondering how to avoid knee pain during your own hikes, I have learned a few lessons since my college days that might help.

Keep reading for a few hiking tips as well as information to help find a physician in your area who can talk to you about potential solutions for your hip or knee pain. Knee pain after hiking can ruin your enjoyment of the outdoors and it shouldn’t!

More  Hiking Tips to Read

How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking

✯Don’t want to miss the next post?✯

Follow Turning the Clock Back on Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Or join the private Facebook group for simple tips on going green!

How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking

So, is hiking bad for your knees? Well, sortof. There is actually a phrase called ‘hiker’s knee’ so you know it is a problem that a lot of people suffer from.

Knee Pain is a common symptom in hikers, runners, skiers, and cyclists.One of the most common types is pain around or behind the kneecaps, which is often diagnosed as Chondromalacia, Patellofemoral Stress Syndrome, or more commonly “runner’s knee.” … In younger hikers, the pain is often caused by trauma or overuse.

Here are a few tips if you want to avoid knee pain:

Condition your leg muscles:

Your leg muscles tie in directly to your knees. Strengthening those leg muscles will go a long way towards helping reduce knee pain while hiking.

Use a hiking stick or hiking poles:

Hiking sticks help protect you from tripping and they also help take a little bit of weight off your knees as you hike. You can invest in expensive hiking poles or just find a sturdy, shoulder high stick when you set off on the trail.

Hike fewer miles:

I know you don’t want to admit you are getting old but I know for a fact I am not in as good of shape now in my 40’s as I was in my 20’s. While I could easily manage a 7-mile hike in college, my husband and I have dropped our maximum hike distance down to about 5 miles and even then I am hurting a bit the next day.

Bring along one or two knee bandages:

You don’t have to wrap your knee before you start hiking, but take along a couple of knee bandages just in case you need them later. You can get a simple wrap or a complicated brace, depending on how bad your knee issues are.

Hike slowly downhill:

Downhill is harder on knees than uphill since you are really pounding your entire weight on them over and over again. Go slow to avoid excess strain and potential falls.

Side-step down very steep grades:  

If you are wondering how to avoid knee pain in particularly steep areas, definitely side step down very difficult areas. This is a technique I use all the time when we hike Stone Mountain, which we do several times a year. You reduce knee strain and also protect against sliding down the mountain!

Go down drop-offs backward:

I know, you think you are a spring chicken and are going to leap off those small dropoffs, right? Really, don’t do that. Turn around and go feet first with your belly facing the trail. Yes, it gets you a bit dirtier but seriously, you will thank me for it!

Lose weight (physically and what you are carrying):

The more weight you are carrying, the more strain you put on your knees. If you are overweight, considering losing a few pounds for improved health. If you are carrying a pack full of supplies, re-evaluate the items you choose to carry.

Wear sturdy shoes with lots of support and properly tied laces:

Sturdy hiking shoes will provide more ankle support than cheap sneakers. More ankle support also means less strain on your knees. Invest in good hiking shoes before you head off on your hike and make sure they are laced properly.

Ensure proper nutrition:

What you eat definitely affects the health of your joints. Add Omega-3 fatty acids for increased joint lubrication. Increase your consumption of  anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and ginger. Take a supplement containing  glucosamine and chondroitin for added joint health.

Stretch afterward to prevent pain:

Proper stretching is key when learning how to avoid knee pain. Stretch before you hit the trail and then stretch your quadriceps again after a long hike.

How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking

Chronic Knee Pain and Hiking

Learning how to prevent chronic knee pain will ensure that you continue to enjoy the great outdoors long past middle age. Of course, sometimes, you just end up with knee pain no matter how many preventative measure you take. If you are prone to knee pain, consider bringing along some ibuprofen just in case you are really hurting. You should also ice down your knees once you get home to reduce pain and inflammation.

If you are on a long hiking trip, consider soaking your legs in a cold stream if possible during your journey. Of course, if you are really experiencing chronic knee pain, consider finding a doctor that can offer possible medical solutions.

How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking

Is Joint Pain Interfering in Your Life?

Suffering from knee pain sometimes requires that you put your life on pause. That means you may miss out on fun times with your family and friends because you are in pain. Even if it isn’t skipping the next long hike, you may end up missing some daily activities because knee pain is getting in the way. That after-dinner walk with your husband or field trip with your child is a special moment that you shouldn’t have to miss.

Do you find yourself saying “I’ll just sit this one out” or, “I’ll catch up with everyone later.”? Ask yourself how often joint pain is actually impacting your life and then do something about it.

Don’t spend your life on the sidelines. “Hit Play” on your life and rejoin your family and friends in the things you love. Find a physician in your area who can talk to you about potential solutions for your hip or knee pain. Find out more at

Do you have any other tips on how to avoid knee pain that I missed?

14 thoughts on “How to Avoid Knee Pain While Hiking”

  1. I am a hiker and although I am thin I now and then have pains in my knees too. I do take food supplement but that’s not enough. My tip is to use the hiking sticks and take your time to walk down the hill and make frequent stops. I also side-steps sometimes. Great post, I will share it on my Pinterest hiking board! 🙂

    • thanks so much for sharing and glad you found it helpful. Side stepping makes steep downhills much easier. The really steep downhills freak me out a bit psychologically. It is really intimidating to stare down a steep mountain path!

  2. This sounds counter-intuitive, but I also find that landing on a straight leg strains my knees less than landing on a bent knee when going downhill. It seems to reduce fatigue on the tendons and ligaments that support the knee. Just my personal experience.

    • This is very true. A totally extended joint takes a lot of impact. It’s hard to remember when hiking downhill but I think it does help.

    • Interesting observation! Biking is great exercise for knees since it is low/zero impact but still good for strength and flexibility.

  3. I am 63 years old and just finished hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim! My knees were hurting before I started but I took it slow. (I wish I had extended my poles a little longer.). The second day I had my husband rub my IT band even if it hurt (great place to scream and hear your echo! Lol.). Right after, my knee was fine and I was able to hike with no problem and no pain. I took a foam roller to roll on my legs after every day’s hike. It helped make my 7-year dream come true!

  4. Many people don’t realize that the improper biomechanics start from the hip being too tight, pulling on the tendons and muscles of the legs and causing the knees to collapse in or out improperly.
    Any physiotherapist or good trainer will tell you increasing mobility of the hips and muscles attached can immediatly reduce strain on knees.

    Mobility first, exercise second then everything else good will follow.

  5. Started hiking in my 50s. Initially had knee pain just like almost everybody else. My (engineering) solution is to run (ie. fast walk) downhill with my knees bent. It puts a ton of strain on your quads (first time I ran all the way down – my quads were burning hot afterwards & sore the next day) but I have been absolutely knee pain free for years. Still doing 12+hr 40km day hikes with the odd 50km ultra in my 60s…. One thing I recommend against is to step down with your leg fully extended.

  6. Great post with helpful tips for avoiding knee pain on the trail! As an avid hiker who has dealt with knee issues in the past, I appreciate the advice on choosing footwear with adequate support, using trekking poles, and doing preparatory exercises to strengthen the knees.
    The point about maintaining a healthy weight is so important too – excess pounds definitely don’t make climbing any easier on the knees over long distances.
    I also like the suggestion to build up hiking distance gradually when getting started. That’s a mistake I’ve made before by doing too much too soon. Thanks for sharing this knowledge! The actionable steps in this article will help me continue hiking while keeping my knees pain-free.


Leave a Comment