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Uphill Running Technique

Peak Run Performance Coach Manu Vilaseca offers some tips to help runners getting started on trails and hilly terrain.

Vilaseca has vast experience on some of the world’s most challenging trails, having earned two top-ten finishes at the Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, France, and having held a top-ten Ultra Trail World Tour ranking.

Her first tip is regarding running form, particularly keeping a short stride length, which enables a runner to move efficiently uphill, says Coach Manu.

Often in trail running, particularly on singletrack trails, there are choices to be made regarding foot placement up a steep, rocky, or root-filled trail. Keeping a shorter stride allows for better foot placement and allows for better use of energy reserves needed for long races.

Another tip has to do with not letting heels hit the ground while running on steeper climbs. Tiptoe your way up, says Coach Manu. While keeping a shorter stride length, a runner’s forefoot propels them uphill.

And hiking is an important skill for runners to develop on the trail. Particularly in the ultra distance races, there is a lot of hiking involved. Sometimes the trail is too steep for a run, sometimes a runner must walk at the later stages in the race due to tiredness and fatigue, or there are times when a runner’s pace is more efficient as a hike than a run.

In addition, trekking poles provide power and efficiency on steeper terrain and their use can be developed as part of your regular trail running. Coach Manu shows runners how to position their hand inside trekking pole strap and grip, how to fit poles for length, and how to utilize both alternating pole and double-pole techniques on the trail.

If you’re not using poles, another way to gain a bit of power on the uphills is for a runner to use their hands on each quad when faced with steep climbs. By using the momentum from the run-to-hike transition and using a forward leaning body position, a runner can capture the forward momentum needed to get up the steeper trails.

Finally, Coach Vilaseca offers some mental tricks to make gains when approaching hills. Setting mini-goals for how far you will run before walking is a way to gain a mental edge over the hills you’re facing.

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Arnold Twitchell
Arnold Twitchell
Jan 12, 2021

Thank you Coach Manu!

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